Oct. 05, 2018

Best of the States

Oklahoma Republicans targeted by GOP colleague, dark money

Oklahomans widely assumed that 12 Republican state lawmakers who lost their bids for re-election came up short at the polls because of their opposition to raising pay for the state’s public school teachers.

While opposition to education funding may have been one factor in incumbent losses in the GOP primaries, Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy began hearing scuttlebutt about an organized effort from within the Republican Party to kick out incumbents from their own party.

Using campaign finance reports and solid sourcing at the Capitol, Murphy was alone in showing that the rumors were true.

Public records showed a top state House GOP leader had given money to opponents of two of his own colleagues, and the opponents unseated the incumbents. Murphy also leveraged a relationship developed over years of reporting to get the lawmaker to talk. He acknowledged a plan to punish fellow Republicans for taking hardline stances that forced a compromise with Democrats on a plan to raise taxes to pay for teacher raises.

For combining shoe-leather reporting with smart document work, Murphy wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Finance reports reveal North Dakota GOP infighting

used campaign finance reports to document North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is helping bankroll a political action campaign aimed at unseating a powerful legislator and fellow Republican who had frustrated some of Burgum’s goals. Burgum was elected in 2016 as an outsider businessman, and has long clashed with the state’s Republican old guard, including House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer. https://bit.ly/2LM84CL

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Aug. 31, 2018

Best of the States

Tibbetts murder suspect lived, worked on land linked to GOP fundraiser

Within hours of the news that the man charged with killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was a Mexican citizen believed to be in the United States illegally, Republican leaders from President Donald Trump to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds injected the case into the political debate, blaming lax immigration policies for allowing the man into the community.

Amid such comments, Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley got a tip from two longtime Republican Party sources: The suspect lived on land partly owned by Nicole Schlinger, one of the party’s most prolific national fundraisers, the sources said.

Foley was determined to discover whether that was true. He obtained property records showing Schlinger and her husband owned the farm trailer where Rivera had lived, and her husband was president of the farm. Foley then got confirmation from Schlinger, who had avoided his questions for days.

Further, Schlinger’s fundraising client list included anti-illegal-immigration hard-liners, including Reynolds, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and even the Stop Sanctuary Cities PAC.

The story was used extensively by Iowa newspapers and was a big online hit, with hundreds of postings and 40,000 Facebook interactions.

For scooping local and national competitors on a high-interest topic even as he reported on spot developments, Ryan Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 14, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

At the intersection of politics and religion, AP reports from Michael Flynn’s Christian nationalist road show

Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken America cross-country tour has attracted lots of media attention, but journalists trying to cover it have faced a hostile environment. So correspondent Michelle Smith and photographer Carolyn Kaster simply bought tickets to the tour’s stop in upstate New York.

The decision to go as attendees made all the difference: The two were fully engaged in Flynn’s world for two days, documenting an event at the heart of an ascendent Christian nationalist movement. And Washington colleague Richard Lardner added more reporting as he monitored the event on livestream.

The trio’s story, part of an AP investigation in partnership with PBS “Frontline,” detailed how Flynn and allies are using ReAwaken America to spread divisive rhetoric and conspiracy theories targeting democratic ideas and institutions while urging people to join and take action. The compelling all-formats coverage has won strong play and readership.For an up-close, insightful package on a far-right movement spearheaded by a former general close to Donald Trump, Smith, Kaster and Lardner earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Sept. 30, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes candidate’s lies; upends one of the year’s most competitive congressional races

This AP exclusive started with a tip: A Republican nominee in Ohio had made questionable claims about his tenure in the Air Force.

J.R. Majewski told voters he was a combat veteran with a tour of duty in Afghanistan, but reporters Brian Slodysko and James LaPorta, joined by investigative researcher Randy Herschaft, reported extensively using public documents, expert interviews and a survey of former employers, revealing that among multiple misrepresentations, Majewski did not deploy to Afghanistan but instead spent six-months loading planes in Qatar. He was also demoted and barred from reenlisting.

The story was a hit with readers and had rival news outlets citing AP’s exclusive, while the Republican Party pulled its advertising money from Majewski, essentially giving up on his race.

For deep source work and dogged reporting that exposed a political candidate’s blatant lies about his record, Slodysko, LaPorta and Herschaft take AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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June 29, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Kobach sought pardon for VP of a corporate donor

Topeka correspondent John Hanna had been hearing hints for weeks that there might be something in Kris Kobach’s record that could cause trouble for the Kansas secretary of state and candidate for governor.

At first, it was just that: hints. The suggestions were so vague that Hanna set off to review the nationally known Republican’s statements, but Hanna, whose reporting sense is informed by 30 years of statehouse reporting, found nothing.

So he kept digging. Eventually a source suggested there might be something to do with a pardon, and Hanna filed a records request.

The governor’s office released a copy of its file on a pardon request for Ryan Bader, the vice president of TriStar Arms, a firearms importer. Bader had faced an aggravated robbery charge over a 2009 incident but agreed to a plea bargain and received a light sentence. Now he wanted a pardon so that he could buy a gun again and get the licenses needed to take over the family business.

Bader’s attorney for the pardon request? Kobach. The records showed Kobach did not provide a key police affidavit that was later released by the office of GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer – whom Kobach is challenging. But there was more. Campaign finance records showed that TriStar had donated at least $7,000 to Kobach’s campaigns for secretary of state and governor. The company also helped sponsor a fundraiser with Donald Trump Jr.

Hanna’s APNewsBreak was well used, including a post on the homepage of a member that is usually hesitant to showcase work done outside its newsroom. It also became a topic of a gubernatorial debate, with Kobach defending the pardon request.

For smart digging and use of public records that helped drive the news agenda and political conversation, Hanna wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 14, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘You had me at AP’: Sweeping coverage of Jan. 6 anniversary showcases AP’s depth and range

Rolled out over the week of Jan. 6, AP's one-year anniversary coverage of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol stood out in a highly competitive field, with exclusive content across text, photos and video, including an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Weeks of preparation and reporting paid off in broad, deep, insightful coverage. Among the offerings: lawmakers recounting their experiences inside the Capitol on the fateful day, a profile of protester Ashli Babbitt, AP staffers’ first-person accounts of covering the riot, the stubborn hold of conspiracy theories, teachers around the country debating how to teach the event, and much more.

Photos and video were no less compelling, highlighted by the exclusive and widely used on-camera interview of Pelosi, who chose to sit down with AP rather than the networks on the eve of the anniversary.

For demonstrating the AP’s ability to deliver best-in-class content across platforms on this major anniversary, the team behind the Jan. 6 coverage is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 20, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Expert analysis and 50-state effort put census data in perspective

demonstrated AP’s power to deliver comprehensive, insightful and textured coverage of the single biggest data dump from the 2020 U.S. Census, following through on more than a year covering the most contentious and complicated national headcount in memory.Census reporter Schneider used his many months of beat development to address significant questions on the quality of a count that took place in the midst of a global pandemic, including the possibility that substantial portions of the population were missed by the census. His work captured broader themes of urban growth and rural declines in an increasingly diverse nation. Missouri-based state government reporter Lieb provided expert analysis of the redistricting landscape, updating his exploration of the built-in advantage Republicans had established through gerrymandering.Data journalist Kastanis processed the data to give AP customers and staffers alike an accessible but in-depth analysis. She adroitly guided AP reporters from across the country through the dense web of information released by the U.S. Census Bureau to convey the impact for each of the 50 states. Meanwhile, digital artist Duckett translated multiple data sets into compelling maps and graphics, giving members and clients a way to report and present the numbers in a digestible format.While this team anchored the coverage, many others — photographers, videographers and statehouse reporters — across the U.S. contributed to the tour de force effort, a vivid example of the AP being both nimble and authoritative on a deep and complex subject.https://aplink.news/h20https://aplink.news/1xihttps://aplink.video/uv7

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Feb. 11, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accountability reporting uncovers taxpayer-funded anti-abortion centers, racial disparities in access

With the continued weakening of state laws protecting women’s rights to abortion in the U.S., the AP’s strong coverage of abortion continues with two stories earning Best of the Week for impressive state accountability reporting and analysis.

A story that surfaced in Tennessee, finding federal dollars being spent on nonprofits aligned with the anti-abortion movement, revealed that legislatures in about a dozen U.S. states were funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to so-called crisis pregnancy centers that are typically unlicensed and have been accused of engaging in misinformation campaigns targeting pregnant women.

A second story focused on racial inequities in access to abortion, an idea sparked by an observation during a visit to the Shreveport, La., abortion clinic where almost every woman in the waiting room was Black. The all-formats package showed how minority women in states where abortion is under attack have the most to lose if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Both stories drew strong play on AP News and customer platforms.

For revelatory state stories on two elements in the pitched national debate over abortion rights, Kruesi, Willingham, Wagster Pettus, Nasir, Solis and Lo earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data, finding that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.AP’s analysis, led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team, led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst, interviewed parents, researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people, new parents, infants and young children. And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services, the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also measured poorly in some categories.Read more

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Dec. 24, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Powered by facts: AP investigation undercuts Trump voter fraud claims, prompts rare interview

Former President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 presidential election and his efforts to spread the false claim that widespread voter fraud cost him a second term raised a critical question: How much voter fraud occurred in the six crucial battleground states disputed by Trump?

Turns out, just 473 potential cases in those states. Many of the cases involved Republicans and virtually every case was an individual acting alone rather than coordinated fraud.

AP’s finding was the result of an exhaustive investigation by a team of reporters, data journalists and others, based on detailed fact checks of the vote entries for every county in each of the six states. The investigation also led to an exceptionally rare recorded phone interview with the former president in which he repeated his unfounded conspiracy theories but could find no fault with AP’s reporting.

The story made headlines and was widely cited. For meticulous reporting and analysis that revealed the actual attention-grabbing sliver of voter fraud cases, the team of Christina A. Cassidy, Scott Bauer, Bob Christie, David Eggert, Camille Fassett, Anthony Izaguirre, Shawn Marsh, Anna Nichols, Michelle Price, Ed White and Corey Williams is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

US didn't track more than $150B in pandemic school aid. AP did.

teamed up on an all-formats project documenting what happened to historic sums of pandemic aid released to the nation’s schools.Congress has sent more than $150 billion to the states to help K-12 schools since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but the federal government has no accounting of where that money went. Over a period of months, reporter Mulvihill and data journalists Fassett and Fenn did that painstaking work, going state by state to ferret out how multiple streams of congressional funding as used. The result was a massive but granular database shared with AP customers in advance of publication, showing how much federal money each school district in the country received and how it compared to other schools — public, private and charter.With reporting help from Binkley, the team also produced three distinctive news leads: Most school districts do not intend to spend the money in the transformative ways the Biden administration envisions; virtual schools that were already fully online before the pandemic received as much or more as traditional school districts; and some Republican governors used the windfall to further school choice policies that had previously been blocked by legislatures or courts. Householder delivered the video while Krupa and Osorio handled photos in Massachusetts and Detroit respectively.Drawing on AP’s national reach, the work resulted in data that customers could localize as well as two explanatory webinars and sidebars in more than a dozen states by AP statehouse reporters.https://aplink.news/jbehttps://aplink.news/usjhttps://aplink.news/thrhttps://aplink.video/b65

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