In the News

Watchdog finds the surprising truth about public officials’ salaries

Friday, August 26th, 2016

When Watchdog reports, other journalists take notice. In Mississippi, Watchdog’s recent report on public officials’ salaries made the local news, including a segment on Good Morning Mississippi.

Here’s a quick excerpt from a report on ABC 6 that cites our story:

You heard that right. A grand total of 36 school superintendents in Mississippi make more than the governor. Of course, he’s not doing too badly himself. But this raises an important question about education spending in the state: Are taxpayers getting their money’s worth?

Another report from Mississippi Watchdog examined that issue, finding that superintendent pay doesn’t correlate to school district performance. In fact, among the 36 superintendents who make more than the governor, nine of them — 25 percent — serve districts that receive a D grade from the Mississippi Department of Education.

U.S. Senator Grassley credits Watchdog’s coverage of EB-5

Friday, October 9th, 2015

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, singled out as he spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday for its great work on the controversial EB-5 program.

“, a national watchdog group that has followed abuses of the program closely over many years, has also identified another problematic, gerrymandered targeted employment area,” said Sen. Grassley. “They reported that a 21-story residential building project, which included trendy restaurants and shops, was built with foreign investments despite its location in an upscale neighborhood with only 0.8 percent unemployment. These are just a few examples, yet they point to a clear problem with this program.”

Watch Sen. Grassley’s statement below:

Wisconsin’s secret war hits mainstream TV

Monday, July 20th, 2015

matt kittleWisconsin Watchdog reporter Matt Kittle has worked tirelessly to expose a three-year  investigation targeting conservative activists and Republican donors in the state. The “John Doe” probe has been at the center of several court battles but on July 16, 2015 the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ordered an end to the politically motivated investigation.

TheBlaze TV featured Matt Kittle on an episode of ‘For the Record: State Secrets Investigating John Doe’ to discuss the groundbreaking work he had done reporting on the John Doe investigation. Be sure to watch the entire episode here.

Kittle appeared on ‘One the Record with Greta Van Susteren’ to give his take on the Wisconsin witch hunt.

Greta Van Susteren invited Kittle back on her show to discuss the United States Court of Appeals declaring parts of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law unconstitutional and mentioned the effect the John Doe probe could have on the ruling.

For a more in-depth look at Wisconsin Watchdog’s work on the John Doe investigation visit here.

A possible new logo for the state of Tennessee

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website.

A story by Chris Butler in Tennessee Watchdog about a possible new logo has been going viral in the state. Here’s the story and a list of media hits below.

Will Tennessee get a costly new logo? State officials aren’t saying

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — A possible new logo for the state of Tennessee — bright red and white with a simplistic design — could cost taxpayers a lot of money and state employees a lot of time.

Apparently, no one in the office of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam wants to talk about it, but a mundane, matter-of-fact item buried deep inside a federal website gives much away. (Read more)


In the News

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.09.27 PM

Butler appears on WSMV-TV, Nashville’s NBC affiliate, to discuss his story on the state changing its official logo to an unattractive, simplistic design at a cost of $46,000 to taxpayers.  “This is something a fifth-grader could easily produce on his or her computer at home,” said Butler, with

Check out WSMV-TV Facebook post on the story!

Nashville radio talk show host Joe Carr discussed Butler’s story on his morning radio show Thursday morning. 

The Nashville PostThe Memphis FlyerFOXNewsSportsWBIR of Knoxville, The RepublicWRCBTV of Chattanooga, ADWeek, all picked up the story.

Fox New, Special Report mentioned the logo redesign on the Grapevine.

The firm that created the logo even responded with a statement.


Pick your headline: Chris Christie spends $300K on food and booze

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Sometimes, a news story breaks that transcends the conventional boundaries of political parties, culture, ideology, interests, and even parody. It’s the story that gets a reaction from news outlets as diverse as DRUDGE REPORT, Gawker, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Bleacher Report, and everyone in between. It’s the story that simply must be shared, the one you tell your friends about, the one that gets all the talking heads, well… talking.

Last week, that story was a New Jersey’s Watchdog analysis of spending records that revealed that New Jersey governor Chris Christie has spent more than $300,000 on food and alcohol during his five years as governor – including more than $82,000 to Delaware North Sportservice, which operates concessions at MetLife stadium where Christie often attends NFL games. Traditionally MetLife allows him to use the luxury boxes at the games for free, but he has to pick up the tab for food and beverages.

The money comes out of Christie’s annual $95,000 expense allowance, which he receives in addition to his annual $175,000 salary. Christie returns surplus funds to the state each year, but Treasury officials say he does not submit receipts or accounting for the public monies he spends.

The governor’s press secretary was quick to respond with a statement, which explained that “The official nature and business purpose of the event remains the case regardless of whether the event is at the State House, Drumthwacket or a sporting venue.”

It’s also important to note that the spending at NFL games took place during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The following year, in what appeared to be an attempt to save political face, the New Jersey Republican State Committee reimbursed the state for the football spending, so taxpayers ultimately were not on the hook for it.

You can’t undo the past, however, and if you do the math, the fact remains that Christie spent on average more than $2,500 a game on  concessions.

SL sign of the apocalypse

Watchdog in Sports Illustrated

More than 100 websites and news outlets picked up the story, with reactions ranging from subtle criticism to downright outrage. Here are a few of the highlights:

“Let he who has not spent way too much of other people’s money on beer and nachos cast the first stone,” quipped Buzzfeed.

“Chris Christie, I salute you: It takes skill to spend $82,000 on snacks!” read the Salon headline. “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s spending may have been despicably wasteful, but it’s also impressive!”

Multiple accounts of the story, such as the Daily Caller‘s coverage, noted that Christie’s food spending dropped sharply at the same time as his own efforts to lose weight, with his monthly food spending dropping by 40 percent since he underwent Lap-Band surgery.

The Washington Post covered the story as a guilt trip by listing ten other things Christie could have spent $82,000 on, such as a block of Jersey Shore boardwalk rebuilding, a year’s household income for the average New Jerseyean, or three years of tuition at Rutgers.

The lede in the New York Times highlighted how Christie’s big personal spending clashes with his conservative rhetoric: “Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey likes to point out how he has made big cuts to state spending. But when it comes to using his allowance money as governor, he appears happy to be a high roller.”

Forbes echoed this sentiment: “One of the major policy tenets of the Republican Party is limiting government spending. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, considering a run for the presidency in 2016, may not have gotten that memo yet.”

“We assume that $82,594 amounts to roughly seven beers and one soda in NFL stadium prices,” National Journal jibed. “While there’s nothing to suggest that the concessions spending was improper, especially since it was paid back to the state, it shows just how much Christie is willing to spend on football, or have spent on his behalf.”

Even the satirical Onion couldn’t resist taking a shot. “Impressive, but I’m still not sure he’s ready to misallocate funds at the presidential level,” wrote a fictional respondent.

At the end of the day, thanks in no small part to the sheer irony of the headline, the story turned into a huge media dogpile, thrusting Watchdog into the center of the national conversation. For Mark Lagerkvist and all the other reporters at Watchdog, it’s a refreshing reminder that substantive investigative journalism and viral internet stories do not need to be mutual exclusive things. And it’s an encouraging example of how audiences across the political spectrum – and even those who don’t closely follow their government and elected officials – can into a story that holds elected officials accountable for frivolous, freewheeling spending.

Rush Limbaugh discusses Wisconsin Reporter story

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Rush Limbaugh mentioned a story first reported by Wisconsin Reporter on Wisconsin Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke being fired from her family business for being “incompetent.” Listen to the audio and read the article below:


Scott Walker’s Opponent Fired by Her Own Family

RUSH: I’ve got a story in the Stack here. I’ve just put it the bottom thinking I wasn’t gonna get to it today.

Now this story hit, and I’m trying to find it wherever I put it. It’s a story about Mary Burke, the Democrat candidate there, and how she was fired from the family business for incompetence.  Whatever the family business is, she was fired from it.  She’s seeking the governorship in Wisconsin, and the point is: If her own family had to discharge her from the family business because of how much she gunked it up, then what business does she have being elected governor?


Mary Burke, yeah.  The story on this, “Burke apparently was fired by her own family following steep overseas financial losses and plummeting morale among Burke’s European sales staff.”

It’s a bicycle company.  They own Trek Bicycles. Apparently Bush rides them.  They’re very popular, but she was mangling that business.  The family kicked her out of the family business, and now she’s seeking to be governor and that has become news.  I don’t know if it’s big in Wisconsin, but I wanted to pass that on.

Wisconsin Reporter and’s Virginia bureau make Drudge

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

2014-10-08_Dudge_two_storiesThe Drudge Report posts two stories from Be sure check out the story on Wisconsin Reporter and’s Virginia bureau.

Katie Watson speaks with the Rob Schilling Show to discuss the Bob McDonnell trial

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 Virginia bureau reporter Katie Watson discusses the verdict of the Bob McDonnell trial on the Rob Schilling Show.

Local police defend use of armored military vehicles

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

By Steve Wilson

Amid heightened attention about the militarization of police, law enforcement agencies across Mississippi are continuing to stock up on military-grade armored vehicles from federal surplus.

Two sheriffs in Mississippi who are beefing up their vehicle fleets with armored vehicles say they’re doing so to protect officers and save tax dollars by acquiring the vehicles at little or no cost. They say the vehicles, designed to protect military troops from improvised explosive devices and mines, can shield their officers from even the most high-level threats.

Read the entire article on The Daily Signal

NE watchdog story makes Huffington Post

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) expressed concern in an interview published Thursday about how insensitive comments he made during the 2013 government shutdown would affect his re-election bid.

Terry was asked by the Omaha World-Herald’s Joseph Morton in October whether he would keep accepting his paycheck while the government shutdown was in effect. “Dang straight,” was how Terry responded at the time.

“I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly,”he added.

Read the entire story here.