Watchdog.org stokes debate over border crisis in Nebraska

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

immigrants NE watchdog story

The great relocation

It’s no secret things are a mess at America’s southern border right now. More than 50,000 undocumented children have been caught entering the country since last October – many of whom have turned themselves in – and that number could end up pushing 100,000 in the next few months. In response, the US Department of Homeland Security has moved to place some of these children in states across the country – one of which is Nebraska. Watchdog.org’s Nebraska bureau first broke the news on July 10, reporting that about 200 of undocumented children had been placed with families and sponsors several months ago.

Even though the placements took place months ago, news of them came as a surprise to almost everyone in the state.

“Prior to our story,” said Nebraska Watchdog reporter Deena Winters, who covered the story, “there was not talk of any of the border kids being here, even though we’ve since learned they come every year, but the numbers started swelling last year.”

Even Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman had been in the dark about Homeland Security’s doings. The day after Nebraska Watchdog broke the story, he said he was furious to discover that federal officials did not give him details about the undocumented children placed in his state. He even made a point to mention it to Vice President Biden at an National Governors Association meeting in Nashville.

Everyone’s talking about it

Deena Winters NE watchdog

Reporter Deena Winters

“Once the story was out it had a major effect,” said Winters. “The state’s whole congressional delegation has weighed in on this, sending a letter to federal officials demanding more transparency and answers. The Wall Street Journal did a story the following weekend about other governors who were also mad, including ours. It has become a huge controversy in our state.”

Winters further reported that Nebraska’s congressional delegation has also introduced legislation to force the Obama administration to be more transparent about the children that have been placed in their state as part of the border crisis.

Nebraska Watchdog has continued to lead the way in subsequent coverage, with several stories exploring various angles and reactions to the news. Bureau chief Joe Jordan reported, for instance, that the Omaha police department’s largely hands-off policy dealing with undocumented citizens would be getting a second look because of concerns that current police guidelines don’t go far enough for this day and age.

Joe Jordan NE watchdog

Bureau chief Joe Jordan

Jordan also covered the backlash against Gov. Heineman, reporting on a South Omaha activist who said Gov. Heineman’s “history of anti-immigrant feelings” makes the governor the wrong go-to-guy in this fight.

Dear taxpayers…

It all goes to show how the border crisis has nationwide reverberations that shake even local communities. Regardless of the politics involved, everyone should be concerned.

“It’s relevant because some officials are concerned that tax dollars will be needed to support these children in one way or another,” said Winters.

She also pointed to the stress the immigration issue has put on the relationship between federal and state government.

“Many of our congressional representatives have said the fact that federal officials won’t tell us what’s going on is damaging their relationship with states.”

“The story is one of federal failures – in DC, in Central America and at the border – and a costly social welfare network wide open to waste and abuse,” said Will Swaim, Editor of Watchdog.org. “What costs are being picked up by your state and local governments?”

That sums up the mission of Nebraska Watchdog to a tee, and those are the questions all Watchdog.org bureaus are striving to answer.

Pat McGuigan Discusses Native American Land Infringement

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Protected: Proof That More Reporters Are Becoming Less in Love With Obama

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

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Watchdog reporters accepted into Reporting Institute

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

The Franklin Center is proud to announce that Watchdog.org reporters Bre Payton and Johnny Kampis have been accepted into the 2014 Reporting Institute training!

This August, they will join a group of 20 reporters in Missoula, Montana, to learn how to follow the money trails in the 2014 elections.

The training is held by the National Institute on Money in State Politics and focuses on relationships among political candidates, donors and issues. It will teach reporters how to compare political donor influence across states and election cycles so that they can trace the connection between political money and issues being debated in campaigns.

Speakers will include Denise Malan, a former reporter and the current director of data services for the Investigative News Network; Norberto Santana, the editor in chief of Voices of Orange County; and Ben Wieder, the computer-assisted reporter for the Center for Public Integrity.

Johnny2Johnny Kampis is a content editor at Watchdog.org, and is helping to start the organization’s Alabama Watchdog bureau in his home state. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

bre paytonBre Payton has covered government and political news for the Virginia Bureau of Watchdog.org, where she started as an intern. She has uncovered waste, fraud and abuse in areas including: transportation, higher education and voting rights.



Communications Senior Writer – Paid Position

Friday, June 13th, 2014

About the Franklin Center

Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity strives to promote the education of the public about waste, corruption, incompetence, fraud and taxpayer abuse by public officials at all levels of government. With transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility as its watchwords, the Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports investigative journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org or our news site, Watchdog.org.

Position Description

The Franklin Center is seeking a highly motivated writer to join the Communications Team. Applicants should have experience writing in the op-ed format and feel comfortable writing argumentatively on a variety of policy matters, including energy, education, technology, healthcare, and civil liberties. He or she should have superior organization and focus on detail, the ability to manage multiple projects at once, and the desire to take ownership of projects and see them through to the finish.

The ideal candidate will be able to quickly dissect and understand policy, craft a unique, nuanced perspective consistent with the free-market ideology, and write columns of 500-700 words that are compelling and well-reasoned. Strong editing skills and the ability to perform on deadline are a must. Past political writing experience is required; 2-3 years of writing experience is preferred.

Responsibilities and Tasks Include:

  • Monitor the news and propose op-ed ideas to the Director of Public Affairs
  • Conduct research and write columns on deadline
  • Manage long-term strategic issue advocacy projects
  • Coordinate with senior executives on op-ed projects
  • Assist in writing press releases and other public communications
  • Prepare executives for media appearances by writing issue briefings
  • Edit columns for content, style, and accuracy

To apply, please send a resume to Michael.Moroney@franklincenterhq.org


Watchdog Wire Texas Editor – Paid Position

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Do you love writing? Are you passionate about working with grassroots activists and making a difference in Texas? Would you like to help the Watchdog Wire team recruit and mentor new citizen journalists in the Lone Star State–all while working from home?

If you answered yes, you should consider applying to be a State Editor for Watchdog Wire Texas. This is a part-time, paid position, perfect for anyone who is highly motivated, willing to work a couple of hours each day, and looking to make money for doing something they enjoy!

Here’s how the job works:

  • The editor is responsible for populating Watchdog Wire Texas with content, from citizen contributors and credible blogs and news sources. These stories should be relevant to citizens throughout Texas and within the scope of Watchdog Wire’s mission.
  • The editor will review, edit, and publish contributions from citizen contributors, ensure that all material follows the Watchdog Wire Style Guide and policy guidelines, reach out to contributors who need coaching, and contribute at least 1-2 stories of his or her own each week.
  • The editor will also be responsible for communicating with contributors on a regular basis with story ideas and other information.

Applicants should have strong copy-editing and writing skills, a proficiency in sound journalism and media practices, as well as a keen sense of newsworthiness. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are needed to effectively recruit local bloggers as contributors to Watchdog Wire and mentor contributors with their writing.

It is preferred that the editor is native to Texas or has strong personal and professional connections to the region. Applicants should have a knowledge and passion for the economic and policy issues affecting the state. Editors will be temporarily contracted to dedicate 1.5-2 hours a day to this role and will receive a stipend for their efforts on a month-to-month contract basis.

Watchdog Wire will also consider a co-editor partnership with two individuals who would like to work together in this pursuit.

If interested, please send your resume and writing samples to Jackie.Moreau@franklincenterhq.org.

Paul Alfonse, Outreach Coordinator

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

paul alfonsePaul Alfonse is the Outreach Coordinator for the Franklin Center. He joined the Franklin Center as an intern in the winter of 2014.  Paul graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in political science and a minor in history. He is currently enrolled in the Koch Associate Program. A native of central New Jersey, Paul now lives in Washington, DC.

LIVE from New York: Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Darrell Issa, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Thursday, June 12th, 2014


How can we change the conversation and make our ideas work? Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be speaking LIVE from New York on Monday, June 16th at 6PM ET! He’ll show how conservative states have the solutions to liberal states’ woes. We’ll also hear Rep. Darrell Issa’s take on the latest from Capitol Hill, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn will talk about the Bergdahl swap and how it relates to Gitmo.

Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto, and New York Times Magazine political correspondent Jim Rutenberg will moderate the discussion. Don’t miss it this Monday, June 16th, at 6PM ET! This is a great opportunity to hear from top conservative leaders and thinkers!

Watch the livestream online!

NJ Watchdog becomes lead story in New Jersey Spotlight

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Guadagno’s Pension Maneuver in Sheriff’s Office Questioned

Judges’ release of documents in Guadagno case raises questions about legitimacy of Christie administration investigations.

At the same time as Gov. Chris Christie has been calling for pension reform, his Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno,has been fighting allegations that she improperly manipulated job titles while serving as Monmouth County sheriff. Her alleged goal was to enable a top deputy to keep collecting an $85,000 pension along with his $87,500 salary. Critics also say that Christie’s Attorney General’s Office and Treasury Department failed to properly investigate the charges

Four years after New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Anthony F. Wieners Jr. filed the first formal complaint calling for an investigation, two state judges last month ordered the release of internal Christie administration documents that not only bolstered the allegations against Guadagno, but raised questions about whether law enforcement or Treasury officials ever interviewed Guadagno about the case.

“The documents show Guadagno made false and misleading statements to enable Michael Donovan to continue collecting pension checks that should have stopped, and that she helped him circumvent the rules by playing around with job titles,” said Mark Lagerkvist, investigative editor for New Jersey Watchdog, who sued forrelease of the documents. “Based on the information released, there is a real question whether the Division of Criminal Justice did the legitimate investigation that the PFRS (Police and Firemen’s Retirement System) Board asked it to do.” The release of documents in the Guadagno-Donovan case brings renewed scrutiny to the abuse of the pension system by “double-dippers” who are able to collect both salaries and pensions by exploiting loopholes in New Jersey’s pension system, whose seemingly byzantine rules, labyrinth of job titles, and exemptions for non-career positions are grist for the politically connected. Christie’s ally, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, became a poster boy for the system’s excesses when it was revealed that he was drawing a $158,831 salary while simultaneously collecting a $68,861 pension from the same job.

Read the entire article here.


Watchdog’s look at charges of favoritism in UT Law admissions

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Last month, the University of Texas System published a report that I believe lays out evidence of admissions favoritism at its flagship campus. In a Viewpoints column published Monday, Charles Matthews argued that “critics” should be satisfied by a phrase in that report asserting that there was no “evidence of a systematic, structured or centralized” system of fraud. In his view, anyone writing about factual evidence to the contrary is perpetuating “innuendo” and “half-truths.”

Here is what I’ve found, between my own reporting and the official report:

Under President Bill Powers, the University of Texas has admitted at least 18 unqualified students into its prestigious law school. These students’ scores on the Law School Admission Test would make them long shots at the worst law schools in the country.

UT typically demands scores in the 160s or better, yet these 18 students got 140s, a 138, a 137, a 136, even a 128. You could fill in bubbles at random and do better than a 128.

Now consider the University of La Verne College of Law in California, which had the worst peer reputation of any law school on the 2013 U.S. News survey. Three-quarters of its students got a 150 or better on the LSAT, which is scored on a 120-180 range.

Read the entire article here.