March 31, 2017

Best of the Week

​AP Exclusive: Before Trump job, Manafort worked to aid Putin

Around last November’s election, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, resurfaced as a priority for the AP’s Washington investigative team when it became clear he was a leading focus of the government’s inquiry into whether Trump’s campaign had coordinated with Russians to meddle in the presidential election.

Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day, along with AP colleagues in Washington and elsewhere, dove in and after weeks of reporting, learned that Manafort had worked for a Russian billionaire a decade ago and had proposed to him a plan to greatly benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under then-President George W. Bush grew worse.

For their

Ap 855427362118 1024

March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

Ap 745597136413 1024

March 24, 2017

Best of the Week

AP analysis of GOP health care plan finds older people in Trump country hit hardest

The Republican health care bill landed with projections that millions of people would lose their insurance coverage. Among the key questions: Who would be hurt most by the new plan?

AP data journalist Meghan Hoyer, based in Washington, set out to explore the impact of the GOP plan by gathering and analyzing data from several government and private entities. She found that Americans 55 and older who buy private health insurance will pay more than they do under Obamacare _and many of those who'd be hit hardest live in counties nationwide that gave President Donald Trump his strongest support.

Using those findings, reporters Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, searched for people — both Trump backers and Hillary Clinton supporters — to discuss how the plan would affect their finances. The work of these three reporters, blending careful data crunching and compelling shoe-leather reporting, earns the Beat of the Week.

Ap 17080583023121 1024Cr

March 24, 2017

Best of the States

Under radar, Florida spent about $250M on private lawyers, fees

AP Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout started noticing how often Florida under Republican Gov. Rick Scott was losing court cases over its policies and was forced to pay opposing attorney fees. He decided to start a tally. But those fees would be just the tip of a quarter-billion-dollar iceberg. The money the state spent on private law firms to defend itself dwarfed that initial amount.

Getting that overall tally was the hard part. When Gary asked what was spent on outside legal counsel during Scott’s half-dozen years in office, the state attorney general told him: “We do not have that information."

So, Gary set out to search through the documents himself, revealing the true cost to taxpayers. For bringing to light a huge chunk of opaque spending and hold state leaders to account, Gary wins this week’s Best of the States.

Ap 17066737715911 1024