May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents North Dakota lawmaker’s taxpayer-funded travel

scooped North Dakota media by revealing just how extensively — and expensively — a state senator had traveled on the taxpayer’s dime.MacPherson obtained documents showing that Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg, who recently announced he would end his 46-year-career following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges, had run up more than 14 times the average travel expenses for the state’s lawmakers over the past decade, on trips that included China, Puerto Rico and New Orleans.Read more

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May 10, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Lawmakers target loopholes for spouses who drug, rape their partners

for a distinctive and deeply reported legislative story on the so-called “marital rape exemption” or “spousal defense,” a legal loophole in many states that allows spouses to escape criminal prosecution for raping partners who are drugged, unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. Smyth and Karnowski reported that previous state legislative attempts to remove those exemptions have a mixed record, but that’s starting to change. https://bit.ly/2vLmScQ

Jan. 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: More than 100 state lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct

for tallying more than 100 state lawmakers across the U.S. who had been credibly accused of harassment in the #MeToo era in the past three years – and what actions, if any, states have taken to address the problem. After a Michigan state lawmaker was accused by a young reporter and a fellow lawmaker of sexual harassment, AP moved quickly to provide a completely distinctive story – as well as an exclusive data set that members could mine for their own use. https://bit.ly/2GBJLFb

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Aug. 13, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP’s tally of lawmakers: Cuomo was almost certain to be impeached

made AP first to report authoritatively that a majority of New York lawmakers favored removing Gov. Andrew Cuomo from office in the days before he resigned.As soon as New York's attorney general released a report concluding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women — and with Cuomo appearing to resist top Democrats’ calls for his resignation — the AP journalists began working the phones and reviewing social media postings, pressing to get every member of the Assembly on the record about whether they would move to impeach Cuomo.By midday on Aug. 4, a day after the report’s release, their tally of lawmakers favoring impeachment had climbed to 86, allowing AP to move an alert saying that more than half of the body’s 150 members favored initiating the process of ousting Cuomo — enough to authorize an impeachment trial. Peltz crafted the findings and other developments into a newsmaking story about the governor's perilous position, and over the next few days the team continued updating their tally as it climbed to nearly two-thirds of the Assembly.The reporting was widely used by online, print and broadcast members, with CBS reading the report on air and CNN crediting the AP’s work. https://aplink.news/8ar

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Feb. 24, 2017

Best of the States

Utah law allows legislators to get wined and dined in secret

Michelle Price was aware of the Utah’s lax requirements for reporting on lobbying activities and had been looking for a good way to tell that story. A social media posting from a lawmaker gave her the opening she was seeking when he shared an invitation from health care industry lobbyists to legislative members of three health-related committees to dine at a stylish new restaurant.

Price confirmed that under Utah’s loose lobbying laws, neither the lobbyists nor the lawmakers were required to report their night out. Price's AP NewsBreak went on to explain that no public disclosure is required as long as lobbyists extend their largesse to all members of a committee, a task force or a caucus. For her resourceful reporting, Price wins this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

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May 07, 2021

Best of the States

Intern’s rape accusation against Idaho lawmaker prompts AP national review of state legislatures

When a 19-year-old legislative intern reported that a state lawmaker in Idaho raped her, she almost immediately faced a campaign of harassment from right-wing groups in the state, and even from other state representatives, who publicized her identity against her will. A legislative panel then forced her to testify from behind a screen at an ethics hearing, after which she was followed and subjected to still further abuse by the accused lawmaker’s supporters.

The sordid story of the young woman’s ordeal was covered with sensitivity by Boise correspondent Rebecca Boone in a series of pieces that included an exclusive interview with the alleged victim, and it prompted a wider look by AP’s State Government Team at allegations of sexual misconduct in statehouses around the country. That story, led by correspondent David Lieb and Report for America data journalist Camille Fassett, provided state-by-state details to AP customers and revealed public allegations against at least 109 state lawmakers in 40 states.

For aggressive yet respectful coverage that put one woman’s voice at the center of the story while providing distinctive national context, Boone, Lieb and Fassett share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP examines patient consent before pelvic exams; states, med schools split on legislation

“Don’t dismiss a [story] idea just because it’s unfamiliar. Pelvic exams aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of the State Government Team, but it turned out to be a really terrific and distinctive topic.”

That’s one editor’s takeaway from a story by Providence, Rhode Island, reporter Jennifer McDermott and Seattle medical writer Carla Johnson, both of whom, acting on a heads-up from New York photo editor Jenny Kane, found that it’s common practice for medical students to perform a pelvic exam on women under anesthesia as part of their training. Whether the patients have given consent for that exam is not clear, drawing the interest of state lawmakers.

The pair faced multiple obstacles in reporting the story, including initial reluctance by doctors and harried legislators to discuss the issue, but McDermott and Johnson succeeded in defining the conflict between medical schools and elected officials seeking to protect patient rights. Their efforts resulted in a unique story that received heavy play among major AP customers, both online and in print.

For their teamwork, execution and sensitive handling of a complex topic, McDermott, Johnson and Kane win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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June 14, 2018

Best of the States

Lobbyists – including House speaker’s brother – influence Florida’s payments to victims

In Florida, the Legislature has to approve court awards – beyond a capped amount – for lawsuits alleging wrongdoing by a state or local agency.

So when Florida Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout began hearing about a surge in payouts to victims and families harmed by government actions, he began digging into public and legislative records. What he found confirmed the influence of lobbyists, and of one lobbyist in particular: the House speaker’s brother.

Fineout found that claims lobbied by the speaker’s brother had a substantial rate of success. Of the $37.5 million in claims bills approved over the past two years, nearly half was awarded to victims represented by Michael Corcoran, brother of Florida’s House speaker.

One state lawmaker, a candidate for attorney general, said the process needs fixing, and said that Florida should have a codified, egalitarian process for awarding payments, one that doesn’t rely on who has the best lobbyist.

Fineout's story received extensive play, including a rare banner headline atop A1 in the state's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper said in an editorial that “Florida owes thanks to Gary Fineout ... for shedding light on a dark side of Florida government.”

For work that South News Director Ravi Nessman called a “perfect example of the kind of tough, accountability reporting that we prize so much from our statehouses,” Fineout wins this week's Best of the States award.

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