April 20, 2018
Best of the States
AP's 50-state analysis: State legislatures lack public records of sexual misconduct claims
As the #MeToo movement spread to state capitols, AP statehouse reporters filed uniform FOIA requests with every legislature seeking information about past sexual misconduct cases and payouts to victims. The coordinated effort, overseen by State Government Team reporter David Lieb, produced some interesting numbers: roughly 70 complaints and nearly $3 million in sexual harassment settlements over the past decade.
But the real story was the information that wasn’t released.
In fact, a majority of states would not disclose records related to sexual misconduct among lawmakers. The most common response was that they had received no such complaints over the past decade, did not keep a record of any such complaints or were not legally bound to disclose the records. But Lieb's research revealed that even states with documented cases of lawmaker sexual harassment were not releasing records about those allegations – and potentially others.
Lieb worked with data editor Meghan Hoyer to organize and analyze the responses from our statehouse reporters in every state. The resulting spreadsheet was distributed to AP bureaus and customers weeks ahead of publication to allow for localizations. AP reporters in 19 states did just that, producing sidebars that in many cases landed on A1.
The mainbar and the state-by-state list of accused lawmakers received wide interest on the APNews app. The story also landed on at least 20 front pages.
For their 50-state accountability project on a topic that continues to rattle state capitols, Lieb and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.