MCLEAN, Va., April 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- USA TODAY investigative reporter Thomas Frank has been named a finalist in the explanatory reporting category for the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes. Frank's series explained how state lawmakers pump up their pensions.
To report the series, Frank examined thousands of pages of pension laws from all 50 states to untangle the obscure language behind pension perks. He traced the evolution of these laws, finding the legislators who wrote them, the fiscal notes that detail their cost and determining which officials should be held accountable. He filed approximately 70 Freedom-of-Information requests with 29 states to obtain pension records of individual lawmakers and state workers.
Frank's stories revealed that legislators in many states have enriched themselves by writing laws that let them collect a legislative pension while still in office, count their expense reimbursements as salary in calculating a pension and base their pension on earnings from a different state job. The story found that more than 4,100 legislators in 33 states are positioned to benefit.
"These stories are classic explanatory journalism. They are rooted in relentless research through government records to document how powerful groups around the nation are manipulating a system they control for personal and political gain. Today we are reminded that our purpose in journalism is a great one and we're proud to say that through Tom's hard work, USA TODAY was able to expose these wrongs. We congratulate him on a job well done," said Susan Weiss, executive editor of USA TODAY.
"This is a tremendous tribute to everyone at USA TODAY who has worked so hard for so long to create an environment where top-quality journalism can thrive. It's an honor to work here," said Frank.
The series ran in USA TODAY between September and December 2011. The full series can be seen online at www.pensions.usatoday.com.
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SOURCE USA TODAY