Resource Center

Stories

 

 

 

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 26,000 investigative stories — both print and broadcast.

These stories are searchable online or by contacting the Resource Center directly (573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org) where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Browse or search the tipsheet section of our library below. Stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center.

 

 

 



Search results for "small business" ...

  • Explosion at West

    Tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer at a central Texas plant exploded last April with the force of a small earthquake. The blast came just two days after the Boston Marathon and, in the national media, was overshadowed by events in the Northeast. While not the result of a terrorist attack, the explosion in West, Texas, was far larger and deadlier, and raised more significant public safety issues. In a series of investigative reports over eight months, The Dallas Morning News revealed that ammonium nitrate remains virtually unregulated by federal and state governments, despite its well-known explosive potential. (Timothy McVeigh used it in 1995 to blow up an Oklahoma City federal building.) Efforts to strengthen oversight have been blocked by industry lobbyists and government gridlock, The News found, even as the Pentagon sought bans on ammonium nitrate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In pro-business, anti-regulation Texas, the federal government’s lax oversight meant no oversight at all. West Fertilizer Co. – scene of the disaster – violated almost every safety best practice. No state agency was charged with preventing an ammonium nitrate blast. There was no public registry of companies that handled the compound, even though many facilities are near homes and schools. Texas prohibits most counties from having fire codes and does not require facilities like West to obtain liability insurance. Gov. Rick Perry and other state politicians, who created this wide-open environment, washed their hands of the problem. They said West was a tragic accident that no amount of regulation could have prevented. The News’ findings, however, proved otherwise.

    Tags: West Fertilizer Co.; Safety; State agency; Texas; Gov. Rick Perry

    By Maud Beelman

    Dallas Morning News

    2013

  • Biggest of the Smalls: The Rise of a Federal Contractor

    In the last decade, the federal government has made an unprecedented push to direct work to small businesses in order to help such firms gain a foothold in the U.S. economy. The amount of money devoted to small business contracting rose 70 percent to $90 billion annually during that period. In this tide of spending, one firm stood out as the paragon of success: MicroTechnologies LLC. Records show it received $1.4 billion in federal technology deals over nine years, much of it reserved for small firms own by minority and service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs. MicroTech became the fastest growing small contractor in the nation. Founder Anthony R. Jimenez, declared it to be the "Biggest of the Smalls." Those deals transformed Jimenez's lifestyle. He bought a mansion -- and then commissioned a quarter-million entertainment system for it. He began driving a $190,000 Mercedes coupe. And he became a top sponsor of multiple martial arts "cage fighting," routinely flying to Las Vegas at company expense. “I am living the American Dream,” he said in a letter to The Washington Post. But MicroTech's extraordinary ascent begged a simple-seeming question: How could such a large company still be eligible to receive contracts set aside for small firms? Until The Post's Robert O'Harrow Jr. dug in, no one in the media or government knew the answer or bothered to check. O'Harrow pushed ahead the old fashioned way: he issued Freedom of Information Act Requests for contracting documents and demanded government officials open their files. His investigation found that MicroTech had misled the government and the public about its ownership and operations to get access to preferential contracts and burnish its own image. In doing so, the firm abused taxpayers and deprived other small firms access to hundreds of million in deals. In response to those findings, the government suspended MicroTech from contracting and changed some contracting rules. Two inspectors general offices are investigating and Congress has launched its own probes.

    Tags: government contract; small business;

    By Robert O'Harrow

    Washington Post

    2013

  • Biggest of the Smalls: The Rise of a Federal Contractor

    In the last decade, the federal government has made an unprecedented push to direct work to small businesses in order to help such firms gain a foothold in the U.S. economy. The amount of money devoted to small business contracting rose 70 percent to $90 billion annually during that period. In this tide of spending, one firm stood out as the paragon of success: MicroTechnologies LLC. Records show it received $1.4 billion in federal technology deals over nine years, much of it reserved for small firms own by minority and service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs. MicroTech became the fastest growing small contractor in the nation. Founder Anthony R. Jimenez, declared it to be the "Biggest of the Smalls." Those deals transformed Jimenez's lifestyle. He bought a mansion -- and then commissioned a quarter-million entertainment system for it. He began driving a $190,000 Mercedes coupe. And he became a top sponsor of multiple martial arts "cage fighting," routinely flying to Las Vegas at company expense. “I am living the American Dream,” he said in a letter to The Washington Post. But MicroTech's extraordinary ascent begged a simple-seeming question: How could such a large company still be eligible to receive contracts set aside for small firms? Until The Post's Robert O'Harrow Jr. dug in, no one in the media or government knew the answer or bothered to check. O'Harrow's investigation found that MicroTech had misled the government and the public about its ownership and operations to get access to preferential contracts and burnish its own image. In doing so, the firm abused taxpayers and deprived other small firms access to hundreds of million in deals. In response to those findings, the government suspended MicroTech from contracting and changed some contracting rules. Two inspectors general offices are investigating and Congress has launched its own probes.

    Tags: small business; money; government; business

    By Robert O'Harrow Jr.

    The Washington Post

    2013

  • Lawrenceburg Driveways

    This investigation revealed how a small Indiana city illegally spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a sweet deal for those who received it - free or drastically reduced price concrete construction projects for homeowners and businesses. The "off-right-of-way" concrete program continued for years, despite state regulators telling city officials to stop. We found haphazard and incomplete billing- some people paid more than others for the same work. And because so many people did not pay at all, the program kept building up a deficit.

    Tags: taxpayers; money; construction

    By Jeff Hirsh; Kevin Kuykendall

    WKRC-TV

    2013

  • For-Profit-College Business Model Breeds Exploitative Marketing Tactics

    In the first radio piece: Interviews with former recruiters, faculty, administrators and students of a small group of for-profit colleges in Minnesota paint a picture of schools that are exploiting unsophisticated students for their financial-aid money. Analysis points to a high-enrollment, high-dropout business model that earns the company millions but provides questionable return on taxpayer investment. In the second radio piece: Political differences at the federal level make it unclear how much the government will regulate for-profit colleges. At the Minnesota state level, the leading official for higher-ed says his agency doesn’t have the resources to go after problem colleges – and isn’t sure whether beefing up enforcement would be the best use of higher-education funding.

    Tags: Non-profit colleges; financial aid; business models; for-profit colleges

    By Reporter: Alex Friedrich; Editor: Bill Wareham

    Minnesota Public Radio (St. Paul, Minn.)

    2012

  • Fraud on the Job

    KING 5 dedicated nearly a year to dig into the complex world of the federal minority contracting program. The program is intended to remedy past and current discrimination against minority and women-owned contracting businesses who want a shot at working on federal highway projects. But instead of fostering equal opportunity, KING found staggering fraud and abuse in the taxpayer-funded program. The investigative series titled “Fraud on the Job" was born. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for administering the program. WSDOT contracts with a small state agency, the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) to certify which contractors qualify as "disadvantaged business enterprises" or DBEs. They also make sure that once in, the companies aren’t cheating or becoming too big to qualify. The state’s share of billions of federal highway funds comes with some strings attached, including a requirement that a certain percentage of money spent on transportation projects be reserved for minority-owned firms. The results of the “Fraud on the Job” series were swift and extraordinary. Two days after the first story aired, the governor ordered the Washington State Patrol to conduct a criminal fraud investigation. She also ordered a top-to- bottom review of OMWBE. Two weeks later, the governor asked the director of OMWBE to resign. Another top manager quit and another was fired. Two of the companies KING exposed as defrauding the government were removed from the DBE program by the state. State and federal legislation is now being drafted to stop the cheating. And now the FBI and the Inspector General of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation are investigating.

    Tags: fraud; government; tax; taxpayer; fund

    By Susannah Frame Reporter; Steve Douglas Photographer/Editor; Kellie Cheadle Executive Producer; Mark Ginther News Director

    KING-TV (Seattle)

    2012

  • Putting their faith in his hands

    The story provides a deep look at the rise of charismatic religious leader Avraham Cohen, how he came to dominate the lives of his devoted followers and became a large if shadowy presence in a small town in northern Wisconsin, and how his plans to create a business empire went awry.

    Tags: religion; religious leader; Avraham Cohen; Rama Behera

    By Rick Romell

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    2011

  • Rapid Descent

    The reporter investigates the practices of one merchant cash advance industry. It details the lack of regulation that allowed the firm to take advantage of small business owners.

    Tags: RapidAdvance; bankruptcy; oversight; merchant cash advance; small business

    By Bryant Switzky; Doug Fruehling

    Washington Business Journal

    2010

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina Politicians' Assets

    By law, Bosnian politicians are required to disclose their assets. When the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo explored financial records of individual politicians, small unreported private fortunes were uncovered. Corporate kickbacks from special interests were found as well.

    Tags: Bosnia; Herzegovina; assets; politicians; disclosure; finances; officials; officeholders; private business;

    By Mahir Sahinovic; Miranda Patrucic; Mirsad Brkic; Renata Radic; Svjetlana Celic;

    Center for Investigative Reporting - Bosnia Herzegovina

    2009

  • The Family

    "The family is a story of a self-described 'invisible organization' of Christian conservative activists dedicated to organizing political and business elites into linked small groups they call 'prayer cells' or invisible believing groups.' Members and associates of the Family, also known as the Fellowship, include prominent figures such as senators Sam Brownback, James Ihnofe, and John Ensign; representatives Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts, and Zach Wamp; former attorneys general John Ashcroft and Ed Meese; and many others."

    Tags: Christian fundamentalist; Christian Right; government; Focus on the Family; Ivanwald; Arlington, Va.;

    By Jeff Sharlet

    HarperCollins (New York)

    2008