Opportunities for Muckrakers at Harvard’s Center for Ethics

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Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics recently reached out to us in the hopes of passing along a neat opportunity, and we’re only too happy to help: The Center, under the able guidance of Larry Lessig, is looking for investigative reporters to help expose “institutional corruption”. From the Center’s website:

“Institutional corruption” refers not to bribery, or other familiar violations of law or ethics. It refers instead to influences within an economy of influence that tend to (1) weaken the effectiveness of an institution, especially by (2) weakening public trust of the institution.

A paradigm case for this form of corruption might be Congress. Candidates for Congress fund their elections through private campaign contributions. Those contributions are perfectly legal, indeed, constitutionally protected. But plausibly, the system of privately funded public elections might (1) weaken the effectiveness of Congress, especially by (2) weakening public trust of Congress due to the influence funders may have over members. If either condition obtains because of private funding, Congress would then qualify as an example of “institutional corruption.”

Very interesting work that pays and includes benefits. The deadline for applying is February 15, 2011, so you have plenty of time and it could be well worth your while. Read the full release and more details at the Center’s website.


Behind the scenes of SNAP-gate, as told by a FOI request

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We won’t comment too much on the whole SNAP data set drama, because a) we don’t want to legally jeopardize ourselves more than necessary, and b) we haven’t directly received any communications on the matter other than what we have already published.  You know as much as we do, but we would like to point out the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix and Yahoo! News, all of which provided some good, readable coverage.

We did receive one bit of new information, however, which we’re happy to share. Michael Ravnitzky provided us some documents that shed a little more light on the situation: 7 pages of e-mails between the Massachusetts’s  Department of Transitional Assistance and the Federal Food & Nutrition Services, embedded with DocumentCloud here or you can download the pdf (the first DocumentCloud page is a little pixely for some reason). Nothing too surprising, except for:

At least it’s nice to know we weren’t the only scofflaws. A big thanks to Michael for sending us the information.