Watchdog work: Legislative scholarships to secret Blago jobs to Lincoln's supposed hat
Springfield is a fertile place for investigative reporting.
After all, where else could a strip club operator seemingly hold sway when it comes to getting people hired for state jobs?
That morsel was buried in a secret jobs database maintained by Rod Blagojevich's administration that I acquired and helped turn into one of several groundbreaking investigative projects from the Illinois statehouse.
My watchdog reporting was credited with helping end a scandal-tainted, century-old program that enabled state lawmakers to award free college rides to a favored few. My work raised serious questions about the authenticity of a $6.5 million stovepipe hat purportedly worn by Abraham Lincoln and that is the prized artifact of the state's Lincoln presidential library and museum.
Over many years, I've written extensively about the reach of former political fundraiser William Cellini, dubbed one of the most powerful men ever in state government before getting ensnared in the federal investigation that took down ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
I also peeled back the costs of a $50 million statehouse renovation when Illinois couldn't pay its bills and, in another project, collaborated with others in focusing on questionable government contracts that enriched the stepson of former Senate President Emil Jones.