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WAMU 88.5 News examines “Deals for Developers” in investigative series airing May 20-24

"Deals for Developers,” a five-part news series exploring the relationship between the firms at the heart of the District’s development boom and city politicians, premieres on May 20 on WAMU 88.5. Reported by WAMU 88.5 News Investigative Reporters Patrick Madden and Julie Patel, the series will air at 6:50 a.m. and 8:50 a.m., ET, through May 24, during Morning Edition.

Madden and Patel mined records from more than 100,000 contributions in municipal elections since 2003 to find donations made by developers and their affiliates. Their research reveals not only the identities of the top contributors, but also illuminates a history of deep discounts for firms buying city-owned properties and broken promises from developers. It also raises questions about the timing of the campaign donations. The value of tax breaks and subsidies awarded to top contributing firms: $1.7 billion since 2003.

Audio for “Deals for Developers” is complemented online with a searchable database of developer contributions and a visual representation of the links between top firms and candidates. The series and additional features are available at: http://wamu.org/developerdeals.

Upcoming reports in the series:

•    DEVELOPERS FUND CAMPAIGNS, SCORE SUBSIDIES—Reporters piece together the symbiotic relationship between real estate developers and the city’s lawmakers with an eye on the role of campaign cash.

•    MILLION-DOLLAR PROPERTIES, $1 DEALS—Reporters highlight taxpayer-owned properties such as schools and firehouses sold to developers at deep discounts, costing the city $200 million in revenue since 2008.

•    EMPTY PROMISES: DEVELOPERS OFTEN DON’T DELIVER—Housing, jobs, and contracts for local businesses are among the promises developers make to secure public dollars for their projects. Reporters investigate what happens when developers fail to uphold their commitments to the community.

•    TIMING OF CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS EXAMINED—Reporters trace the patterns of developer campaign contributions, highlighting how and when cash from developers lands in candidate coffers.

•    FIXING THE SYSTEM—Reporters talk to critics of the District’s broken campaign finance laws to explore solutions. Plus, a look at what Maryland and Virginia are doing to hold developers accountable. 

WAMU 88.5 News’ “Deals for Developers” series is supported by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and developed with assistance from NPR’s News Applications.   

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