New England Muckrakers

Notable investigative stories from newspapers, websites and TV and radio newsrooms in the six New England states plus “Citizen Muckraker” reports.

Recent Posts

Monitoring prescription drugs in Maine: ten years later

Ten years after Maine's prescription drug monitoring program was first implemented, Jackie Farwell of the Bangor Daily News takes an in-depth look at the program. The program was launched to curb doctor-shopping, where addicts seeking narcotic prescriptions visit multiple doctors. Farwell's investigation shows a program with significant flaws, but with an important role to play in combatting drug addiction in Maine. From the story:

"The prescription painkiller epidemic has its roots in the late 1990s, when influential medical organizations began encouraging doctors to consider pain as a measurable symptom to document and treat. Around the same time, potent new painkillers such as OxyContin were hitting the market. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

More extreme rain, and no way to drain it

Connecticut isn't using up-t0-date data when it designs its drainage infrastructure, according to a new story by Jan Ellen Spiegel at the CT Mirror. Rainfall is up due to climate change, and with it, flooding. And while that may not be a bad thing overall, if the drainage systems can't handle the volume of water, it could have some very serious consequences. From the story:

"Aside from the initial flooding that can drown crops, destroy bridges, make roads impassable, and leave basements a horror show, poorly drained runoff can erode the land and weaken whatever structures are on it, including roads and buildings." Read the full story at the CT Mirror  Continue Reading →

Filed under:

There’s a new subprime bubble…in auto loans

A NYTimes investigation has uncovered a new bubble resembling the housing market before the 2008 crash: Subprime auto loans. People with bad credit or unreliable income are easily getting loans to buy used cars. But these loans come with astronomically-high interest rates, which low-income drivers find difficult to repay. From the story:
"The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages. A wave of money is pouring into subprime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Shadow Campaigns: State officials appear to misuse campaign funds

At The Boston Globe, David Scharfenberg writes about some Massachusetts elected officials who are potentially breaking federal campaign finance regulations. Federal law prohibits using money raised to run for state and local office in federal campaigns. That's because what's legal under state campaign finance law can be a violation of federal campaign finance law. But the rules are vague, and some politicians, such as Republican Richard Tisei, appear to be taking advantage. From the article:

"Spending records show several other Massachusetts officials have spent thousands of dollars out of their state accounts on staff and consultants in the run-up to their formal declarations, creating what looks like a series of shadow campaigns outside the reach of federal regulators." Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Special investigative report: Anatomy of a recall

The federal government is poised to publish a proposed consumer-protection rule that would require all processors of raw ground beef to keep records so retailers can better trace the sources of contaminated products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday. The rule is designed to minimize the number of people affected by food-borne illnesses like the 2011 salmonella outbreak that was linked to ground beef sold by the Scarborough-based Hannaford supermarket chain. Hannaford’s records met federal requirements at the time, but because the records were incomplete, the USDA couldn’t identify the source of the beef that sickened at least 20 people. That gap in the nation’s food-safety system was the focus of a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram special report, “Anatomy of a Recall,” published in March 2012. The investigation found that the USDA had known since 1998 that better record-keeping was needed to help food-safety investigators trace sources of contaminated meat and prevent additional illnesses. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Hobbled IRS can’t stem dark money flow

When federal election lawyers decided the nonprofit Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies likely violated political spending limits, campaign finance watchdogs were certain the Internal Revenue Service would take action. After all, lawyers for the Federal Election Commission argued that Crossroads GPS,co-founded by Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, spent more on politics than anything else leading up to the 2010 election. Then the IRS tea party scandal exploded. Read the full story at the Center for Public Integrity.  Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Hazards tied to medical records rush

President Obama and Congress poured $30 billion in taxpayer subsidies into the push for digital medical records beginning in 2009, with only a few strings attached and no safety oversight of the vendors who sell the systems.
The move was touted as a way to improve patient care and help rein in medical costs. Five years later, the explosion in the use of the electronic records has created the potential for efficiencies and safety benefits but also new risks for patients, the scope of which still is not fully understood. Read the full story at the Boston Globe Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Children stuck in crisis: Connecticut’s psychiatric emergency gets worse

You’ve probably heard stories like this before. The number of children and teens going to emergency rooms in mental health crisis, some waiting days for an inpatient bed, has been growing for more than a decade. ER staff are used to seeing a bump in patients at the end of each school year. But what happened this spring was unprecedented, say people who work at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, parents of kids with psychiatric illnesses and community mental health providers. “I don’t remember a period like that before where the volume was so high and we had so many kids where there wasn’t a place to facilitate them to, there wasn’t a place for them to go to,” said Gary Steck, CEO of Wellmore Behavioral Health, based in Waterbury. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Special report: Does pressure to reunify families lead to tragedy?

Sandra Eastman was searching for love. With a childhood marred by violence, instability, cocaine and abuse, as an adult she wanted a peaceful family life of her own. Eastman’s mistake, perhaps, was to let that need blind her to the threat her husband posed to her baby girl, Dezirae Sheldon. Dennis Duby, who friends described as an angry, jealous, violent liar, is charged with Dezirae’s murder. Click here for a timeline of Dezirae’s life. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Health system overhaul plan has Medicaid advocates worried

State officials are seeking millions of dollars in federal funds with the ambitious goal of redesigning how health care is paid for and delivered to the majority of Connecticut residents. But critics say a late addition to the application has the potential to significantly change Connecticut’s Medicaid program, in ways they worry could make it harder for low-income children and adults to receive care. Read the full story at the CT Mirror.  Continue Reading →

Filed under: