The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Raquel Rutledge is winner of the 2009 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism for her watchdog series “Cashing in on Kids,” Nieman Foundation for Journalism announced today.
In reports published over the course of a year, Rutledge exposed how lax oversight of a $350 million taxpayer-subsidized Wisconsin Shares child-care program resulted in massive fraud.
In the course of her investigation, Rutledge helped uncover $20 million in suspicious payments to child care providers as well as criminal activity connected to the system that repeatedly put children in danger.
The $20,000 Bingham Prize will be presented at the Nieman Foundation for Journalismat Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., on March 4.
In selecting “Cashing in on Kids” as the Bingham Prize winner, judge James Asher noted, “Raquel Rutledge’s reporting on Wisconsin’s subsidized child care program is flat-out brilliant. Singlehandedly, she identified the parents, drug dealers and assorted ne’er-do-wells who bilked taxpayers of millions of dollars, stealing precious funds from hard-working parents who truly needed help paying for day care as they labored to pull themselves out of poverty. What she found was shocking. Yet state and local officials overlooked the malfeasance. Prosecutors were unaware. After a year’s worth of reporting, Rutledge’s journalism provoked indictments and new laws that reformed the system. And as a result, those who actually needed a lift are getting it. Bravo to her and to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.”