MCLEAN, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, and the Center for Public Integrity that engaged more than 30 reporters across the USA TODAY NETWORK, part of Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), identified at least 10,000 copycat bills in every state using a unique data analysis engine built on dozens of cloud computers to detect similarities in language, revealing for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated U.S. statehouses through “model” legislation.
To investigate how bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks get copied from one statehouse to the next, USA TODAY and The Arizona Republic compared millions of words of legislation provided by LegisScan in a data collection and analysis process powered by the equivalent of 150 computers that ran non-stop for months. The project includes a live reporting tool that flags newly introduced model bills, allowing reporters in USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms across the country to dig into every known model bill in their state and to track new copycat efforts. The investigation found 10,000 bills were almost entirely copied from models introduced nationwide in the past eight years and more than 2,100 were signed into law.
In a separate analysis, the Center for Public Integrity identified tens of thousands of bills with identical phrases, then traced the origins of that language in dozens of those bills across the country.
The results reveal that model bills quietly driven by special-interest campaigns impact agendas in every statehouse and touch nearly every area of public policy. Model bills have made it harder for injured consumers to sue corporations, called for taxes on sugar-laden drinks, limited access to abortion, and restricted the rights of protesters.
“This investigation was a collaborative effort by CPI and USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms that involved on-the-ground reporting and a massive data analysis effort. It exposes the extent to which special interests have seized the agenda by writing their own laws and making them go viral in our state legislatures nationwide,” said Chris Davis, executive editor and vice president of investigations for USA TODAY NETWORK.
“This project represents the latest and most complex in a series of successful partnerships going back several years between the Center for Public Integrity and the USA TODAY Network,” said Gordon Witkin, executive editor, Center for Public Integrity. “For the Center, the results have been spectacular, in terms of amplifying the reach and impact of our work. This particular investigation vividly displays the ‘force multiplication’ benefits of these sorts of collaborations, as we were able to bring together multiple reporters, editors, graphic artists and data journalists to brainstorm, report, design, analyze and write in ways that ultimately broadened the scope, breadth and depth of the project.”
About USA TODAY NETWORK
USA TODAY NETWORK, part of Gannett Co, Inc. (NYSE: GCI), is the largest local-to-national media organization in the country, powered by our award-winning newsrooms and marketing solutions business. With deep roots in local communities spanning the U.S. with more than 100 brands, plus USA TODAY, we engage more than 125 million people every month through a diverse portfolio of multi-platform content offerings and experiences. For more information, visit www.gannett.com.