Handful of data journalists shake up Mexican Congress

The truth hurts, especially when the truth is contained in receipts from bars, hotels, spas, and luxury vehicle dealers.
Israel Piña, from Quien Compro website.

A group of five young Mexican journalists has spent the past year or so sifting through thousands of expense reports of Mexico's senators and deputies (congress) to see how they are using taxpayers' money.

Among their scoops:
  • Members of the Senate bought 10 Harley-Davidson motorcycles at a cost of 2.12 million Mexican pesos, or about US$130,000, in order to serve their constituents better. 
  • Senators spent 43,800 pesos on 210 bottles of wine, or US$2,700 in a four-month period.
  • One senator bought a loaded Yukon Denali SUV for 890,000 pesos, or $60,000, for the use of an obscure agency whose purpose is to "do studies to help the Congress make decisions." The senator declined to respond to numerous requests for comment. 
Cartoon that accompanied the Harley-Davidson exposé.
Versión en español

These journalists, led by Israel Piña, 33, were doing the investigative work in their spare time, for nothing. So they were surprised that their reports attracted enough attention that a year ago, television stations and major print media outlets -- including El Universal newspaper -- began paying them for their content.

They were providing a kind of investigative journalism that no one else was doing. Typically, political reporters in Mexico spend their time covering the pronouncements and accusations of the political class. It is very much inside baseball. They don't do much basic research using public documents.

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