Slavery, State Corruption, and Chinese Factories

This week’s top MuckReads from ProPublica.

Federal contractors have donated close to $900,000 to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

Here are this week’s top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica’s ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to The best submissions are selected by ProPublica’s editors and reporters and then featured on and @ProPublica.

Federal Contractors Donate to Super PAC Backing Romney, Los Angeles Times
Companies with government contracts have been banned from donating to federal campaigns since 1976. But this year, thanks to a legal gray area introduced by the 2010 Citizens United case, federal contractors have given nearly $900,000 to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future. And at this point, no one seems sure whether the contributions are legal.
Contributed by @elliottjustin


Slavery’s Last Stronghold, CNN
Though Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 (the last country to do so), an estimated 10 percent to20 percent of the population remains in “real slavery,” according to human rights activists. It’s an open secret, with the government ejecting journalists and allegedly arresting and torturing anti-slavery activists.
Contributed by Dafna Linzer

Chinese Firm Helps Iran Spy on Citizens, Reuters
A Chinese firm sold a surveillance system to Iran’s government-controlled telecom company, giving the Iranian company the ability to monitor text messages, phone conversations, and Web access. Buying through China is also a backdoor way Iran can avoid sanctions and get access to American technology.
Contributed by Steve Stecklow

State Corruption Report Cards, State Integrity Investigation
The Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International, and Global Integrity teamed up for this “unprecedented, data-driven analysis” of states’ corruption risk. They graded states in 14 different categories, measuring the strength of laws to deter corruption—not simply the number of scandals. Worst: Georgia. Best: New Jersey (Go figure.)


Retraction, This American Life
After a Marketplace reporter unearthed details that took down “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” the incredibly popular episode of This American Life that detailed horrific conditions at Foxconn, a factory that produces Apple products in China, Ira Glass had Mike Daisey on to help explain  what happened.

Are Wal-Mart’s Chinese Factories as Bad as Apple’s? the Atlantic
On Chinese factories and “fiction-free”: Wal-Mart’s sustainability program has been lauded for its industry-wide influence. But under the watch of idle auditors, and an economic slowdown, its greening efforts seem to be slowing to a halt.
Contributed by @jaeahjlee

These stories and many more can be found at ProPublica. You can also subscribe to a daily #MuckReads email or follow ProPublica on Twitter. Reader submissions are key to making #MuckReads a success—please contribute!