The Madison-based journalist discusses breaking a pivotal Puerto Rico story and doing good tweets.
In late October, The Daily Beast ran a story exposing the political connections of Whitefish Energy, an obscure company that somehow secured a $300 million contract to restore electricity in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. The contract was canceled a few days later, amid an explosion of public outrage and criticism from members of Congress.
The journalist who reported and wrote this story is Ken Klippenstein, who freelances and files a lot of Freedom of Information Act requests from his home in downtown Madison. Klippenstein doesn’t really have a lot of ties to local media in Madison, but he’s clearly become a force as national and international media struggle to make sense of reality in the age of Trump. His work for publications including AlterNet and Shadowproof has focused on national security and abuses of power. Recently he’s delved into the Trump administration’s dealings with the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, explored Gil Scott-Heron’s FBI file, and exposed price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Houston.
While Klippenstein was pleasantly surprised that his reporting on Whitefish had an impact—in an administration to which few scandals really stick—he hopes it will also get people to keep thinking about how the United States has preyed on Puerto Rico, leaving the territory more or less hopelessly in debt. Klippenstein is a prolific and often funny Twitter user, but the Whitefish story clearly angered him, and his work has a sense of fierce inquiry and moral purpose.
Klippenstein joined us this week to discuss the Whitefish story, how he got into journalism, and why he believes FOIA requests are an important tool.
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