Sludge produces investigative journalism on lobbying and money in politics. We look beyond public records and disclosures to reveal the hidden networks and conflicts of interest that drive systemic corruption.
Sludge reports on the ways industries launder their agendas through independent groups, the power maps of corporate networks that extend deep into government, how concentrated economic powers dictate public policy, and more. We scour traditional lobbying disclosures and campaign contributions, but our primary focus is all the ways that money influences politics that don’t fit established patterns and often don’t have to be disclosed.
As special interests try to hide their lobbying, Sludge is committed to exposing them.
Founded in 2018, Sludge launched as part of the First Fleet of newsrooms on Civil, a journalism platform that uses cryptoeconomics to guard against low-quality content and censorship. Once the platform is fully launched, Sludge will be accountable to holders of the Civil token, who will use internal governance mechanisms to affirm the integrity and commitment to journalistic standards of Sludge and other newsrooms on the protocol, according to the guidelines in the Civil Constitution. In addition, every article published by Sludge will be permanently published on the Ethereum blockchain.
Sludge is exclusively funded by our readers and members. We never take money from advertisers, interest groups, or corporations, so we are solely focused on providing information that our members value. Because we don’t rely on advertisements for revenue we never produce “clickbait” to pay our bills and we never shy away from topics that challenge powerful interests.
Sludge members contribute $5/month (or $9/month with the added perk of a Sludge coffee mug) and receive exclusive access to member forums and behind-the-scenes access to our team of reporters. Sludge’s reporters host members-only Q&A sessions to dig in deeper on stories, answer questions about process, and get to know our members and what areas of research they care about.
Sludge Climate Desk – Thank-You
Sludge warmly thanks our Kickstarter supporters Megan Rooney, Rebecca Abts Wright, Kate A. Shaw, Ilo Milstein, and a valued guest from North Carolina for their donations towards our Climate Desk. Stay tuned for more reporting on the fossil fuel industry in September 2019!
Site Memberships and Accounts
Members who choose to donate to support our independent journalism can always control their own accounts directly—they can cancel or change their donation amount or delete their account (reader FAQ on Pico, our site account registration system).
To access your Sludge account, visit the Donation page and click the link at upper-right or the very bottom, “Already a donor? Log in here.” Enter your email in the field, click the magic link sent to your account from sender Sludge, and then you’ll be logged-in to your account on Sludge to adjust anytime. Contact us with any questions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM us on Twitter, and we can offer user support by telephone, text chat, or video chat as well. We’re available to help make this easy, and we really appreciate our reader support.
Sludge is paywall free—all our site articles are free to read online without requiring e-mail registration or payment. Our site has a few types of pop-up windows that ask visitors to join our free email list or make a donation to support our work. (The only Members-only content is the Sludge Report, which we send in full as a special email newsletter, as a perk to donating Members. We run a preview of it on the site.)
Our site Paypal email is: readsludge at gmail … dot com.
The Sludge team
Alex Kotch – Investigative journalist and money-in-politics expert. Alex started out with the Institute for Southern Studies (N.C.), freelanced in NYC with reporting in VICE.com, The Nation, and Exposed by CMD. He was most recently was part of the award-winning investigative team at International Business Times. (@alexkotch)
David Moore – Previously, Executive Director of the non-profit Participatory Politics Foundation. PPF created OpenCongress, the most visited non-profit site for tracking bills and money in the U.S. Congress. Later projects included AskThem and NYC Councilmatic. David is based in NYC. (@ppolitics)
Donald Shaw – Journalist who focuses on special interests’ efforts to influence politicians and shape public policy. He has been a reporter at MapLight, where he exposed correlations between campaign contributions and votes, and at OpenCongress. Donald is based in Western Massachusetts. (@donnydonny)
Previous Sludge reporters, from March into November 2018
Jay Cassano – Investigative journalist focused on government secrecy. Jay began his career as a foreign correspondent in Turkey and was previously on staff at Fast Company and the award-winning investigative team at International Business Times. He was also the first journalist-in-residence at Data & Society Research Institute. (@jcassano)
Josefa Velasquez – Journalist who focuses on the nexus of campaign contributions, politics and legislative proposals. She previously worked at Politico New York focusing on politics and health care, the Associated Press and the New York Law Journal. Josefa is based in Albany, New York. (@J_Velasquez)
Sludge Funding & Donor Information
From January 2018 through March 2019, Sludge was supported by grants from the Civil Media Company and Civil Foundation.
Since April 2019, Sludge has operated as a reader-supported newsroom, with no grants from any entity above $5,000. Sludge held a successful Kickstarter in March-April and reached halfway to goal in an IndieGoGo in October.
Sludge’s non-profit is expecting a gift of $2,000 from the Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation in early November 2019. Sludge’s non-profit PPF received a gift of $1,000 from the Tarbell Family Foundation in October 2019. Sludge received a gift of $1,500 from a donor Morgan Knutson in Oct. 2018.