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2020 Feature, Small Newsroom finalist

You donated to kids with cancer

This Vegas telemarketer cashed in

About the Project

This sweeping investigation took the Center for Public Integrity from Las Vegas to Florida in search of answers to questions we began asking ourselves in late 2017: how is it legal for a businessman to raise $153 million in the name of sick children and first responders but keep most of it for his own private companies?

And how many other people are out there raising millions for charities and political groups but keeping most of it for themselves?

Through an analysis of millions of campaign finance records, thousands of fundraising disclosures and interviews with dozens of people, we were able to pull back the curtain on big-business telemarketers that tug on heartstrings but give very little to the charitable causes they champion.

We told this story through the lens of one man: Las Vegas telemarketer Richard Zeitlin, who reporter Sarah Kleiner pursued for months and finally tracked down in the parking lot of his office in Henderson, Nevada, where he threatened her and chased her to her car. Kleiner flew back to D.C. and, with our data editor, wrote a story that we believe should be held up as an example of the impact our reporting has when we marry exhaustive data journalism with narrative storytelling.