Chris Papst is a dangerous man.
Mr. Papst is a fairly likable 34-year old reporter for WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pa. However, the take-no-prisoners investigative reporting he’s doing there is a danger to many of his contemporaries, who think their job is to be the public relations arm of the welfare state.
See, Mr. Papst is a reporter who is actually willing to report the news as it is, not just report the news that fits the ideological slant of his group-think infested newsroom. As a result of his willingness to actually do his job, he has uncovered a litany of stories of welfare fraud in Pennsylvania. His stories have so shamed the state government that legislation is being crafted in response to what he has uncovered.
“The result of these stories is pretty much the ultimate affirmation for any investigative journalist, a welfare reform law that saves the taxpayer money is headed to the governor’s desk,” Mr. Papst said. “Now lottery winners will be cross-referenced with the welfare system, and there are other welfare reform bills being written. That gets you thinking, ‘What else is out there to make sure we’re helping the people that really need the help?”
If Pennsylvania needed to pass a law to make sure its lottery winners aren’t also receiving welfare, that obviously implies no such safeguard previously existed. And it didn’t, until Mr. Papst found a woman who had won $330,000 from the Pennsylvania lottery, but was also collecting welfare on the taxpayers’ dime.
But that’s not all. Not by a long shot.
Mr. Papst found a state whistleblower who said the attitude of Pennsylvania’s welfare department when it came to potential fraud was “when in doubt, give it out.”
Mr. Papst found a daughter of a millionaire couple who was receiving welfare while living in her parent’s plush home.
Because of the federal government’s “non-reporting policy” on illegal aliens, Mr. Papst uncovered that illegal aliens can walk right into a Pennsylvania welfare office and get taxpayer-funded welfare for their children — no questions asked.
Mr. Papst also discovered incarcerated inmates in Pennsylvania receiving welfare.
According to Mr. Papst’s research, a single mom making $19,000 a year or less is eligible for $80,000 worth of assorted welfare state benefits annually in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Papst was tipped off to the Pennsylvania welfare office giving $25 Walmart gift cards (funded by the taxpayer, of course) to welfare recipients to thank them for spending the taxpayers’ money.
How was Mr. Papst, just one reporter, able to find all this out?
“I had done a few stories over the years about the abuse of taxpayer dollars, and one of them even won an Emmy,” Mr. Papst said. “After that, somebody within the Office of the Inspector General of Pennsylvania noticed them and called me up one day willing to be an anonymous source. He’s kinda guided me on where to look for this stuff.”
In other words, Mr. Papst’s source thought there was a better possibility of real reform happening by taking what he knew to the media rather than the state government he was working for.
Mr. Papst credits his managers for their willingness to pursue these stories regardless of ideological bias. He said, without their backing, there was no way he would have been able to get on the air these stories that don’t fit the politically correct narrative.
“They want this type of journalism,” Mr. Papst said. “I’m lucky to be working for a company like Sinclair Broadcasting that wants this kind of reporting.”
Even Mr. Papst’s peers in the notoriously liberal mainstream media are taking notice of his work. Mr. Papst has recently won awards from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and the Associated Press for the investigative journalism he’s done here. So maybe there’s hope for the industry yet?
“There are a lot of journalists that think these stories don’t deserve this kind of focus, but our message to our viewers is someone has to advocate on behalf of the taxpayers,” Mr. Papst said. “Somebody needs to make sure the money you make but don’t get to bring home is being spent the best way possible. This is some of the most important journalism you can do. Somebody needs to be looking over these programs making sure they are spending people’s hard-earned money the best way they can, and it’s truly going to the people that really need it.”
To put it another way, Mr. Papst’s career is an indictment of his own profession. These stories have been out there all along, but there was no one willing to pursue them.
Now that Mr. Papst’s work is demonstrating that real reform and recognition can result in doing this kind of investigative journalism, Mr. Papst’s fellow reporters no longer have any excuse for refusing to do so.
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)