Lester Graham

Investigative Reporter

Lester Graham is with Michigan Watch, the investigative unit of Michigan Radio. 

He was formerly the Senior Editor of The Environment Report/Great Lakes Radio Consortium, the environmental news service based at Michigan Radio, starting with the service in 1998. 

He has been a journalist since 1985.  Graham has served as a board member of Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association(RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups. 

Graham received more than 100 awards at the state, regional, national and international levels for journalistic excellence, including four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards, two of them at the network level.

Twitter: @MichiganWatch

Facebook link

email:  llgraham@umich.edu

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Investigative
10:23 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Discrimination against LGBT bad for Michigan economy

A new draft report finds allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians hurts Michigan’s economy. The state’s Civil Rights Commission is reviewing the report and might take action.

In Michigan it’s legal to discriminate against people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. Housing and job discrimination are a couple of the examples that are allowed by law.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Slowdown in Michigan disposable income growth in 2013 in part due to higher state tax burden

Michiganders' paychecks will be smaller than most.
Andy Nguyen Flickr

The State of the State speech outlines what the Governor sees as spending priorities for the state. But state taxes and spending are only part of the story.   Michigan Watch has learned recovering from the Great Recession will not go as well in Michigan as the rest of the nation this year.

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Politics & Government
4:02 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Judge rules mandatory insurance calculations to be public

A judge has ruled the organization which sets the mandatory fee for no-fault auto insurance must disclose how it calculates the fee. 

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Politics & Government
1:56 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Personal Property Tax phase out being rushed through state Legislature

Samantha Harkins with Michigan Municipal League says the legislature is rushing a complicated tax change through the lame duck session.
Michigan Municipal League

A plan to phase out Michigan’s Personal Property Tax—the tax on business equipment—is being rushed through the Michigan Legislature.

There are unanswered questions and not much time to get answers.

Businesses want to end the tax on equipment. The problem is many local governments rely heavily on that tax.

When a proposal was announced last week, it appeared phasing out the tax over ten years and a statewide vote to replace it with the state’s current use-tax revenue might work to replace the local governments’ lost revenues.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Legislation to discriminate in adoptions

user robscomputer Flickr

Legislation would give private adoption agencies the legal right to turn down prospective parents for any moral or religious reason.  That’s what’s in a pair of bills being considered by lawmakers in Lansing.

The bills would guarantee private adoption agencies working on state contracts would be protected from rules that could compromise their religious or moral convictions.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Tue November 27, 2012

Cuts to welfare: What's the cost to children?

user Followtheinstructions Flickr

This past year, the administration of Governor Rick Snyder put new restrictions on the time families can receive cash assistance. 15,000 families have been cut off from that part of welfare which generally is used to pay rent and utilities. Michigan Watch and the online magazine Bridge have spent the last year looking into the effects of those policies. Those who’ve lost cash assistance say the state is forgetting about the children who are affected.

Like a lot of parents who depended on cash assistance, Erica Underwood is wondering what’s going to happen to her family since the state kicked her off that part of welfare.

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Politics & Government
4:32 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Campaign spending breaks all records

A lot more money was spent in this election year than in past elections and much of that money at the national level and in Michigan was so-called ‘dark money.’

“Literally hundreds of millions not traceable to any donor in federal campaigns and certainly tens-of-millions in Michigan election campaigns," said Rich Robinson with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

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Politics & Government
4:18 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Michigan voters wouldn't be bought

Policy-makers, politicos, and pundits are trying to figure out what the rejection of all the statewide ballot proposals means. 

Tens-of-millions of dollars were spent in getting the proposals on the ballot and then promoting them.

John Bebow is with the Center for Michigan which operates Bridge magazine and the Truth Squad. He said there’s one clear message, “The ballot wasn’t for sale this year. That’s what voter’s said.”

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri November 2, 2012

Truth Squad: 'Flagrant Foul' and 'No Foul' on Prop 5 ads

Political ads are filling the airwaves, but it’s not always easy to know what is true and what is not.

Michigan Watch has teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to sort it out.

Today we look at Proposal 5 ads. That’s the proposal requiring a two-thirds majority of the legislature or a vote of the people for any state tax increase.

We’re going to start out with the proponents of Proposal 5, the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity. They want you to vote ‘yes.’

John Bebow and the Truth Squad reviewed several radio ads the group is running.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Moroun money pushing Proposal 5, tax hike supermajority

Manuel "Matty" Moroun is also behind the effort to amend the state Constituion to require a tax hike supermajority.

It’s obvious why the Ambassador Bridge-owning Moroun family is backing Proposal 6. That’s the ballot measure that would require of vote of the people to build international crossings. It would be another step toward blocking a competing bridge Canada has offered to fund.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Tue October 30, 2012

Proposal 5 pros and cons

Senate Chamber, Michigan State Capitol
user Steve & Christine from USA Wikipedia

There are five proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution on the ballot. One that could be a game changer for the State of Michigan is Proposal Five, the so-called "two-thirds" proposal. 

Proposal 5 seems pretty straightforward. Right now it takes a simple majority of the legislature to pass a tax increase. If passed, Proposal 5 would require a supermajority of two-thirds of the legislature or a vote of the people to pass a tax increase.

Those for Proposal 5

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Investigative
7:03 am
Fri October 19, 2012

Truth Squad: foul for Stabenow; flagrant foul for Hoekstra

After the presidential race, the top of the ballot in Michigan is the U.S. Senate race.  Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to review recent ads produced by Republican Pete Hoekstra and Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

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Investigative
1:54 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Truth Squad on Prop 4

Michigan voters have plenty of homework to do before election day. One of the more complicated of the five proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution is Proposal 4.  Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to review the ads.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri October 5, 2012

Truth Squad on Prop 6: Flagrant Fouls on bridge TV ads

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the Michigan ballot this fall would require a statewide vote before state money could be spent on any “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” could be built in Michigan. The amendment would require the vote even before any tax money could be spent planning an international crossing. This would effectively stop the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. The effort is funded by the family that owns the Ambassador bridge.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Truth Squad on Prop 3 ads: Technical Fouls for '25 by '25'

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Five proposed amendments to the state Constitution and one other referendum will appear on the ballot on election day. Political commercials are on your TV making arguments for and against many of the proposals.  Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to look at the ads for and against Proposal 3.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Truth Squad on Prop 2: Fouls for everyone

Michigan Watch teams ups with Truth Squad this election season.

Five proposed amendments to the state Constitution and one other referendum will appear on the ballot on election day. We’ll see a lot of political commercials in the final weeks before we go to the polls. Michigan Watch is teaming up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to look at some of those ads.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Will new bridge to Canada cost Michigan taxpayers? We ask a law professor

Illustration of New International Trade Crossing.

As election day approaches, you’re likely to see a lot of ads critical of an agreement between Canada and Michigan regarding a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

[Ad Clip:] “It will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year.”

Whether Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of that bridge is at the heart of a fierce debate about the agreement.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Muddying the Michigan Constitution?

Old Supreme Court chambers in the Michigan capitol.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

You’ve got a lot to decide on election day. It’s not just who will be president, or elected to Congress or to the state legislature. There will be five state constitutional amendments. Some people are concerned about whether adding a lot of Constitutional amendments muddies a document that is designed to be a clear guide for the state.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Political parties differ on same sex marriage

Participant at LGBT caucus at the Democratic National Convention. The Democrats' platform includes supporting same sex marriage. The Republican platform calls for a Constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

One of the prominent social issues this election year is gay marriage. During the Republican National Convention, the party’s platform and political leaders said marriage is limited to one man and one woman. The Democratic platform calls for allowing same sex marriage.

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Politics & Government
1:14 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Former MI governor rallies Democrats

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm got the Michigan delegation and then the entire arena on its feet during her speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm spoke at the Democratic National Convention last night. She got the crowd on its feet and social media abuzz. 

The former Governor argued that no one helped Michigan when the auto industry collapsed.

“Almost nobody had the guts to help us. Not the banks. Not the private investors. And not Bain Capital. But, in 2009 the cavalry arrived and our new president, Barack Obama, came in.”

The speech just grew more intense from there.

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