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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Politics & Government
3:48 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

Access to vote for military

Democrats and Republicans have been asked to stop disenfranchising military voters.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

This election year, the right to vote and access to the ballot have been hot topics this election year in states across the nation. But one group of sometimes disenfranchised voters is getting attention.

Last week, an op-ed piece hit many newspapers across the nation, including the Tampa Bay area. It was written by Hans von Spakovsky. He was in the George W. Bush administration and is now with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

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Politics & Government
10:49 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Democratic chair rallies Michigan delegates

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told delegates they must work to put Michigan in the "blue column" for Barack Obama.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Democratic party leaders are rallying the troops on the first full day of the Democratic National Convention.

Not all the Michigan delegates have arrived at the convention because of Labor Day events back home. But a few delegates gathered today to hear from their party’s leader, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Recent polls show President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney running neck and neck in Michigan. Wasserman Schultz told the Michigan delegates they have work ahead of them.

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Politics & Government
6:13 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Causes: In the streets and in Democratic convention

About 1,000 protestors took to the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina yesterday before the opening
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina to nominate Barack Obama for a second term as president. Others are in Charlotte trying to build political momentum for a cause.

Yesterday the streets of downtown Charlotte were filled with protestors.

(Sound of drums and chanting) "Education not deportation!"

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Investigative
3:44 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

The People Should Decide ballot petition challenged

Rendering of proposed New International Trade Crossing which might be blocked by a state constitutional amendment proposed by the Ambassador Bridge owners.

(Updated)

A newly created group is challenging a ballot petition that would require a vote on future international bridge and tunnel crossings.

The group Taxpayers Against Monopolies supports a New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor, so it’s challenging a ballot petition filed by The People Should Decide which is supported by the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Moroun family.

The ballot petition would require a vote on all international crossings that use any taxpayer money.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Bridging the Border: Living with a new bridge (part 5)

The Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit hopes to benefit from the New International Trade Crossing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The fight between Governor Rick Snyder and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun about a new bridge connecting Detroit and Canada will be in the news for the foreseeable future. What’s often lost in the arguments is the people of the Detroit neighborhood where the new bridge will land.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Thu August 16, 2012

Bridging the border: Who decides? (part 4)

The Ambassador Bridge company collected more than enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. It would require a voters approve any international crossing for motor vehicles that include state support.
Elaine Ezekiel Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is pushing for a new $2 billion bridge from Detroit to Canada. The owners of the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge are fighting to stop that new bridge. The latest move is to get a constitutional amendment calling for a vote of the people before building any new bridge to cross the border. That will give the company another avenue to delay or stop the new bridge from being built.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Bridging the border: Influence of money (part 3)

Ambassador Bridge from the Canadian side. The bridge owners have spent millions of dollars to influence the debate on whether a second bridge should be built by Canada and Michigan.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The arguments for and against building a new bridge to Canada at Detroit, for the most part, have been pretty one-sided. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are fighting it and spending tons of money in TV ads. 

If you watch TV at all, you’ve probably seen one of the Ambassador Bridge-sponsored ads criticizing plans for a new bridge.

“Governor Snyder says, ‘Send Canada the bill.’ But, the Canadians have other ideas.”

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Investigative
7:00 am
Tue August 14, 2012

Bridging the border: Who pays? (part 2)

Ambassador Bridge from the U.S. side. The bridge owners say there's no need for a new Canada/Michigan public/private bridge because the Ambassador can build a twin span.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of confusion about how much a new bridge across the Canadian border at Detroit might cost taxpayers. TV ads say it will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year. The governor says it will cost Michigan nothing.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Bridging the border: Do we need a new bridge? (part 1)

Artist's rendering of the New International Trade Crossing.
http://buildthedricnow.com

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says we need a new bridge to Canada. It will mean more trade and more and better jobs. Not everyone agrees, especially the owners of the single bridge in Detroit which connects Michigan to Canada.

Eight thousand trucks a day cross the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

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Investigative
9:14 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Legal voters refused ballots

nopsa.hiit.fi

UPDATE:

Reports of voters being turned away because they declined to check a box asking them to verify U.S. citizenship have been coming in from several areas of the state.

Michigan Radio first became aware of the situation when talking to Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson who said he was refused a ballot because he would not check the box. He refused because it is not legally required.  Other media sources picked up on the story. (see Free Press)

Other political groups received calls from voters complaining they had been refused the right to vote after declining to check the citizenship box.

Chad Livengood with the Detroit News reported:

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Grading Michigan Schools
11:12 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Shop Rat Nation

Nov. 9, 2007
Lester Graham
The school system in this country in general has been going away from the vo-tech and shop classes. But one program provides an opportunity for college prep students to get some shop experience.

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Investigative
5:15 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Detroit Windsor Tunnel closing bad; bridge closing much worse

Ambassador Bridge closure would affect Michigan's economy.
user Mikerussell from Wikimedia Commons

Updated

A reported bomb threat closed the Detroit Windsor Tunnel today for several hours. Almost all of the tunnel’s traffic is passenger cars. Traffic was diverted to the only other alternative to cross the border, the Ambassador Bridge. Congestion slowed traffic.

It was certainly an inconvenience for travelers, but the economic impact of the tunnel closure was minimal.

However, if the Ambassador Bridge were closed for hours or days for any reason, it would be a much different story.

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Investigative
9:53 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Bridge: Some welfare recipients get reprieve; others struggle with welfare restructuring

Michigan Watch is working with the online magazine Bridge in a year-long collaboration, following families who were cut from welfare cash assistance by a Department of Human Services decision late last year. 

Some Michigan welfare recipients get reprieve

By Ron French/Bridge Magazine

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Money talks: Often, it's negative.

"Obamaville," and anti-Obama ad by the now defunct Santorum campaign made some viewers laugh. That probably was not the intended reaction.

This election year has seen a huge increase in the amount of money being spent on political campaigns compared to previous years. A lot of that money is being spent on negative political ads on TV.

As Michigan’s primary election gets closer, and the general election is only four months away, we’re going to see more and more political TV ads. And the bulk of those ads are going to be negative ads.

“I hear the negativity all the time. I’m tired of it. Tell me what it is you want to do not what you think the other guy is going to do," said Troy Hemphill.

“I don’t like to listen to that. I want some positive information," Kiirsten Olson insisted.

“Even when you think, ‘I’m not going to listen to negative ads, I’m not going to listen to negative ads,’ and then one creeps inside your brain. And then it sticks,” Shannon Rubago bemoaned.

Those are pretty typical responses of a couple of groups of people we talked to. We showed them a series of negative ads to see what their reactions would be.

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Michigan Watch

Michigan Watch is Michigan Radio’s investigative/accountability reporting unit. Headed by veteran reporter Lester Graham, Michigan Watch provides in-depth reports on topics of importance that may require a longer and more involved examination. These include the workings of state government, education, the environment, and jobs and the economy. Among the specific topics covered by Michigan Watch have been the influence of money and politics in Michigan elections, changes to the state’s mandatory no-fault insurance system, following Michigan families that have been removed from welfare, and separating truth from fiction in election advertising.

Cliffs Natural Resources
Investigative
4:47 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

McCotter explains what's next; opponent thrilled to be on the ballot

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter with his blues band on July 4th, 2011.
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

The race for the seat in the Michigan 11th Congressional District was expected to be an incumbent representative running for re-election in a safe district. Political observers were stunned to learn Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s campaign messed up. The Congressman’s name will not appear on the ballot in the primary election in August.

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Investigative
7:30 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Money Talks: Political spending hiding in the file cabinet

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Broadcasters are fighting a new rule to disclose more about who’s buying political ads. The Federal Communications Commission wants TV stations to post information about the political ads they air on a government website.

That will make it a lot easier to find out what groups are spending money to influence voters.

Recently, I met Rich Robinson in the parking lot of his office in Lansing. He was taking me on a little trip.

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Investigative
4:28 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Money Talks: Even when the donors are secret

It appears a superPAC and other political groups are coordinating their purchases of TV ads running in Michigan.  This means a more efficient use of secret money to influence voters.

Michigan TV stations across the state are running a series of ads critical of President Obama and his administration.

Here's an example of one of the ads.

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Investigative
7:47 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Cutting business equipment tax will mean cuts to local governments and higher real estate taxes

The Michigan legislature will soon vote on whether to shift more of the state’s tax burden from business to households.  Last year the legislature and the governor shifted about one-and-a-half billion dollars in tax payments from small and medium sized businesses to retirees and the working poor. This year there’s a proposal to cut another business tax. That proposed tax cut could mean higher real estate taxes for homeowners and revenue cuts to local governments.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Money Talks: But sometimes it hides

Lobbyists can pick up the tab for legislators. Some legislators welcome the favor, others decline.
user Biodun themedicalhealthplus.com

Elected state officials in Michigan can be more secretive about money than federal officials. At the state level, the disclosure laws on money and politics make it easier to hide conflicts of interest and influence on politicians.

When Governor Rick Snyder delivered his State of the State address last January, he tucked into it a quick mention about making state government more open.

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