The past two quarter century, through his work as the founder and first executive director of the award-winning Center for Public Integrity and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and since then, Lewis has been systematically investigating the origins and abuses of power in relation to the public policy decision-making processes in the United States and around the world. For example, in 1996, 2000 and 2004, he and his colleagues at the Center authored the popular and unprecedented The Buying of the President books, identifying the financial interests and unadvertised past behind the glossy candidate careers - always released for citizens before any votes were cast. He also initiated and oversaw The Koch Club project at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, which involved more than 20 students over more than two years.
From 1999 through 2004, Lewis and his colleagues created a new way of monitoring and reporting on corruption, government accountability and openness around the world, culminating in a 750,000-word report prepared by 200 social scientists and journalists in 25 countries on six continents. This project spawned a new, nonprofit organization, Global Integrity, which Lewis co-founded.
From 2005 to 2014, he researched the relationship between truth, political and corporate power and the national news media; the origins and trajectory of public relations and propaganda, deception by government and companies, and the truth-telling capacity of journalists and their news organizations. 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity was published in June 2014. As part of this work, since 2007, he has conducted audio and video recorded interviews with some of the most respected U.S. reporters and editors whose independent reporting has had a significant impact on our nation's history since 1950. Investigating Power was released at the National Press Club in 2012 and is an ongoing work-in-progress, accessible at www.investigatingpower.org.
Lewis also has been exploring new economic models to create and deliver investigative journalism. His research evolves around this central question: how to expand the public reach and impact of investigative research and reporting in and outside the United States, one of the two core missions of Investigative Reporting Workshop, which he conceived and leads. He has a longstanding interest in the subject: for example, in 1997, Lewis began the Center's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the first network of the world's premier investigative reporters (now 190 journalists in roughly 70 countries across six continents), collaborating to produce cross-border, award-winning, public service journalism. He is currently conducting research about the future and potential of such investigative collaboration, within and beyond journalism.
As executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, Lewis conducted 35 news conferences at the National Press Club in Washington between 1990 and 2004. He has given scores of lectures and presentations on ethics, political influence, corruption or investigative reporting throughout the U.S. and in 25 countries on six continents. And he has guest lectured at more than two dozen major colleges and universities around the world.
Honors, Awards, and Fellowships
2014, American University Award for "Outstanding Scholarship, Research, Creative Activity and Other Professional Contributions"
2014, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Sigma Delta Chi "Research about Journalism" Award
2013, Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism (U. of Missouri School of Journalism)
2009, Honorary Degree, University of Delaware
2004, PEN USA First Amendment Award
1998, MacArthur Fellowship (awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)
Center for Public Integrity reports (initiated, final edited and approved by the executive director) were honored more than 30 times by national journalism organizations, such as Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and others. In 2004, “Windfalls of War: U.S. contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan” won the George Polk award.
He has been interviewed hundreds of times by the major print and electronic news media about the influence of money on politics, abuses of power and other ethics-related issues at the state, national and international level. He has done numerous live and taped interviews for such programs as NBC’s The Today Show and Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, Good Morning America, 20/20, Nightline; CBS News 60 Minutes, Evening News and Morning News, CNN, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and Booknotes; PBS Frontline, NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, Fresh Air, On the Media; The Daily Show, etc. Lewis has also been interviewed for various feature film documentaries, including Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Why We Fight.