Laura Sullivan

Laura Sullivan is a NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most disadvantaged people.

Sullivan is one of NPR's most decorated journalists, with three Peabody Awards and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons. She joined NPR in 2004 as a correspondent on the National Desk. For six years she covered crime and punishment issues, with reports airing regularly on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other NPR programs before joining NPR's investigations unit.

Her unflinching series "Native Foster Care," which aired in three parts on All Things Considered in October 2011, examined how lack of knowledge about Native culture and traditions and federal financial funding all influence the decision to remove so many Native-American children from homes in South Dakota. Through more than 150 interviews with state and federal officials, tribal representatives and families from eight South Dakota tribes, plus a review of thousands of records, Sullivan and NPR producers pieced together a narrative of inequality in the foster care system across the state. In addition to her third Peabody, the series also won Sullivan her second Robert F. Kennedy Award.

"Bonding for Profit" – a three-part investigative series that aired on Morning Edition and All Things Considered in 2010 – earned Sullivan her second duPont and Peabody, as well as awards from the Scripps Howard Foundation, Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and the American Bar Association. Working with editor Steve Drummond, Sullivan's stories in this series revealed deep and costly flaws in one of the most common – and commonly misunderstood – elements of the US criminal justice system.

Also in 2011, Sullivan was honored for the second time by Investigative Reporters and Editors for her two part series examining the origins of Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070.

For the three-part series, "36 Years of Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola," she was honored with a 2008 George Foster Peabody Award, a 2008 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and her first Robert F. Kennedy Award.

In 2007, Sullivan exposed the epidemic of rape on Native American reservations, which are committed largely by non-Native men, and examined how tribal and federal authorities have failed to investigate those crimes. In addition to a duPont, this two-part series earned Sullivan a DART Award for outstanding reporting, an Edward R. Murrow and her second Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media.

Her first Gracie was for a three-part series examining of the state of solitary confinement in this country. She was also awarded the 2007 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for this series.

Before coming to NPR, Sullivan was a Washington correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, where she covered the Justice Department, the FBI and terrorism.

As a student at Northwestern University in 1996, Sullivan worked with two fellow students on a project that ultimately freed four men, including two death-row inmates, who had been wrongfully convicted of an 18-year-old murder on the south side of Chicago. The case led to a review of Illinois' death row and a moratorium on capital punishment in the state, and received several awards.

Outside of her career as a reporter, Sullivan once spent a summer gutting fish in Alaska, and another summer cutting trails outside Yosemite National Park. She says these experiences gave her "a sense of adventure" that comes through in her reporting. Sullivan, who was born and raised in San Francisco, loves traveling the country to report radio stories that "come to life in a way that was never possible in print."

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The Two-Way
3:10 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

China's Leader Says Journalists Are Like Broken Cars

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 8:30 am

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Law
4:49 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

Police Can Seize And Sell Assets Even When The Owner Broke No Law

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 6:03 pm

You don't have to be convicted of a crime — or even accused of one — for police to seize your car or other property. It's legal. Several videos online are shedding some light on the controversial practice.

The practice is called civil asset forfeiture, and every year it brings cities millions of dollars in revenue, which often goes directly to the police budget. Police confiscate cars, jewelry, cash and homes they think are connected to crime. But the people these things belong to may have done nothing wrong.

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Governing
3:43 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Justice Department Supports Native Americans In Child Welfare Case

Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney with the Lakota People's Law Project, is calling for a turnaround of child welfare and foster care systems.
Kevin Cederstrom AP

Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 7:40 pm

The Justice Department has weighed in on a class-action lawsuit in South Dakota pitting Native American tribes against state officials, and come down resoundingly in support of tribes.

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It's All Politics
2:21 am
Mon August 4, 2014

A Tax Bill Killed By The Push And Pull Of Politics On The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to reporters after a Democratic caucus meeting at the Capitol last Tuesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 11:12 am

A few months back, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, brought a bill to the floor that basically offered tax incentives to businesses and individuals. Those incentives are called tax extenders.

They include big stuff and small stuff — tax breaks for wind farms, tax breaks for schoolteachers who buy their own supplies. Tax breaks for rum producers in Puerto Rico, people who make movies, race track owners, even some breaks for people who bike to work. In other words, something for every lawmaker to take home.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Senate Bill Would Fine Colleges For Mismanaging Campus Rape Cases

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 12:48 pm

Eighteen-year-old Anna went off to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York last year, where she says she was raped several weeks into her freshman year.

A medical examiner's report found blunt-force trauma, possibly from multiple men, and found she had high alcohol levels. A witness described seeing her in the back of a dance hall being raped by a football player while others watched or took photos.

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History
3:57 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Ghost Cats And Musket Balls: Stories Told By Capitol Interns

Interns who host tours on Capitol Hill, stopping at sites like the small Senate rotunda, don't always have their facts straight.
The Architect of the Capitol

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 10:04 pm

Every summer thousands of interns flood the offices of Capitol Hill. One of their primary duties is to give constituents tours of the famous buildings. They parade visitors from the rotunda to statuary hall, offering stories and anecdotes.

But while these intern tours provide a great deal of information, they are sometimes a little short on actual history.

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It's All Politics
4:06 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Insurance For Fake Identities The Latest Skirmish Over Obamacare

Investigators were able to fraudulently sign up for coverage through HealthCare.gov, sparking criticism from Republican lawmakers.
J. David Ake AP

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 4:35 pm

House Republicans went on the attack Wednesday over what they say is the latest bungling of the Affordable Care Act: fake identities used to get insurance.

Undercover investigators were able to get taxpayer-subsidized health insurance from the government's website 11 out of the 18 times they tried, according to a preliminary report from the Government Accountability Office.

Republicans on the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee say fraud and abuse will be rampant and may already be.

Democrats question all the fuss.

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Politics
3:27 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Senate Re-Authorizes Government's Role In Terrorism Insurance

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 7:40 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize a bill first passed after 9/11. It allows the government to act as a financial backstop in the event of a large terrorist attack. Supporters say it's crucial for anyone trying to build a shopping mall or skyscraper. But as NPR's Laura Sullivan reports, the bill may run into trouble in the house.

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Politics
3:11 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Lawmakers Unearth Failures To Investigate Campus Sex Crimes

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 9:39 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

U.S. colleges are failing to investigate sex crimes on their campuses. That's the conclusion of a new national survey commissioned by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. The survey is part of an effort by several senators to reduce sexual assaults in college and change a culture where only 5 percent of victims report the crime. NPR's Laura Sullivan reports from the capital.

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Politics
3:09 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Lawmakers' Step Back Toward Disclosure Driven By Optics

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 5:26 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The House Ethics Committee is undoing a recent change it made to lawmakers' annual financial disclosure forms. The committee had deleted a line asking what free trips members have taken in the previous year. These trips are usually paid for by companies or private interest groups. Members justified the change this week, saying that the information was redundant. But they've now decided to reverse course and put the question back. Joining us from the Capitol to explain this is NPR's Laura Sullivan. And Laura, what started this controversy?

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