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One-hour special looks back at NewsChannel 5's 'Revealed' investigation of Capitol Hill

Posted: 10:29 AM, Dec 28, 2022
Updated: 2023-01-03 15:21:58-05
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A one-hour special, streamed online after Christmas, takes a look back at NewsChannel 5's eye-opening, yearlong investigation into how Tennessee's Capitol Hill really works.

"NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Revealed" aired Wednesday, Dec. 28th on NewsChannel 5's streaming apps (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV). It was also available on the station website, newschannel5.com.

The project, led by chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, was based on a simple premise: citizens cannot fully understand how the system can be fixed unless they understand how it really works.

Related: 'Revealed' investigation finalist for duPont-Columbia Award

Through exhaustive long-form reporting and compelling storytelling, “Revealed” gave viewers unprecedented insight into a legislative process where Tennessee’s supermajority depends on well-financed special interests to maintain political power and, in turn, often does the bidding of those special interests.

Among the findings of our investigation:

  • Special interests spend an estimated $60 million a year to influence state officials – almost a third of a billion dollars over the past five years – according to an analysis by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
  • Powerful lawmakers engage in a fundraising frenzy in the hours right before a legislative session begins. These high-dollar fundraisers — some call them "shakedowns" — aren't illegal. It's just the way business is done on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.
  • It wasn't supposed to be this way. NewsChannel 5's cameras caught special-interest lobbyists lining up with massive campaign contributions to curry favor with lawmakers. More than a decade ago, lawmakers supposedly tried to outlaw the practice.
  • Legislation being pushed by Airbnb, designed to limit Nashville's ability to regulate short-term rentals, revealed a side of Tennessee's Capitol Hill the public never sees. It showed how special interests spread campaign contributions among lawmakers before trying to secure their votes, how lobbyists use their influence to get lawmakers to sponsor legislation benefiting their clients and how those practices can affect Tennesseans.
  • Does truth matter when it comes to passing new laws on Tennessee's Capitol Hill? The bill pushed by Airbnb put that question to the test. Reading the bills and watching the debates, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered out-of-town lawmakers doing favors for special interests without seeming to understand — or, perhaps, care — how it might affect Nashville's neighborhoods.
  • In politics, those who have the power make the rules. In the Tennessee House of Representatives, our investigation discovered they also ignore the rules they don't like. Those questionable practices allow the state's Republican supermajority to introduce dramatic changes in legislation with no public notice. They can also kill bills they don't like without anyone knowing who did it.

SPECIAL SECTION: Revealed

Do you have information for our investigation? Email us: investigate@newschannel5.com