US Journo Exposed UK Expense Scandal
Freelancer's Freedom of Information Act query lifted lid on abuse of system
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2009 6:27 AM CDT
Heather Brooke, Freedom of Information campaigner, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in London, last week.   (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)
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(Newser) – The scandal shaking Britain's Parliament to its core was set in motion by a simple request from a freelance American writer, the New York Times reports. Heather Brooke submitted a query about politicians' expenses under Britain's Freedom of Information Act after it came into effect, only to meet years of stonewalling before lawmakers agreed to release the info in July—and then to be scooped by the Daily Telegraph, which bought and published a leaked list of wildly inappropriate expense claims.

The scandal has now forced several high-profile resignations and looks certain to result in dozens of members of Parliament being unseated at the next election. Brooke, who was an investigative journalist in Washington state before moving to Britain a decade ago, is now being hailed as a hero in the British press. She told a Guardian interviewer recently that while she isn't thrilled about the Telegraph claiming the story, she's overjoyed that her efforts will likely lead to greater transparency in public life.