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.