After that, the dam broke open. A state legislative commission is looking into the NRI, and separate probes have been launched by county and federal prosecutors. The official actions have provided plenty of grist for the media, but journalists here have also done important independent digging.

Whether the NRI controversy will ultimately have any impact on Quinn’s re-election bid is unclear. Five months, after all, is an eternity in politics, and the state is facing plenty of other issues. And, as Dumke of the Reader notes, the story surrounding NRI could still shift. “If I was one of the governor’s people, I’d be looking for good things that came out of this program,” he says.

That should give some food for thought to reporters, Dumke adds. “What did really happen with this program?” he asks. “The impression we have right now is that every single dollar has been pissed away, but I don’t know if that’s true. People are still being killed up here at an astounding rate, and did this program do any good whatsoever? I’d like to know the answer to that question as well.”

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Rui Kaneya is CJR's correspondent for Illinois and Indiana. A former investigations editor at The Chicago Reporter, Kaneya was a recipient of the Investigative Reporters and Editors Minority Fellowship and the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Minority Fellowship in Urban Journalism. He has received numerous journalism awards, among them the Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence National Media Award. Follow him on Twitter @ruikaneya.