Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia–based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. He regularly files stories for NPR News. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin was a freelance general assignment reporter at KING–TV, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. He also worked as a freelance education reporter for KPLU–FM, the Tacoma–based NPR station. Austin spent 2001 in Washington, D.C. as a Knight Foundation/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Austin has also worked as a television reporter in Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and has a B.A. in Government from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Over the years Austin has won numerous professional awards for his reporting. He lives in Olympia with his wife Jennifer Huntley and their two children.

Read Austin's blog, "The Washington Ledge: Dispatches From Olympia."


Human Trafficking Lawsuit
6:26 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Backpage Case

Anti-human trafficking activists rally at the Washington Supreme Court before oral arguments in a case involving
Credit Northwest News Network


The fate of a human trafficking lawsuit against is now in the hands of the Washington Supreme Court. The justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that involves three underage victims of sex trafficking.

The lawsuit alleges the Washington girls were pimped-out through ads posted to Erik Bauer is a lawyer for the victims. He argues Backpage has created a sex marketplace where human trafficking can flourish.

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Legislative Trips
6:37 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Washington Ethics Ruling Could Lower Bar For Foreign Trips

Washington state Senator Pam Roach appears on Azerbaijani television during a trip in May to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.
Credit Pam Roach

A Washington lawmaker’s trip to the Middle East in 2013 was legitimate legislative travel – not an illegal junket. That was the ruling over the weekend from the state’s Legislative Ethics Board.

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Economy, Business, Finance, And Labor
5:21 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Washington State's Exotic Investment Opens In Tahiti

The Washington State Investment Board is a majority owner of the company that owns a resort on a Tahitian island once owned by Marlon Brando.
Credit Wikimedia

A new luxury resort has opened on a Tahitian island once owned by Marlon Brando. And it could soon start to pay a dividend to Washington state’s retired public employees. That’s because the state’s investment board is a majority owner of the company that owns the resort. It’s a story we first brought you two years ago.

The Brando is a $4000 per night resort that made CNBC’s list of “Hot travel trends for the uber-rich.”

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5:15 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Ebola Makes West Africa A No-Go Zone For Washington Investment Officers

Map of Ebola outbreak distribution. The director of the Washington State Investment Board says she will not authorize travel to West Africa.
Credit CDC

The Ebola outbreak is West Africa means Washington state investment officers won’t be traveling to that region anytime soon.

Theresa Whitmarsh, executive director of the Washington State Investment Board, said her staff hasn’t been to West Africa in quite some time. And at this point she won’t authorize travel there because of Ebola.

“We don’t intend to send staff to West Africa until we have a better feel for the kind of controls they have on the ground there,” Whitmarsh said.

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Lobbyist-Paid Meals
5:46 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

12 Lobbyist Paid Meals Per Year Now Cap For Lawmakers

The state’s Legislative Ethics Board limits lobbyist paid meals per year.
Credit Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

Starting in January, Washington lawmakers will be barred from accepting more than 12 lobbyist paid meals per year. The state’s Legislative Ethics Board adopted that limit today after months of public hearings and deliberation.

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Gun Background Checks
5:56 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Washington Background Check Measure Retains Healthy Lead

A man outside a gun rally in Washington earlier this year. According to the Elway Poll, more than half of gun owners say they plan to vote for the expanded background check measure.
Credit Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Netwrk

A ballot measure to expand background checks for gun sales in Washington has lost some support, but still enjoys a healthy lead. That’s according to the latest Elway Poll released Monday. Meanwhile, a competing gun rights measure appears to be in trouble.

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Crime & Justice
5:55 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Washington Pays Record $9.75M To Settle Child Abuse Case

The state of Washington has agreed to pay a record amount to settle a case of child abuse and neglect.

The nearly $10 million settlement announced Friday involves five Clark County, Washington, siblings who were starved and beaten by their parents over several years.

The lawyer for the children described the case as a “living nightmare.” The four brothers and one sister were imprisoned, starved, and beaten bloody with a piece of lumber, according to the claim filed by the lawyer on behalf of the children.

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Voter Participation
4:38 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Watch Your Mailbox For Ballots, Voters Guides

File photo of Washington voters' guides from the 2012 election.
Credit Washington Secretary of State

Election 2014 is just over three weeks away.

Ballots will soon be arriving in mailboxes in Washington and Oregon where the election is all vote-by-mail. Idaho voters still go to the polls, but about a quarter of Gem State ballots are cast absentee.

Washington state elections director Lori Augino said her office predicts 62 percent turnout for the November election.

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4:17 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Inmates Honored For Work On Fire Lines This Summer

Inmate firefighter Christopher Hindermann did two 14-day stints on the Carlton Complex Fire in north central Washington this summer.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The wildfires from this past summer are out. Now Washington state officials are recognizing some four-hundred prison inmates who helped out on the fire lines.

There was a celebration Thursday at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center near Olympia. Inmate firefighter William Criss worked on the Carlton Complex, the largest wildfire in Washington state history.

“In all honestly it was just the extreme behavior of the fire that we’ll remember the most, I mean it was blowing up everywhere,” Criss said. “You’re watching it every day- plumes going up here and plumes going up there.”

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Political Action Committees
8:01 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Political Action Committees Pop Up In Election Years

A jack in the box.
Credit timlewisnm / Flickr

Political Action Committees in Washington have spent more than $14 million so far this year. The top spenders are teachers, trial lawyers, SEIU and a business PAC called Enterprise Washington. But there are also dozens of smaller PACs that have been set up for just this election year. They're sometimes called "PACs-in-a-box."

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