If ever there was a "target-rich environment," the federal monstrosity in the nation's capital surely qualifies, at least for investigative journalists seeking to expose waste, fraud and corruption.

That's why 2013 was a banner year for the Washington Examiner's Watchdog Investigative Reporting Team, including senior reporters Mark Flatten, Richard Pollock and Luke Rosiak, and reporters Michal Conger and Kelly Cohen.

It was bad news for a bunch of people in Washington, D.C., this year when their telephones rang with an Examiner Watchdog team member calling.

Restoring oversight of government

In their wisdom, the Founders provided two critically important sources of oversight on government, the Congress and the independent press protected by the First Amendment.

Congressional oversight has waned during the past several decades, as Congress turned over increasing shares of its authority to bureaucrats in the executive branch.

But the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by Chairman Darrell Issa of California has taken some significant steps toward reinvigorating the oversight process.

Other significant oversight efforts have been launched in the House by the Energy and Commerce Committee under Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, as well as other House panels.

Watchdog successes in 2013

Reporting by the Examiner's Watchdog team prompted nearly a dozen inquiries by House committees, and several investigations.

A number of those inquiries were prompted by Flatten's exposure of multiple problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including the massive backlog of unfinished benefits claims and abuse of the veterans preference provision in federal contracting.

And shortly after Rosiak's series on the outrageous abuses that had become daily occurrences at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the agency's director, George Cohen, announced his resignation, effective tomorrow.

Highlighting the IGs

There are 78 inspectors-general in the executive branch and many of them have exposed billions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse.

But until Conger and Cohen began shining a reporting spotlight on the work of the IGs, they rarely received coverage in the mainstream media.

Between them, Conger and Cohen — ably assisted for several months by intern Ethan Barton — reported on dozens of IG investigations that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Independent reporting muscle

Much of the media in the Founders' day was partisan, but even then it was capable of providing a check on corruption in government.

Two centuries later, journalism like that of the Examiner's watchdogs — reporting it straight and without fear or favor — has never been more important.

The coming year will be the watchdog team's third year in operation. And the odds are very good that in 2014 even more people are going to hear their phone ringing because a watchdog is calling.

On today's washingtonexaminer.com

Editorial: Class-action litigation produces big payouts -- for the lawyers.

Hugh Hewitt: Medicaid expansion is the worst of Obama's four biggest lies.

Gregory Kane: Follow the money to get to the bottom of the "Duck Dynasty" saga.

James jay Carafano: "Black Swans" to look out for in 2014.

Philip Klein: 2014 will be a pivotal year for Republican health care policy.

Randolph May: Obama's war on inequality presaged by Alexis de Tocqueville.

In other news

New York Daily News: Hooker says Eliot Spitzer tried to choke her in scary tryst.

The Washington Post: Another suicide bombing in Russia raises fears for Olympics.

The New York Times: Minimum wage is key to Democrats' 2014 strategy.

The Los Angeles Times: Obama's health care law takes full effect this week.

Boston Globe: Fewer held for ouster from U.S.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Big data will be big debate in U.S. in 2014.

Righty Playbook

The Federalist: Should Americans read other Americans' mail?

The Wall Street Journal: Trial lawyers put Whirlpool through the wringer.

The Weekly Standard: Times ignores evidence linking al Qaeda to Benghazi.

Bonus must-read

National Review Online: The racism wrecking ball.

Lefty Playbook

Talking Points Memo: Huckabee recalls most uncomfortable radio interview ever.

The Huffington Post: Heavyweight GOP donor dies in Dallas.

The Washington Monthly: Here's the link between "Smokey and the Bandit" and Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Bonus must-read

The New Republic: Why the banks didn't beat financial reform in 2013.