David Cay Johnston

DAVID CAY JOHNSTONDistinguished Visiting Lecturer

(585) 230-0558
Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

David Cay Johnston teaches Law In Action, a pre-law course for undergraduates that explores legal principles and theory. From 2009 to 2016 he taught the law of the ancient world to third year law students and graduate business students. One course examined property and tax law, the other business regulations.

Among many awards, Johnston received a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of taxes in The New York Times. He was a named finalist in 2000 and twice in 2003. The 2000 Pulitzer jury cited said his reporting “displayed exquisite command of complicated U.S. tax laws and of how corporations and individuals twist them to their advantage.”

His New York Times reporting shut down so many tax dodges and prompted so many prosecutions that he was called the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush changed their tax policies in response to Johnston’s reporting.

The Washington Monthly described Johnston as “one of America’s most important journalists,” and the Portland Oregonian called his investigative reporting the equal of the original American muckrakers: Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Upton Sinclair.

Johnston is the author or editor of eight books, four of them New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.

In 2012-14 Johnston served as board president of the 6,400-member Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). He has lectured on every continent except Antarctica about taxes, regulations, ethics, investigative reporting techniques, and Donald Trump’s conduct.

Johnston is co-founder of DCReport.org, which covers what the president and Congress do, not what they say.

His journalism career began in 1966 at two weekly newspapers near Santa Cruz, Calif.

In 1968, at age 19, he became the youngest staff writer for the San Jose Mercury and quickly earned front page bylines. He went on to report for the Detroit Free Press, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and The New York Times.

Johnston has exposed political spying, brutality, and incompetence by the Los Angeles Police Department; exposed foreign agents; uncovered news manipulations that caused a six-station Midwest broadcast chain to shut down (a unique achievement in American history); revealed that Enron and many other companies converted the burden of federal taxes into a profit center. He pioneered reporting on rising inequality in the United States through analysis of official government data.

He also solved a 1980 Southern California murder by confronting the killer, winning freedom for an innocent man sentenced to life in prison, one of several murders and other crimes that he solved.

Johnston’s next book will propose a vastly simplified and virtually cheat-proof 21st Century tax system to replace the existing Internal Revenue Code.


  • Michigan State University
    – 1973-75
  • University of Chicago
    – 1973
  • San Francisco State University
    – 1971-72
  • Cabrillo, De Anza, Foothill and La Cañada Community Colleges
    – 1967-72