This series, reported over 13 months, is based on multiple in-person, telephone, and e-mail interviews with more than 130 sources in Camden; Trenton; Chelsea, Mass.; and several towns throughout New Jersey.

Hundreds of pages of documents from the Camden Economic Recovery Board, including meeting minutes and financial disbursement lists, were analyzed, along with state campaign-finance reports and other records obtained from city and state officials through Open Public Records Act requests.

Gov. Jim McGreevey, who signed the takeover law, did not respond to a half-dozen written and phone messages over several months seeking comment. Former State Sen. Wayne R. Bryant, the law's chief sponsor, did not respond to interview requests before he left New Jersey in August to serve a prison term.