PLEDGE WEEK….It’s fundraising time again! As you all know, since I mentioned this during our last fundraising drive, the Washington Monthly is a nonprofit organization. Ad revenue only covers a small part of our expenses, which means that we depend on contributions from readers to stay up and humming. So if you like the blog and you like the Washington Monthly, we’re asking for your help again. Ten bucks, twenty bucks, fifty bucks, whatever you can afford.

You can donate via check, PayPal, or credit card. Just click here to help out.

And what kind of reporting does your contribution keep alive? This month’s cover story is by Washington Monthly editor T.A. Frank, who used to work for a Los Angeles firm that specialized in the field of “compliance consulting,” or “corporate social responsibility monitoring.” In other words, they inspected sweatshops, both in the U.S. and overseas, to make sure they followed some minimal set of labor standards. In “Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector,” he tells us which clients were good and which ones were bad:

You may get the sense that I’m not Wal-Mart’s biggest fan. You’d be right. I betray no confidence here, since Wal-Mart wasn’t a client of ours while I was at my company. Nevertheless, I still got to visit plenty of its supplier factories. That’s because any given factory usually has more than one customer, and during an audit we would always ask the bosses to name their other customers. Wal-Mart was often one of them. And its suppliers were among the worst I saw — dangerous, nasty, and poorly paid even by local (usually Chinese) measures. I noticed that Wal-Mart claimed to require factories to maintain decent labor standards — but why did it seem to think it could find them among the lowest bidders?

Read the whole thing to get the inside story on how compliance firms work — or don’t.