After four years of barking at dishonest politicians and lobbyists, former Miami Herald reporter Elaine de Valle has pulled off a rare feat in this town: She's treated with the same respect afforded to credentialed journalists employed by the dead-lumber media companies. And it's no surprise why. The hard-nosed, old-school reporter tallied 18 years at the Herald before founding Political Cortadito, where she's become a go-to online watchdog sniffing out the latest shenanigans of South Florida's elected officials. From Homestead to Hialeah, de Valle has blown up corruption and unethical behavior and scored a parade of scoops. In the first half of 2014 alone, she broke news about Coral Gables City Manager Pat Salerno giving benefits and raises to his favored employees before abruptly resigning, the Doral City Council's surprise move to axe ex-Miami city manager Joe Carollo, and former state representative Ana Rivas Logan's shocking move to bail on the GOP and become a Democrat. Even when sources slam doors in her face or get her thrown out of rooms, de Valle — often writing as her alter ego "Ladra" — keeps nipping at their heels. Her relentless nature and work ethic have made her blog a must-read for thousands of followers who still care about changing Miami's banana republic political culture by using a healthy dose of transparency.