No Party Label For Rep. Reyes Donation/Contract Story

NewsBusters.org | photo via House Intelligence Committee Web siteLet's say the year is 2006 and you're the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. A story breaks that you "received donations from an Alabama contractor" but you flatly deny it has anything to do with "a $2.6 million no-bid contract for the company in a national defense bill."

There's no doubt, particularly given the media's Republican "culture of corruption" meme that year that your party registration and chairmanship of the intel committee would be front-and-center when reporting the story.

But fast forward two years and that's precisely what the El Paso Times withheld from readers in the case of hometown congressman Silvestre Reyes. Rep. Reyes (D-Texas) has chaired the Intelligence Committee since Democrats regained the majority in the House of Representatives in January 2007, yet neither his influential post as chairman nor his Democratic party affiliation were mentioned by reporter Ramon Bracamontes in an April 16 article (h/t Peter DeNitto).

Bracamontes cited a Reyes statement denying allegations of impropriety:

Reyes, through a statement from his office, said Tuesday that the donations from the contractor and the $2.6 million funding request for work at Fort Bliss are totally unrelated.

"What Reyes does is request federal funds for projects that are in the best interest of El Paso," the statement said. "In this case, the request for this project was made in consultation with Fort Bliss officials, who said this funding would assist training of Fort Bliss soldiers."

In the fiscal year 2008 defense funding bill, Reyes requested the funding for an existing project at Fort Bliss to help soldiers train for combat, which Digital Fusion Inc., received.

It is this funding request that the Wall Street Journal reported is related to the contributions Digital Fusion employees made to Reyes.

The statement from Reyes' office acknowledged that employees at Digital Fusion have donated to his campaign, but said the contributions are appropriate.

"There is no connection between Congressman Reyes' fundraising efforts and his work in Congress. Any insinuation that Reyes secured federal funding for political reasons is flat wrong," the statement said.

A Google News search of Reyes and Digital Fusion yields only a handful of hits. Apparently among the nation's major newspapers, only the Wall Street Journal reported the story and that was two days before Bracamontes filed his article. Unlike Bracamontes, however, Journal writer John R. Wilke noted Reyes's party affiliation and chairmanship in the first two paragraphs:

WASHINGTON -- At a private breakfast in December, executives from an Alabama defense contractor, Digital Fusion Inc., met with the House intelligence committee chairman, Silvestre Reyes. They handed over checks totaling $24,000 for his re-election campaign.

Just five weeks earlier, Congress had approved a $461 billion defense-spending bill, which included a provision inserted by the Texas Democrat that would direct $2.6 million to Digital Fusion to fund a no-bid engineering contract at a Texas military base in his district.

Photo credit: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Web site.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters