The New York Times finally checks out the Democrat-Jack Abramoff connection -- briefly, anyway.
Philip Shenon's "Democrat Returning Donations From Abramoff's Tribal Clients" reports that Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, ranking Democrat on the Senate committee investigating controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is "returning $67,000 in political contributions from Mr. Abramoff's former partners and Indian tribe clients."
But although there is an obviously juicy hypocrisy angle to this story (Dorgan has been an outspoken critic of Abramoff), Shenon's story is relegated to a short piece at the bottom of page 24 in Wednesday's edition.
"The ranking Democrat on the Senate committee investigating the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff announced on Tuesday that he was returning $67,000 in political contributions from Mr. Abramoff's former partners and Indian tribe clients. The lawmaker, Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, has been accused of hypocrisy by Republicans for having not acknowledged the contributions from Mr. Abramoff's clients while at the same time sharply criticizing him in hearings of the Senate panel, the Indian Affairs Committee."
On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer reminded viewers how “we reported last night that a group of House Republicans was ready to start proceedings to permanently remove Tom DeLay from the House leadership because of his indictment on campaign money laundering charges. Well, the Republicans held a closed-door meeting today, but there was no effort to remove DeLay, who has stepped down temporarily until the case is resolved.” Indeed, on Tuesday’s newscast Gloria Borger claimed that “tomorrow morning, House Republicans are going to meet behind closed doors and they are going to tell their leaders in no uncertain terms, ‘We never want Tom DeLay back as our Majority Leader.' They're saying to their leaders, ‘We want new elections in the early new year. And if you don't allow us to do it, we are going to force these elections on you.'” Borger promised: “I guarantee you, Bob, there are going to be people coming out of the woodwork to run for leader in the Republican Party. There's no shortage of ambition up here." (Full transcript follows.)
Back on September 28, when a county grand jury in Texas indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge related to local Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle’s contention DeLay had participated in putting corporate money into Texas campaigns, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with the development and aired at least two segments each. Earle subsequently got another grand jury to deliver a money laundering indictment. But on Monday night, after a Texas judge dismissed that original conspiracy indictment which generate so much media attention, ABC gave it a piddling 16 seconds and NBC a mere 20 seconds with only CBS showing some consistency by devoting significant time -- but not the lead story (CBS led with the Hussein trial).
ABC and NBC characterized the dismissed charge as the “less serious” one, but CBS called the remaining charge the “more difficult to prove.” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas related how “a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy.” NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how “a judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering.” CBS’s Gloria Borger, however, reported that DeLay’s “office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove.” (Transcripts follow.)
As reported by NewsBusters here, the media’s current fascination with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) completely ignores the decade of the ’90s when the congressman was a leading pork-barrel spender. Yet, maybe more curious, this love affair is thoroughly dismissing some rather recent earmarking that made the papers before Mr. Murtha became the media’s favorite anti-war spokesman.
Not the least of these articles was a front-page, 2,200 word expose in the June 13, 2005 Los Angeles Times by Ken Silverstein and Richard Simon. The headline set the tone: “Lobbyist's Brother Guided House Bill; A family member's ties to special interests raise questions in the case of Democrat John Murtha.” The crux of the article is that Murtha’s brother is a senior partner in a company called KSA Consulting. Said consulting firm received $20.8 million in defense contracts in 2004 (Times link expired):
Today’s New York Times featured a Carl Hulse article that depicted the future of the Republican Party as being almost as bright as Alaska for the next several weeks. In Hulse’s view, just about everything that has gone wrong in America in 2005 can be linked to Republicans, while, conversely, in a 27 paragraph piece, there was only one paragraph that suggested any problems for the party on the opposite side of the aisle. Frankly, this article read more like a press release from a political strategist than a column in a leading, national newspaper.
First, Hulse set the stage: “The ugly debate in the House on Friday over the Iraq war served as an emotional send-off for a holiday recess, capturing perfectly the political tensions coursing through the House and Senate in light of President Bush's slumping popularity, serious party policy fights, spreading ethics investigations and the approach of crucial midterm elections in less than a year.”
He then established the goal: “Capitol Hill was always certain to be swept up in brutal political gamesmanship as lawmakers headed into 2006 - the midpoint of this second presidential term and, perhaps, a chance for Democrats to cut into Republican majorities or even seize power in one chamber or the other.”
Then, Hulse enumerated all the Republican shortcomings:
Lawyers for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) tried unsuccessfully in
late September to head off felony criminal indictments against the
then-majority leader on charges of violating Texas campaign law by
signaling that DeLay might plead guilty to a misdemeanor, according to
four sources familiar with the events.
principal aim was to try to preserve DeLay's leadership position under
House Republican rules that bar lawmakers accused of felonies from
holding such posts. DeLay was forced to step down as leader on Sept. 28
after the first of two grand jury indictments....
Former Republican house majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had a large victory in court yesterday, but ABC and NBC didn’t think it was important enough to include in their evening news broadcasts.
As reported by the Washington Post: "Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) won an early round in his money-laundering and conspiracy trial Tuesday by getting a judge aligned with Democratic candidates and causes removed from the case."
Yet, even though the announcement of DeLay’s indictment on September 28 was headline news, neither ABC nor NBC thought that this legal victory for the former majority leader warranted informing their evening news viewers.
As it so often does, the Associated Press likes to play word games, especially when it comes to stories on Republicans.
On Wednesday, Larry Margasak wrote a piece called, “DeLay Acknowledges Failure to Report Money.” In it, Margasak seemed to imply that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was somehow guilty of intentionally trying to hide donations to the Delay Legal Expense Trust; money raised to battle the charges brought against him by Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle.
In "Bushies Feeling the Boss' Wrath" Thomas M. DeFrank, the New York Daily News Washington bureau chief portrays President Bush as "frustrated, sometimes angry, and even bitter" of late.
And in case you don't get DeFrank's drift from his litany of setbacks for the Bush administration interspersed with anonymous administration sources, the editors at the Daily News were kind enough to offer this unflattering photo of the President, available here.
You'll note the filename 906-w_scowl.jpg. I guess the first 905 takes just wouldn't do?
On Friday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Lee Cowan filed a story on Congressman Tom DeLay's appearance in a Texas courtroom, which on some counts was balanced, but which glaringly highlighted a Replublican critic of Tom DeLay who referred to him as a "hog." Although Fort Bend Star publisher Beverly Carter has been a longtime critic of DeLay who even endorsed his opponent in last year's election, Cowan simply referred to her as a "Republican precinct chairwoman," thus giving her credibility as a typical local Republican leader.
The story began with Cowan relaying DeLay's criticisms of Judge Bob Perkins for links to the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, followed by a soundbite of DeLay accusing prosecutor Ronnie Earle of abusing his power. Cowan then proceeded to highlight "some Republicans who aren't buying it" and showed a couple of soundbites from Carter without conveying her anti-DeLay history to provide context. Notably, according to an article in the New York Times that ran on April 17 of this year, Carter admitted to having "got crosswise" with DeLay eight years earlier over his involvement in a local election for sheriff. Cowan did at least provide some balance by next highlighting a woman who "runs a neighborhood program for foster children that DeLay and his wife started years ago" and noted that he is "still plenty popular" in the district. Still, the failure to properly identify Carter gives an impression of greater Republican division in the district than perhaps really exists. A complete transcript of the Friday October 21 story, anchored by Bob Schieffer, follows:
Lee Cowan did a report on the "CBS Evening News" tonight concerning Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex) first day in court. To demonstrate that even people on the right don’t like the embattled congressman, Cowan interviewed Beverly Carter, the Republican precinct chairwoman of Fort Bend County, Texas:
“I've not heard of any Republicans that are supporting Tom at this point win, lose or draw. Whether he's guilty or not guilty, they've kind of had it with him. Pigs get fatter but hogs get slaughtered, and Tom has been a hog.”
Cowan interjected with: “And that's coming from a Republican precinct chairwoman in his home district.”
The problem is that Carter has been an outspoken foe of DeLay’s for quite some time. John Judis of the New Republic wrote of this in May:
The introductory spread for the lead story in U.S. News & World Report’s October 24 issue could serve as bulletin-board or even wall-poster fodder for fans of the media’s things-just-keep-getting-worse-and-worse-for-President-Bush narrative. Against a black background, a striking mustard-yellow headline and white subhead read, “FACING THE MUSIC/It started with the New Orleans blues. Now it’s sounding like a real dirge.”
The Associated Press’s Laurie Kellman clearly had a very difficult time hiding her disappointment that newly indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex) wasn’t frowning in his mugshot taken at his arrest yesterday afternoon in Texas. In fact, even the headline of her article, “DeLay Smile May Foil Democrat Campaign Ads,” couldn’t cover up her frustration:
“Why is Tom DeLay smiling? After all, he's been indicted. Forced out of his job as House majority leader. And called into court for fingerprinting and a mugshot like a common criminal.”
Kellman continued with no semblance of concern that her lack of objectivity would be apparent to even the most uninformed readers:
The USA Today published an op-ed this morning by Sandy Grady entitled “Grounded by Hubris, Greed.” In it, Grady basically wrote Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex) career totally off, while making it clear for the reader that a trial at this point is just a formality:
“Indicted on charges of conspiracy and funneling $190,000 in illegal corporate dough so Republicans could dominate the Texas Legislature, he has lost his clout, his ornate office and those free golf junkets — probably forever.”
AP reporter John Solomon publicizes Tom DeLay's congressional-campaign website TomDeLay.com, especially its page on The Facts about Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle. It's fairly straightforward until it talks to "the experts" about it. There's this expert claim:
Bruce Yannett, a former Iran-Contra prosecutor, said DeLay's campaign effort might raise questions of trying to taint the potential jury pool but the legal standard for making such a case is hard to prove. Nonetheless, Yannett said he could not imagine President Reagan overtly using his campaign to attack prosecutors during the 1980s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. "I would not recommend his campaign do it. It does seem a little unusual," Yannett said.
On last night's Hardball Chris Matthews claimed his colleagues at the current White House Press Corps weren't tough enough, declared current Republican problems worse than Watergate and thought Reagan, "got away with a lot."
The following is the relevant portion of Matthews interview with Craig Crawford on his new book:
Chris Matthews: "Welcome back to Hardball. Are politicians partly responsibility for America`s distrust of the media? Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford thinks so. He argues in his new book Attacking the Messengers: That [sic] Politicians Have Deflected Criticisms of Themselves by Convincing Americans to Blame the Media. Welcome."
Craig Crawford, Congressional Quarterly: "Hi."
Matthews: "Who has succeeded with this new device of blaming the messenger?"
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter launched a vicious attack, on Congressman Tom DeLay's ideology, in this week's magazine. Promoting it, on Monday's Imus in the Morning on MSNBC, he charged that "it's the first time in 200 years that the House of Representatives has been run for a whole decade, or almost a decade, by a corrupt zealot." That matched the language in his one-page piece, "Tom DeLay's House of Shame," in which he contended: "I have no idea if DeLay has technically broken the law. What interests me is how this moderate, evenly divided nation came to be ruled on at least one side of Capitol Hill by a zealot." The pull-out quote in the hard copy edition, and the subhead online, read: "Congress has always had its share of extremists. But the DeLay era is the first time the fringe has ever been in charge." Alter maintained that "the only reason the House hasn't done even more damage is that the Senate often sands down the most noxious ideas, making the bills merely bad, not disastrous."
Yesterday, I noted the DeLay "giddiness" of Post columnist Eugene Robinson, a long-time "objective" journalist for the Post, allowed to let it all hang out. But also on the Friday page was a column by E.J. Dionne, who used to be a highly respected political reporter for The New York Times and the WashPost. (Suffice it to say he hasn't been as well-reviewed, at least by conservatives, as a columnist.)
In a column titled "A Blow Against the Machine," Dionne was rejoicing that the DeLay indictment offered a perfect opportunity for the Democrats to run in 2006 against Republican cronyism and corruption. It did not matter at all whether Ronnie Earle had an indictment that would stick, or if Ronnie Earle was too obsessive to help the Democrats. But on January 29, 1999, his Post column was titled the "The Public's Logic," Dionne was insisting that the investigation of Clinton was not about crimes (perjury or obstruction of justice), but it was just all about politics. Conservatives lost because they were too harshly obsessive.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson is described on the Post syndicate's web page as a long-time "objective" journalist. "In a 25-year career at The Washington Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s award-winning Style section." That last job was a pretty powerful one.
But a look at today's column on Tom DeLay shows the hard-charging liberal attitude that lurked beneath the "objective" veneer. He expressed "giddiness" at the Ronnie Earle indictment and expressed glee that DeLay is the "former" majority leader, since he represents the "anti-everything, loony-bin far right":
Shortly after yesterday’s announcement of Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex) indictment for alleged campaign finance violations, the mainstream media began doing reports on the subject with largely similar content. A memo written by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean posted at the Democratic Party’s website almost immediately after the announcement was made contained virtually the same “hotbuttons” as those subsequently raised in media accounts of the story.
What follows is a copy of that memo, along with comparisons to what has since been reported by leading media outlets on this subject:
Geoff Dickens reports that on Hardball last night, Chris Matthews was doing a little exaggerating. He asked Norah O'Donnell: "Norah he’s been charged with money laundering involving a Texas, a set of Texas legislative races down there." Wrong, said the Laura Ingraham radio show crew (two law school grads there): they said there's a separate state law for money laundering, and Earle didn't use that.
O'Donnell quickly recycled the day's "culture of corruption" DNC talking point: "One reporter asked Scott McClellan whether the President is concerned about a stink of corruption surrounding the Republican Party," what with news coverage of Frist, Abramoff, and now DeLay. "The White House said no and sort of rejected that. But clearly there are many political analysts and other observers who are saying this is an issue for the President who’s facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and needs to get a Congress and a Republican Party to move forward in his agenda when there’s a lot on the plate." Twenty minutes later, Matthews addressed whether Ronnie Earle is a partisan:
With a tone and a look on his face suggesting "what have I just done?", Tim Russert let the cat out of the bag this morning about the Dems' political motivations in the prosecution of Tom DeLay.
The context was an otherwise-predictable interview with Katie Couric of the Today show. But toward the end, Russert had this to say: "DeLay is a fierce partisan infighter" then added "and the Democrats realize that and are trying to respond in kind."
Whoops! That kind of candor isn't supposed to slip through the MSM filter, particularly coming from one its leading 'wise men.' Thanks, Tim!
On this afternoon’s “Live From...”, CNN’s Candy Crowley did a not-so flattering report on the newly indicted House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay (R-Tex). Crowley interviewed a variety of Democratic foes in the report who have some pretty damning words for the embattled Congressman from Texas. Yet, some of the harshest criticisms came from Crowley herself:
“Someone once called him a cross between a concierge and a Mafia don, a guy who delivered.”
“They call him ‘The Hammer,’ pounding money out of donors... pounding votes out of colleagues. Pounding the Democrats.”
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
The CBS Evening News, which described Ken Starr as the “Republican” independent counsel, on Wednesday night went out of its way to avoid alerting viewers to how Ronnie Earle, the Texas county prosecutor behind the indictment of Tom DeLay, is a Democrat. Anchor Bob Schieffer twice described DeLay not by his title as House Majority Leader, but as the “House Republican Leader.” While Schieffer relayed how DeLay “says he's the innocent victim of a rogue district attorney,” viewers did not learn of Earle's party affiliation until three-fourths the way through Jim Stewart's story when Stewart related how DeLay believes “the personal vendetta of Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle” is “the real cause of his problems."
ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased at the top of World News Tonight how “one of the most powerful men in Washington is facing the prospect of jail time” and she proceeded to identify Earle as simply “a prosecutor.” Reporter Linda Douglass cited “District Attorney Ronnie Earle” before, late in her piece, attributing Earle's partisan status to an assertion by DeLay, as if it's a matter of dispute: “DeLay says the prosecutor is a Democrat on a witch-hunt." (Douglass did note that “the indictment provided no evidence that DeLay knew anything.")
In contrast, by citing a claim by DeLay, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams strongly hinted at Earle's affiliation. He teased: "Tonight, indicted. Tom DeLay, facing criminal conspiracy charges. The House Majority Leader calls the prosecutor 'a partisan fanatic.'" Chip Reid noted how "DeLay today unleashed a bitter attack on Earle, who is a Democrat." But Reid countered with how “in an interview with NBC News earlier this year, Earle vigorously denied his investigation of DeLay was motivated by politics."
Complete transcripts follow, along with quotes of Dan Rather tagging Starr as a “Republican.”
Shortly after the indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex) was announced, CBS News’ Gloria Borger did a report on the possible impact of this incident on the current and future political landscape. Borger made it quite clear that this was very bad news for George W. Bush as well as House Republicans while suggesting that this will put more seats in play in the upcoming mid-term elections. Borger also referred to questions surrounding Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn), as well as Karl Rove, suggesting that this adds to the Democrat talking point of “Abuse of Power.” And, she managed to bring up the president’s sinking poll numbers as well.
What follows is a full transcript of this report and a video link.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who denies partisan motives for his investigation of a political group founded by Republican leader Tom DeLay, was the featured speaker last week at a Democratic fund-raiser where he spoke directly about the congressman.
A newly formed Democratic political action committee, Texas Values in Action Coalition, hosted the May 12 event in Dallas to raise campaign money to take control of the state Legislature from the GOP, organizers said.
Earle, an elected Democrat, helped generate $102,000 for the organization.
Brent Bozell tackled the problem of Tom DeLay bias in a column in April, especially on the way the media love to put the cart in front of the horse on ethics cases. Here was one of their unwritten rules:
Speculate like crazy, for the Death Watch is on. NBC highlighted how "some Republicans" are wondering if DeLay is harming the party, and maybe he’ll have a tougher re-election fight. This isn’t the reporting of today’s news. It’s an attempt to influence the next day’s news. On this count, at least CBS noted that even Democrats assume he’s not going anywhere soon. But too much political news is trying to set the stage for what’s next, and too little is based on what’s already established.