If Democrats had accused former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) last year of earmarking funds that could help real estate investments owned by his wife, would the media have reported it?
Probably on the front pages of every newspaper, and as the lead story of all of the evening news programs, right?
Well, the Associated Press published a story Monday about current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) possibly earmarking funds that would benefit her husband's investments around the San Francisco Bay. Yet, the media showed virtually no interest (emphasis added):
Republicans are accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of including a provision in a water redevelopment bill that could benefit property her husband owns in San Francisco.
Republicans raised the issue more than two weeks after the bill passed the House.
Pelosi's measure would authorize 25 (m) million dollars to improve San Francisco port areas, and also would put some areas off limits to navigation so cruise ships could dock.
Her investor husband gets rental income from four buildings in a nearby commercial district.
Even though this originally appeared on the AP wire at 4:38 PM EST Monday, it appears that none of the cable or broadcast television networks bothered to share the story with their viewers.
Furthermore, although most newspapers did run the story at their respective websites Monday evening, I have been able to identify only one major print publication that bothered to include this in Tuesday’s edition, the New York Post (emphasis added):
"The appearance is obviously not good, and she needs to be forthcoming about how this impacts her financial interest," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told The Post.
Pelosi's office confirmed that she got the provision included in a water-resources bill, which passed the House April 19.
But House financial-disclosure documents reveal that Pelosi's husband, Paul, owns four commercial real-estate properties near the Embarcadero, which is home to many restaurants and hotels.
The properties earn combined rental income of more than $3 million.
One of the properties is 5,400 feet away from the redevelopment site.
Speaker Pelosi's role in pushing the project came to light because of new disclosure requirements passed by the Democratic House requiring members to declare when they get special "earmarks" tacked onto legislation.
Democrats put the rules in place after calling to reform Congress in the wake of a series of lobbying scandals and questions about other land deals.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was criticized for getting more than $200 million earmarked for a highway near Illinois property he owned.
The $15 billion water-resources bill comes up for debate in the Senate this week.
Hmmm. So, this will be debated by the Senate this week, but only the Post felt it was necessary to report?
Well, not only the Post, for Congressional Quarterly published this late Monday evening regarding the matter (emphasis added):
“Situations like these are precisely why conservatives have stressed that transparency is the best way to make the system work,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the Republican Study Committee. “The public can make up their own mind about Speaker Pelosi, the earmark and whether it benefits the businesses that she profits from in the area, but the key is that they are aware of it.”
Pelosi submitted forms to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee certifying that her support for the waterfront project does not create a conflict of interest. In her disclosure form, Pelosi said repairs to Pier 35’s substructure were needed “to enable full cruise ship use of the pier.”
The pier, an old cruise line hub, is located several blocks from two commercial buildings owned at least in part by Pelosi’s husband, Paul.
“If Tiger Woods teed a ball up at Pelosi’s million-dollar rental property, he could easily hit the earmark in two strokes, with a slight draw to avoid the water,” said a senior Republican aide. “I don’t see how the Senate can let these projects stay in the bill with an ethics cloud hanging over them.”
Paul Pelosi has an interest of between $1 million and $5 million in each of the properties and draws annual rental income between $100,000 and $1 million from each, according to the Speaker’s 2006 financial disclosure forms.
The Speaker got a $20 million earmark for the same waterfront redevelopment project placed in a bill in July 2005, but the measure died. The following December, her husband increased his interest in one of the properties in question for an amount between $1 million and $5 million, according to financial disclosure forms.
CQ identified that this moves to the Senate on Tuesday. Yet, virtually nobody has bothered to report it.
Once again, what would the media have done last year if this involved former Speaker Hastert or former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee)?