Gotcha Politics Denver Post in Colorado 7th District

Sure looks that way. The Denver Post this morning essentially accused Republican candidate for Colorado's 7th District Congressional seat of unethical - or at least hypocritical behavior - for accepting a weekend trip to Panama:

Republican congressional candidate Rick O'Donnell, who has blasted politicians who accept perks, took an expenses-paid trip to Panama with his girlfriend arranged by a TV station doing business with a state agency he headed.

O'Donnell took the trip three weeks before he resigned as the head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to campaign for Congress full time.

KCNC-Channel 4 gave him the trip, paid for by the CBS network, after the commission purchased television ads encouraging Latinos to attend college, O'Donnell said. Such perks - called incentive trips in the industry - are commonly used for heavy advertisers.

O'Donnell said he did nothing wrong.

This has all the hallmarks of a typical Denver Post election-year hit piece on a Republican. The trip took place over Super Bowl weekend, the first weekend in February, over 8 months ago, a fact which is deliberately obscured in the reporting.

The boilerplate, "O'Donnell said he did nothing wrong," tries to cover for the reporter's lack of due diligence on whether or not he actually did do something wrong. Since Ace here couldn't be bothered to read the code of ethics himself, he could have at least asked one of the experts that journalists are supposed to keep on call for just such a contingency.

In fact, I just spoke with the O'Donnell campaign's Communications Director Jonathan Tee, and he pointed out that the decision to advertise on CBS came about as a result of a consultant's recommendation. The consultant - whose contract was let by competitive bid - concluded that the best way to reach the young, male, Latino target demographic was through Broncos games. In order for there to be a quid pro quo, O'Donnell would have had to rig the bid process, so as to choose a consultant likely to recommend CBS's local affiliate for the ad run. All that for a weekend trip to go see the Canal.

The timing of the release suggests a number of questions, none of which are answered in the report:

  • When did the former commission employee tell the Perlmutter campaign about the trip?
  • Why did the employee not go to the ethics board, if there were a problem?
  • Was the employee "former" at the time he coordinated with the campaign?
  • Was the employee a political employee or civil service?
  • Did the communication take place from his office, or from a government office?
  • When did the Perlmutter campaign inform the reporter about the trip?
  • Why dd the Perlmutter campaign not simply issue a press release?
  • When did the reporter follow up on the tip?
  • When did the reporter ask the O'Donnell campaign about the trip?

At least one question answers itself: the employee didn't go to the ethics board because there was no ethical vioation. Come to think of it, all of the "whys" pretty much answer themselves, don't they?

Don't hold your breath waiting for Perlmutter or the Post to answer the others, though.