Bob Dart, Unpaid Democratic Press Secretary? (No, With Correction Appended)

May 30th, 2007 7:34 PM

Do you ever find it amusing when liberal newspaper reporters tear their hair out in frustration that all the Bush administration gives them is publicity, not news? If someone wants to argue that it's not a reporter's job to recycle robotically the publicity blurbs of the party in power, there is a two word retort: Bob Dart. Bob Dart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article on how the House was taking up a bill to make gas price gouging a federal crime, since we face "much of the nation complaining that gas prices are the highest ever."

Dart's story featured this lineup of the notable and the quotable: Speaker Pelosi (Democrat); Rep. Bart Stupak (Democrat), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and Tyler Slocum energy expert with the left-wing group Public Citizen. He mentioned Sen. Maria Cantwell (Democrat) in passing. (CORRECTION: Dart's original story from the Cox News Washington Bureau also included, in paragraphs 19, 20, and 21, a statement from Marlo Lewis of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute and a refiners' representative, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution edited it out.)

The only non-Democrat quoted in the Journal-Constitution piece was Gary Caruso, head of the Energy Information Administration, an independent statistical agency within the Energy Department, who made a bland statement about how gas prices will remain volatile this summer.

What's wrong, Mr. Dart? No Republicans or conservatives in your cramped Rolodex?  

CORRECTION: Apparently, yes, Dart was balanced enough to add a conservative press release viewpoint and a response from the oil industry. Here's the paragraphs from Cox Washington that the AJC excised:

At the hearing, though, a statement against the "Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act" was distributed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan advocacy group for "the principles of free enterprise and limited government."

"If we want to go back to the gas lines of the Seventies, this is a good way to do it," said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the institute. "Constraining the ability of gas companies to set prices according to supply and demand is a recipe for rationing. In the end, there will be less gas available and the people who get it will be those most prepared to wait in line."

"Legislation to curb 'price gouging' is a solution in search of a problem," said Charles T. Drevna, executive vice president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. In another prepared statement distributed at the hearing, the head of the refinery industry trade group said dozens of federal investigations have never turned up evidence of market manipulation in the industry.

In an e-mail to NB, Dart insisted:

The AJC apparently cut this from the story, probably because of space. That happens a lot. The story also appeared in other newspapers undermybyline (apparently Tim Chapman [sic] didn't bother to check that out) and I'm sure it was longer in some and shorter in others. I can assure you that I do not like when any of my words are cut but I have no control over thestory after it leaves the bureau. Any criticisms y'all have then should be directed at the editors of the various papers. If you want to criticize my reporting, check on the wires on what the bureau sent out.

I apologize for not placing the blame on the Journal-Constitution instead of the reporter, since I have not been a regular reader/critic of the Cox newspapers. The newspaper -- but not Bob Dart -- still deserves the mockery for offering one-sided Democratic public relations.