the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

February 9, 2006

How not to smear somebody.


In any scandal involving bribery or undue influence, especially involving a sitting member of Congress, there is one key standard to meet: were the donations of someone espousing a particular cause matched and related to the actions of the Congresscritter in question?

In the latest smear job on Ried, I will yield to the words of Josh Marshall :

I rung up Reid spokesman Jim Manley. He said Reid was a “cosponsor of Sen. Kennedy’s bill; he spoke in favor of the bill on the Senate; he was a strong supporter of the bill.” When I pressed Manley on whether Sen. Reid took any action adverse to the bill or made changes in timing that lead to the bill’s demise, he said, “No.”

Then I got hold of Ron Platt, the lobbyist referenced in the passage above, on his cell phone while he was down at a conference in Florida. I asked him whether, to the best of his recollection, Reid had taken any action against the Kennedy bill. “I’m sure he didn’t,” Platt told me.

According to Platt, the purpose of his contacts was to see what information he could get about the timing and status of the legislation. Reid’s position on the minimum wage issue was well known and there would have been no point trying to get his help blocking it. That’s what Platt says. “I didn’t ask Reid to intervene,” said Platt. “I wouldn’t have asked him to intervene. I don’t think anyone else would have asked. And I’m sure he didn’t.”

Now, obviously, both Reid’s office and Platt are interested parties on this question. If there were evidence to the contrary you wouldn’t necessarily want to take their statements at face value. But as far as I can tell there is no evidence to the contrary. And that’s after speaking with supporters of the legislation who would probably know. They don’t seem to think Reid had anything to do with tanking the minimum wage bill. Nothing.

In this case, despite the AP story’s narrative of lobbyist contacts, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence whatsoever that Reid ever took any action on behalf of Abramoff’s Marianas clients.

Wasn’t that worth a mention?

Not only is the Party of Bacon getting sloppy about even pretending to conceal their mendacious ways, they’re getting worse at their swift-boating.

And to the MSM: couldn’t y’all go after someone with real issues?

With thanks to C&L.

January 17, 2006

“Stop Corruption First” Protest


MoveOn is organizing a protest downtown tomorrow:

Washington is caught up in corruption scandals, but many lobbyists and Republican leaders think they can just go on as if nothing has happened. Little has changed since the scandals became public. We need to expose the corruption and press for reform — or a change in leaders. Can you help?

This Wednesday, tomorrow, a gathering of lobbyists, conservative activists and Republicans leaders from Congress and the White House meet to discuss their next moves. We’re joining with other reform groups to bring the public outcry to their doorstep. Will you attend?

What: “Stop Corruption First” Protest Outside K Street Project meeting
When: 9:45 AM Start Time, Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Where: Sidewalk outside offices of Americans for Tax Reform, 1920 L Street, NW (20th & L Streets) (Red Line/Farragut North, Blue-Orange Line/Farragut West)

Signs: We’ll provide signs.

Please RSVP at http://political.moveon.org/protest_rsvp/

Google Map it:

The plan is to show up, peacefully conduct a protest with signs and disperse after a half hour or so. We’re inviting the media and expect the protest to be widely reported on by the press. We’re co-sponsoring the protest with the Campaign for America’s Future and Public Campaign Action Fund.

The group hosting the meeting — Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform — is at the center of the Republican power machine in Washington and has been implicated in the corruption scandals from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But they still meet even after Abramoff took a guilty plea.

This meeting illustrates how nothing has changed — the Republicans in Congress work closely with business lobbyists who are funding their operations. We need to expose it and this protest will help do that. Please RSVP and attend.

Thanks for all you do.

—Tom, Eli, Marika, Micayla and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

P.S. Here is some background on Grover Norquist and his connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

January 8, 2006

Abramoff-Allied Group Drops Him and Others From Its Board


Toward Tradition is a conservative Jewish group founded by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and Jack Abramoff used to serve on its board of directors. The group is allied with conservative Christian groups, and as Josh Marshall pointed out yesterday, Lapin co-chaired the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, whose advisory board included James Dobson, Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Michael Medved, and Jack Abramoff. (There’s more about Toward Tradition in this comment on TPMCafe.)

Marshall’s mention of Toward Tradition prompted me to check out its site, and particularly its board of directors. The board currently has a chairman, vice-chairman, and 20 members — with no mention of Jack Abramoff. But checking the Internet Archive, I find that the same page in July 2003 and March 2005 (the most recent archived copy) contained a longer list:


December 29, 2005

Morality Is About More Than Sex


As I mentioned two weeks ago, a source of entertainment on visits to my parents is reading the editorials and letters to the editor in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which provide a view into a world different from that revealed on the equivalent pages of the Washington Post or even the Washington Times. During this Christmas visit, my attention was captured not by the latest right-wing ranting, but by something I noticed in a letter from someone who was not a Bush supporter:

U.S. Didn’t Suffer Under Clinton

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Don’t ask me to stop bashing President Bush if you’re still bashing President Clinton! I take exception to my friend, Eula Randall Lucy, in her recent letter, “People Risk Lives for American Dream,” in which she states, “After the degrading years our country suffered through while the Clintons were in the White House, we are happy to have a President and First Lady with moral and religious values.”

This country was not suffering while Bill Clinton was President, unless of course you can’t get over Bill’s lack of morals. While it’s true that today with Bush we don’t have moral issues with the President, we just have issues about a war, an incredible deficit that grows daily, questionable folks in his administration, Bush’s selection of leaders, the government’s response to crises, gas prices, our reputation with the rest of the globe, etc., etc., etc. And how does one decide that the vitriol that we hear against this President and this country is unpatriotic?

I happen to think this President is a total embarrassment. I have a right to think so and that is the great thing about this country, and it’s the one thing Ms. Lucy and I can agree on. I, too, offer special thanks at this time of year for the privilege of living in the most wonderful country in the world where folks can disagree. I just don’t apply labels to those who don’t happen to agree with me.

Richard Bragg,

I don’t want to single Mr. Bragg out, but he’s provided a useful example of a mistake I run across often in political discussions: buying into the Republican notion that morality is only about sex. Bragg says “we don’t have moral issues with the President” but then in the same sentence brings up war, passing on debt to the next generation, official corruption, treatment of the poor, and other issues, all of which are moral issues. But somehow too many people — even liberals — go along with the idea that morality is only about keeping your pants on at the appropriate times.

President Clinton, like all of us, had moral failings, and the ones Lucy is talking about greatly affected him and his family. But nonsexual moral failings can do just as much damage — or far more, especially if you are the president of the United States. Moral failings by a president in deciding matters of war, or economics, or the environment can do literally millions of times more damage than any sexual trangression a person could possibly commit. Keep that in mind the next time someone talks about “moral values” and elections.

And if you absolutely must have a Bush moral failing with a sexual angle, read Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings on how the administration can’t quite bring itself to stand up to defense contractors on the issue of human trafficking — including selling women as sex slaves.

December 27, 2005

Spying Spin


The Shrub is fighting for the political life of the GOP, the Libertarian wing of the party now up in arms over the revelations regarding the Warrantless wiretapping (to say nothing about how most Liberals feel). I believe he is mounting three defenses, all three based on a series of “of course” conclusions that when looked at from beginning to end, are pretty damn ridiculous. What I like to characterize as “weasel words.” It’s interesting when people who claim to believe in strict construction of the Constitution interperet it so freely - and even more interesting when they interpret the laws with an even more cavalier disregard for consequences.

[Crossposted at Stealthbadger.net]

December 13, 2005

The CEO President


Via Talking Points Memo, I saw this Houston Chronicle article about Dubya’s buddy “Kenny Boy” Lay:

Ken Lay declared his innocence, demonized his accusers and asked ex-employee “truth sayers” to rally ’round him for his trial, in a luncheon speech today. […]

The former chairman of Enron told the sold-out crowd of about 500 at the Houston Forum that Enron was a great company and would still be great if not for the illegal conduct of a few — namely ex-CFO Andrew Fastow and his protege Michael Kopper, who Lay said committed “despicable and criminal deeds.”

We did trust Andy Fastow and sadly, tragically, that trust turned out to be fatally misplaced,” he said. Lay said it was the misdeeds of Fastow and cohorts, hidden from Lay, that led to the company’s 2001 bankruptcy and the dissolved dreams of thousands of employees. […]

Flanked on the podium by Texas and U.S. flags, and a gold and red-themed Christmas tree, Lay read from a prepared text in which he attacked the Justice Department for prosecuting the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, destroying the company and then dropping the case. He said the prosecutors have been attempting to criminalize normal business practices.

So Lay is blaming all his troubles on underlings (essentially claiming that he was incompetent, not evil) and decrying a movement in the Justice Department to “criminalize” normal actions. Doesn’t that remind you of George W. Bush and today’s Republican Party? Does the culture of corruption that has infested government have its roots in the boardrooms of big corporations?

December 8, 2005

Cillizza Update


Last week I wrote about an example of false balance in which Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza added an irrelevant Democrat to a list of scandal-plagued elected officials, apparently to make the corruption look like a more bipartisan problem. Now via Talking Points Memo I see that Cillizza has responded to readers’ questions about the incident:

This was an editorial mixup. In my original post, Ballance was not included since, as you rightly point out, he is not a sitting member of Congress. After an edit, Ballance was unnecessarily included for, frankly, balance. I did not read the final edit and therefore was unaware that Ballance had been added to the list. I apologize for my editor’s error (he’s been flogged). And let no man (or woman) say The Fix opposes full disclosure.

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has some remedial instruction for journalists about how such false balance is the opposite of journalistic objectivity. Unfortunately, her advice won’t be heeded by those who need it most.

December 7, 2005

How’d That Happen?


It’s been a few days at least since we’ve beaten up on the Washington Post, but Majikthise called my attention to an odd Post headline: “Cunningham Friends Baffled By His Blunder Into Bribery”. The article tells the heart-warming story of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), a likable guy known to make the occasional racist or anti-gay comment, who somehow found himself accepting $2 million in bribes. As Majikthise says,

Blundering into bribery. Don’t you hate it when that happens? You’re at a party, having a good time, and the next thing you know you’ve accepted a 42-foot yacht?

The Post story is a weird mix of condemnation and excuse making, but one thing’s for sure — there’s absolutely no suggestion that Cunningham’s troubles might be connected to any other Republicans. Not, for example, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), whose largest campaign contributor is MZM, the same defense contractor that got Cunningham into trouble, as Waldo Jaquith details. And certainly not Katherine Harris (R-VA), our friend Richard Pombo (R-CA), or the other Republicans who’ve benefited from MZM’s generosity (see Jane Hamsher at firedoglake).

November 29, 2005

Cillizza Strikes Again


I complained a while back about a gratuitous attack on Howard Dean by Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza. Since then I’ve seen more indications of right-wing hackishness in his blog, The Fix, but haven’t bothered to write about them — until today, when I ran across the third example of a pattern I’ve come to recognize. Cillizza has a habit of throwing in an irrelevant fact (often statistical) to tilt a story in a direction that favors Republicans.

The first time I noticed was last month, in the first installment of his “Friday Line” roundups of races to watch. He listed 10 Senate seats he thought might change hands, and then ended the post with “If every Senate seat listed above changed hands in 2006 — and I’m NOT saying they will — the Republicans would still keep their majority.” But he listed 6 Republican seats and 4 Democratic ones, so if all changed hands that would be a net gain of only 2 for the Democrats — and a pretty bizarre political event. If just the Republican seats flipped — a much more likely event, though still very unlikely — that would give the Democrats the majority. The statistic about all seats changing hands was completely irrelevant.

Then yesterday Cillizza wrote about Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s resignation and included this:

The San Diego-area district is tough sledding for Democrats; President Bush won an 11-point victory there in 2004, outperforming his statewide showing by 21 percent.

Now, the 11-point win by Bush means something, but how is the statistic at the end relevant? A Democratic candidate hoping to take the seat doesn’t need to outdo Kerry’s California percentage but only needs to beat whatever Republican is running. It doesn’t matter how much more Republican the district is than California as a whole; the only thing that counts is how Republican the district is in absolute terms (and how enthusiastic those voters are currently about the Republican Party). The “21 percent” number is just a distraction that makes things look better for Republicans, at least if readers aren’t paying attention.

Finally, today Cillizza gives us something that could be useful: a “Political Scandal Scorecard”. But as you may have guessed, he manages to slant it with an irrelevant fact. It’s not that he excluded anything going on in the White House:

We limited the scorecard to members of Congress and governors currently in office to keep the list manageable.

It’s that he violated his own restriction when he found that otherwise he could only work in one Democrat (Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich):

Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.): Yes, we said we’re limiting this list to current members, but this is a fairly recent case so we’re making a small exception to the rule.

Ballance (interesting name for someone introduced only to supply fake balance) resigned from the House in June 2004, so he wasn’t even a recently departed member of the current Congress. What possible excuse is there for inserting him into the scorecard, except to slightly thicken the veneer of bipartisanship in the scandal list?


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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