The Hill recycled GOP research, painted misleading picture of Congressional Ethics Coalition

››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

A March 23 article in The Hill, a Washington-based publication that covers Congress, reported Republican charges that the Congressional Ethics Coalition is coordinating with House Democrats "to damage [House Majority Leader Tom] DeLay (R-TX) and the GOP leadership politically" -- but failed to note that the coalition includes both liberal and conservative organizations.

The Hill's reliance on "GOP research" is presumably to blame for the paper's one-sided and misleading description of the Congressional Ethics Coalition. The article in The Hill cited "GOP research" (or, in one case clearly referring to the same materials, "research") as the basis for five assertions about organizations that are members of the coalition, suggesting that The Hill didn't bother to confirm some of the information it received from Republicans before using it. The Hill reported, for example, "The GOP research paper states that the group [Democracy 21] has received $300,000 in total from the Open Society Institute." Presumably, that is either verifiably true -- in which case readers would be well-served by being told definitively that it is true rather than merely a charge made by Republicans -- or it is not true, in which case readers would benefit from being told as much.

The Hill reported that Republicans charge that what the paper described as "a press conference held last Tuesday by members of the Congressional Ethics Coalition" constitutes evidence of a "coordinated effort between House Democrats and government watchdog groups to damage DeLay and the GOP leadership politically." But The Hill failed to note the obvious problem with that allegation: the Congressional Ethics Coalition includes Judicial Watch, a conservative organization best known for its criticism of, and numerous lawsuits against, the Clinton administration. Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton attended and spoke at the press conference in question.

While The Hill described funding for some of the progressive groups in the coalition, it failed to mention that Judicial Watch has received more than $7 million in funding from Richard Mellon Scaife, who is not someone generally considered to be in league with congressional Democrats.

Another member of the Congressional Ethics Coalition -- also not mentioned by The Hill -- is the Campaign Legal Center, whose president, Trevor Potter, is a Republican and was an appointee of the George H.W. Bush administration.

The Hill conducted a "survey" of campaign contributions by members of the board of Democracy 21, one of the members of the Congressional Ethics Coalition. That "survey" found that three board members have contributed to Democrats since 1999. "Republicans received nothing from board members," The Hill noted.

But why did The Hill look only at contributions from Democracy 21 board members? If the question is whether the Congressional Ethics Coalition is in league with House Democrats (or part of the "syndicate" of "do-gooders" that has DeLay so incensed), why not look at contributions from individuals affiliated with other members of the coalition?

For example, The Hill might have looked into contributions from the Campaign Legal Center's Potter, who has given money to Republican Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and John Warner (R-VA), and Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Mark Foley (R-FL), Nick Lampson (R-TX) and James Greenwood (R-PA), as well as to McCain's political action committee, Straight Talk America.

Finally, while focusing only on the funding of, and contributions connected to, the progressive member organizations, The Hill misleadingly described that funding. The Hill wrote: "The groups have also accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Open Society Institute, an organization founded by [George] Soros, who spent millions trying to defeat President Bush in last year's election." But while that seems to suggest that several, if not all, of the organizations that make up the Congressional Ethics Coalition got funding from Open Society, only Democracy 21 is named later in the article as a recipient of such funds.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Stories/Interests
Tom DeLay Scandal
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