Print media reported Weldon conspiracy theories, offered no response from CREW


The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press have reported Rep. Curt Weldon's statements blaming an FBI investigation of him on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) but failed to include any response from CREW or point out that the FBI is a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which is part of the Bush administration and headed by a Bush confidante.

In their recent coverage of the FBI investigation of Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press have reported Weldon's statements blaming the influence-trading probe on "the left-wing, liberal attack machine" -- and, specifically, the nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) -- but have failed to include any response from CREW.

On October 16, the FBI raided several homes and offices linked to Weldon. The raids came as part of an ongoing investigation into whether he used his position in Congress to improperly steer lucrative contracts to his daughter's lobbying firm. As CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash reported that day, Weldon quickly cited political motivations for the timing of the investigation and singled out CREW as having intentionally provoked the issue mere weeks before the midterm election. Bash went on to note that CREW complained two and a half years ago about Weldon to the FBI -- a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which is part of the Bush administration and headed by Bush confidante Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales -- and aired a clip of CREW executive director Melanie Sloan stating that she "can't force the Justice Department to do anything."

From the October 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: The Pennsylvania Republican, a 20-year veteran of the House, is in a neck-and-neck race to keep his seat. He calls the timing of this -- three weeks before Election Day -- politically motivated, and blames Melanie Sloan, head of a liberal-leaning watchdog group for spurring the issue.

Sloan says she did file a complaint with the FBI but did that two and a half years ago, when questions were first raised by the Los Angeles Times.

SLOAN: We don't control what the Justice Department does. The Justice Department is investigating Curt Weldon. And I can't force the Justice Department to do anything.

In an October 17 article on the Weldon raids, The Philadelphia Inquirer similarly reported both Weldon's accusations and Sloan's response:

On Sunday night, Curt Weldon lashed out at Sloan and said in a phone interview that the leaks late Friday were "a gross abuse of the election process." In a statement yesterday, he called it "dirty, partisan politics at its absolute worst."

Sloan said yesterday that she was as surprised as Weldon to learn of the FBI's investigation. Her letter, after all, was written 30 months ago, she said.

"You can see that this had nothing to do with this election cycle," Sloan said. "It's bad news for Mr. Weldon, but we thought he should have been under investigation all along ... . How could his daughter get clients like that at age 29? How can she lobby her father?"

Meanwhile, an October 17 article by Post staff writers Carol D. Leonnig and R. Jeffrey Smith also reported Weldon's attempt to cast the probe as a ploy by Democratic operatives to sabotage his re-election chances. But unlike the CNN and Inquirer, the Post included no response from Sloan or any CREW spokesperson. Moroever, the Post failed to report two simple facts that undermine Weldon's allegations of a partisan plot: that CREW alleges it sent the complaint to the FBI two and a half years ago, and that the FBI is an arm of the Bush administration. From the article:

Weldon assailed the news reports as politically motivated. He blamed a 2004 complaint filed by the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is led by Melanie Sloan, a former prosecutor who also has been a Democratic staff member on the House Judiciary Committee.

The following day, both the Times and the AP ran stories focusing on the Weldon campaign's attempts to blame CREW and the "liberal attack machine" for the investigation. But these articles also omitted any response from CREW. While both articles reported that CREW complained to the FBI in 2004, neither pointed out that the FBI is part of the Justice Department, which is controlled politically by Republicans. From the October 18 article by Times staff writer David Johnston, headlined "Investigation Is Just Politics, Lawmaker Says":

Representative Curt Weldon is describing a federal investigation into whether he acted improperly on behalf of his daughter's lobbying firm as an election-season ploy that will find that "I engaged in no wrongdoing."

"I am extremely disappointed that we are discussing this topic three weeks before an election that could determine control of Congress," Mr. Weldon, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in a statement issued Monday evening. "The timing of this situation is deeply concerning."


Mr. Weldon said he was disappointed by the "politics of personal destruction," which he attributed to "left-wing liberal activists." He singled out one group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which two years ago sent a letter of complaint to the Justice Department asking that he be investigated.

In her October 18 article, headlined "Republican Weldon blasts 'liberal attack machine' for publicity," AP staff writer Maryclaire Dale reported that Weldon had blamed not only CREW but also the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

A day after the FBI raided the offices of a lobbying firm run by Rep. Curt Weldon's daughter and his close friend, the Republican's campaign blamed publicity about the Justice Department investigation on "the left-wing, liberal attack machine."


The lawmaker on Tuesday blamed the investigation on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which he said was supported by Democratic activists. In 2004, the group asked the Justice Department to investigate Weldon for alleged bribery for "using his public office to benefit companies that hired his daughter as a lobbyist."

Posted In
Government, Ethics
The Washington Post, The New York Times, Associated Press
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