Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff expressed regret for paying columnists on multiple occasions to write articles favorable to his clients.
During a recent interview with Media Matters while promoting his new book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist (WND Books 2011), Abramoff said in the past he would find columnists who agreed with his positions and pay them to "place" articles in newspapers.
"Normally what that means in a lobbying context is that you have a friendly writer who is somebody that the major papers are willing to publish and you get them to focus on your issue and write a piece about it," Abramoff said in a phone interview, later adding, "It just happened when it had to happen. When it did, we would find somebody who agreed with us, a writer, and we'd usually pay them to do it, but they would be in charge of getting it placed. And that probably still goes on. I can't imagine it doesn't go on."
Abramoff said he paid for columns on maybe a half-dozen occasions in several major newspapers. He also said the newspapers themselves were likely unaware of the financial arrangement.
He said the media "was a tool in lobbying, and that's the way lobbyists view the media. That you try as best you can to keep them out of your hair, use them where you can to spin your issue, and otherwise keep them at a distance."
Abramoff also stressed that the writers paid to push his agenda were always columnists or op-ed writers, never reporters:
"I'd find a writer who was sympathetic to the issue, I wouldn't approach a writer who disagreed with me or was neutral. I'd find somebody who was passionate about this and we'd try to get them focused on it, get them some money if they needed money or they wanted to be paid for it," Abramoff explained. "A lot of these writers write for pay, they write columns and get paid by their papers. ... So we would pay them, and their job would be to get the article placed. Rather simple. It didn't always work, by the way. They weren't always able to get them placed. But generally they could."
Asked if he ever tried to pay a news reporter to write something sympathetic, he said, "Nah. Most of the time we stayed away from reporters. Lobbyists don't like to hang out with reporters, at least lobbyists who are prudent."
Abramoff confirmed two specific monetary relationships involving writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara, who were quoted in a 2005 BusinessWeek story as having been paid by Abramoff.
We've long chronicled the right-wing media's problem with undertaking basic research before trying to smear progressives. Nonetheless, this one was a doozy.
Last week, we debunked the claim from three conservative bloggers that President Obama repeatedly met with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation. In fact, no evidence has been presented showing that the official was aware at the time of the controversial details of the program, and in any case, the meetings in question were actually White House visits to attend major events related to a visit by the Mexican President and the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
As we pointed out, hundreds to thousands of people attended these supposed meetings, making it extremely unlikely that the DOJ official was using them to secretly brief the President. And as we noted, this information was easily available through the same White House Visitors Office records that the right-wing bloggers were using to drum up their conspiracy.
Yesterday, the Daily Caller attempted to identify just where those bloggers went wrong:
But on the dates in question, the logs specifically referred to formal arrivals and receptions related to a State Dinner for Mexican president Felipe Calderón. It's unclear whether the three writers noticed this feature of the visitor logs, since the spreadsheets' columns related to the purpose for the visits is hidden from view and only become visible when readers scroll a considerable distance to one side.
That's how pathetic even the Caller acknowledges the right-wing blogosphere must be: they are either too incompetent to "scroll a considerable distance to one side" in order to confirm their conspiracies before they run with them or they're simply uninterested in the truth.
For their part, the Caller was also apparently unable to pull off the scrolling trick on their own. Instead, after reading the claims of right-wing bloggers, they contacted the White House directly, who pointed them to our post. It remains to be seen whether the Caller has learned not to take such sources seriously in the future.
Tucker Carlson's news website The Daily Caller is clinging to a dubious study to push the discredited claim that women who have had abortions are at greater risk for developing breast cancer. Public health experts have long maintained that no such link exists.
The Daily Caller's headline: "Holder blames Americans for gun-running"
The Daily Caller's lede:
Attorney General Eric Holder scolded The Daily Caller's reporting on the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal shortly after government officials and reporters heard him admonish Americans for funding gun-runners.
What Holder actually said, as reported by the Daily Caller:
Holder appeared Tuesday at a White House event to showcase a new media campaign that is intended to stigmatize the selling and buying of knock-off videos and counterfeit fashion products.
Holder recorded one critical radio ad, which is titled "You can help." The clip was played to the audience in the White House auditorium.
"This is Attorney General Eric Holder. We are working hard to protect our communities by reducing gang violence and organized crime and there is an important and simple way that you can help. Some street gangs and organized crime groups are selling counterfeit products, such as fake watches, DVDs and purses, as an easy way to make money. And they use that money to fund other crimes, like trafficking in drugs and guns."
"When you buy knock-offs on the street or online, although it may not be obvious, you could be supporting gangs, putting money in their pockets and helping them to engage in other illegal activities that put our communities at risk," said Holder in the radio ad.
So an alternate, accurate headline would have been: "Holder asks Americans to help prevent gun-running." But that doesn't make the attorney general look bad. And it doesn't conform to the Daily Caller's editorial policy of manufacturing controversies over Eric Holder and Fast and Furious.
Attorney General Eric Holder apparently struck a nerve yesterday when he accurately called out the Daily Caller for effectively creating a movement of congressional Republicans seeking his resignation. Both editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson and reporter Matthew Boyle have since done damage control with extremely friendly media outlets, claiming that they are acting legitimately and attacking Holder for his criticism.
Boyle has led the website's reporters in a month-long effort to find Republicans willing to take a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation, with the stated rationale being the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. The campaign has led to nearly two dozen articles featuring calls for Holder's resignation from 51 low-level members of Congress, Republican presidential candidates, Sarah Palin, and congressional challengers, among others.
Carlson stopped by Fox & Friends' curvy couch this morning, accusing Holder of being "Nixonian" and saying that "we are not in control of the legislative branch." When co-host Gretchen Carlson asked the Daily Caller editor whether he thought Holder "had that reaction to your reporter because it hasn't been covered as much by the mainstream media," he noted that "our reporter Matt Boyle has written a number of stories on this," but never acknowledged the character of that reporting.
Boyle sounded similar notes in an appearance on NRA Radio (the NRA has called for Holder's resignation). He told host Cam Edwards: "To assume that we're 'behind' the calls for his resignation, I don't know how he can think that. All I'm doing is calling up congressmen and senators and asking them, and then whatever their answer is I print it."
He went on to say that "if he thinks that I have the ability to control what they say and what they don't say, that's unbelievable," adding, "I'd love to know what other conspiracy theories the attorney general can come up with about the media."
Boyle, demonstrating his trademark inability to stick to facts, went on to falsely accuse Holder of previously attacking a Daily Caller article:
Anonymous hackers recently released another batch of emails taken from a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009, along with a document containing numbered excerpts of purportedly incriminating material. Many of these selections have been cropped in a way that completely distorts their meaning, but they were nonetheless repeated by conservative media outlets who believe climate change is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy."
The Daily Caller's attempt to pass out pitchforks to GOP members of Congress and send them after Attorney General Eric Holder has now been called out by the target himself.
TPM's Ryan J. Reilly reports:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday told a reporter with the conservative news website The Daily Caller that the news organization was ginning up calls for him to resign over ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious.
The reporter approached Holder after an event at the White House on the federal government's efforts to combat counterfeit goods.
"You guys need to... you guys need to stop this," TPM heard Holder tell the reporter. "There's not an organic* thing happening, you guys are behind this."
Holder was referencing Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's month-long quest to find relatively low-ranking Republican members of Congress interested in taking a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation. The putative rationale for these calls is the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious; new evidence has been revealed indicating that Holder know about the controversial tactics used in that operation.
You may remember Boyle from his public humiliation over a ludicrously false September report that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire "230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations." Boyle's colleagues were reportedly embarrassed by the decision by DC executive editor David Martosko -- who has a long record in conservative political advocacy but none in journalism -- to stand behind Boyle's reporting.
At most publications, a misstep of this magnitude would have consequences. But at the Caller, it's more of a feature than a bug. And so Boyle has apparently spent much of the last month calling around to Republican politicians and asking them whether they think Holder should resign. That's creating a story, not reporting one.
Despite the best efforts of the right-wing media, Barack Obama's connections -- real and imagined -- to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers weren't quite enough to poison the electorate against Obama in 2008. In fact, even with brief mainstream media flare-ups and Sean Hannity's twice-daily Ayers-Wright harangues, not many people seemed to care at all when it came time to vote.
Now that we're on the precipice of 2012, Ayers and Wright are being dragged out onto the stage again, presumably in the hope that the guilt-by-association campaign that failed in 2008 will, three years later, finally catch on and bring Obama down.
And this might even be understandable were there new information to report on Obama, Ayers, and Wright. But there isn't. So the old storylines are getting a hasty spit-shine for the new election season.
"Exclusive," announces The Daily Caller this morning, as they report on "video obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller" that "shows Illinois Senator Barack Obama, then campaigning for Democrats before the 2006 midterm elections, praising Reverend Jeremiah Wright and telling an audience that he 'stole' the title of his book 'The Audacity of Hope' from Wright's sermon of the same name, which he 'loved.' Obama also referred to Wright as 'my pastor.' "
The video does indeed show Obama saying all those things, but the Daily Caller actually got scooped on this one. By Obama himself.
The Daily Caller is attempting to rehabilitate Alabama following the considerable backlash the state has received from passing the country's toughest and most controversial immigration law. In trying to manufacture positive press for Alabama, however, the Caller resorted to manufacturing truth.
In an article pointing to just-released government numbers that show a drop in Alabama's unemployment rate, the Daily Caller suggested the lower rate is attributable to the immigration law. It argued -- with support from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies -- that the data showed that previously unemployed Americans in Alabama are scooping up the jobs left behind by undocumented immigrants who have since deserted the state:
September was the first full month that the reform was in force, and the unemployment rate fell from 9.8 percent in September to 9.3 percent in October, according to a Nov. 18 report from the state government.
The rates fell from 9.9 percent to 9 percent in Etowah County, from 8.8 percent to 8.1 percent in Marshall county, and from 11.6 percent to 10.6 percent in DeKalb county.
"The latest fall in unemployment numbers is proof that American citizens will work, and continues to solidify [the evidence] that self-deportation [by illegal immigrants] due to the Alabama Taxpayer & Citizen's Protection Act is occurring," said Chuck Ellis, a city council member in Albertville -- the main town in Marshall County, northern Alabama.
The article went on to quote Steven Camerota from CIS, a purported "research" firm that is part of the nativist and anti-immigrant network created by controversial activist John Tanton. But all CIS is known for is distorting the realities of immigration. From the article:
"The fact is that those who want illegal immigrants to leave have sound reasons for doing that, and one is to free up some jobs at the bottom end of the labor market," said Steven Camarota, direct of research at the Center for Immigration Studies. The center's motto is "low immigration, pro immigrant."
"It is only one month of data, so we have to be careful, but it is a reminder of what the state legislature is trying to do," he said.
In a Daily Caller post, climate change skeptic Anthony Watts used familiar tactics to downplay human-induced climate change: He focused on national rather than global temperature data; he looked at a short time period rather than the long-term trend; and he portrayed routine data adjustments as deceptive doctoring by government agencies.
Daily Caller hack Matthew Boyle spent yesterday calling around to the spokespeople for Republican members of Congress and asking them if their bosses think Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over Operation Fast and Furious, and wouldn't you know it, he found a few willing to grandstand in the press. According to Boyle, "Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, John Mica of Florida, Quico Canseco of Texas and Gus Bilirakis of Florida each told The Daily Caller on Thursday that they believe Holder should step down now."
If you think that seems like an odd group of members of Congress that have nothing in common, you're right. If you think that almost definitely indicates that he reached out to some Republican congressional offices who either refused comment or wouldn't say Holder should step down, you're probably right. And if you think that it sounds like Boyle created a story rather than reporting one, you're definitely right.
But because Boyle is a hack, this is an indication that Holder's "tenure in the Obama administration may be coming to an end," because the number of members of Congress calling for his resignation "has doubled in one day." How the fact that relatively low-level Republican members of Congress don't support him would lead to him leaving the administration is left unsaid.
Because the Daily Caller is a hack publication, they are currently running this banner headline:
And of course, they have help from their friends at Fox News:
As we previously noted, Fox devoted nearly four times more evening coverage to a Republican congressman's call for a special counsel to investigate Holder than they gave to Senate Democrats who called for one to investigate Bush AG Alberto Gonzales. It will be interesting to see how much time they decide to give to Boyle's non-story.
Under the headline "UN Internet agenda tied to George Soros," the Daily Caller's Josh Peterson writes this morning that he's discovered connections between the billionaire philanthropist and the campaign to promote internet freedom:
Frank La Rue, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression who made summer headlines when he proclaimed Internet access as a basic human right, conducted his research and delivered his conclusions with the support of organizations funded by liberal financier George Soros, The Daily Caller has learned.
La Rue's statements on Internet freedom caused alarm among conservatives who believe "net neutrality" is a vehicle for a government takeover of the Internet.
How did they Daily Caller learn of these links between Soros and La Rue? Simple: both La Rue and the Soros-linked organizations involved have been completely open and transparent about their relationship. Peterson writes:
At a speech in April 2011 at the Soros-funded Central European University (CEU) in Hungary, La Rue talked at length about global fact-finding missions -- sponsored by Soros's OSI and the Swedish government -- on which he had embarked during 2010 to assess how unrestricted Internet access could meet citizens' human rights needs.
He links to a YouTube video of La Rue's speech, in which La Rue says outright that the Open Society Institute supported the "series of regional consultations" on which he embarked. The description of the YouTube video says: "La Rue's talk was sponsored by CEU's Center for Media and Communications Studies and the Open Society Archive." You can see the Open Society Archives logo plastered on the podium from which La Rue speaks. So... news?
Yesterday David Asman kicked off his Fox Business show, America's Nightly Scoreboard, by claiming that Solyndra "received a very generous set of tax breaks" from the Internal Revenue Service. Asman emphasized that this was "a tax break applied for Solyndra and only for Solyndra" and suggested that "political influence" may have played a role in the IRS decision.
But the tax credit didn't apply to Solyndra at all -- it applied to a manufacturing facility that was considering installing a Solyndra solar panel system. And this ruling is hardly unprecedented: it is one of many private letter rulings issued by the IRS to clarify which technologies qualify for energy tax credits.
Last month, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle published a story that was basically catnip for the anti-regulation crowd. Citing a court brief from the Environmental Protection Agency, Boyle wrote that the EPA was "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations. Boyle also took to Twitter to broadcast how EPA administrator "LISA JACKSON wants an ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS."
Predictably, the story got picked up by Fox News, the office of Sen. James Inhofe, and the usual climate-change-denial suspects. Unfortunately for them, Boyle's story was 100% false. Boyle completely misread the court brief, which detailed how the EPA had avoided the scenario he described.
Boyle's misfire was widely ridiculed, but rather than admit fault and correct the error, the Daily Caller stuck to their guns. Executive editor David Martosko compounded the damage to the publication's credibility by issuing a snide comment to Politico and following that with a misleading editor's note on the Caller website.
Apparently outside observers weren't the only ones aghast at Daily Caller's complete lack of standards. According to a report this morning by FishbowlDC's Betsy Rothstein, "newsroom sources" at the Caller were dismayed by Martosko's defense of Boyle's "pointedly bogus" story and "feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention":
Martosko has undoubtedly been a controversial figure from the start. Newsroom sources say his profound defense of reporter Matthew Boyle and his recent EPA piece troubled reporters who believed the story was false and feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention the ordeal received in publications such as Politico and parts of the right-wing media. They couldn't conceive why their editor was defending a story many considered pointedly bogus.
I suppose it's slightly reassuring that at least some people at the Caller are capable of acknowledging facts and reality -- too bad their executive editor doesn't seem to be one of them.
Writing for the Daily Caller, nativist crank Tom Tancredo argues that we're missing the big picture regarding the U.S. government's killing of terrorism suspect -- and U.S. citizen -- Anwar al-Awlaki:
Lost in this debate is whether al-Awlaki was ever really an American citizen.
Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971. Both of his parents were Yemeni citizens in the United States on student visas. As a child, he moved to Yemen along with his parents. He returned to the U.S. as an adult on a foreign student visa.
Under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment, al-Awlaki is considered an American citizen. Section 1 of the amendment opens, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." The operative phrase is "subject to the jurisdiction thereof." During the ratification debates in 1866, Senator Lyman Trumbull, who was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said that the phrase meant "not owing allegiance to anybody else" and that "partial allegiance if you please, to some other government" is disqualifying. It goes without saying that neither al-Awlaki nor his parents had any allegiance to America.
Anwar al-Awlaki was born in the United States. His parents were not in the service of a foreign government. Therefore, as laid out in the Constitution, he was an American citizen. Period. Full stop. QED.
What Tancredo describes as "the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment" is actually the historical interpretation going all the way back to Reconstruction and reaffirmed many times over by the courts. The only people who dissent from this established concept of American citizenship are post-birthers who refuse to give up the ghost regarding President Obama's citizenship, and anti-immigrant bigots (like Tancredo) who deliberately misunderstand the "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" phraseology in order to argue against conferring citizenship on the children of undocumented immigrants.