Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post ran a 4,000 word article on December 29, beginning on page one, about the “corruption scandal” involving Jack Abramoff. Deep inside the article the authors, Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi, hinted at why Abramoff, rather than hundreds of other lobbyists in Washington, D.C., was at the center of the latest “scandal.” The attack on Abramoff is motivated by envy and jealousy from Democratic and Republican lobbyists who wanted a piece of the action.

The Post noted that “Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Indian Affairs Committee, remembers first hearing ‘vague complaints’ about Abramoff in June 2003 from three Democratic lobbyists. The tribes had traditionally supported Democrats, but Abramoff was capturing them for Republicans, getting them to boost their contributions and give two-thirds to his party.”

Isn’t that fascinating? But was Dorgan just passing along complaints from Democrat lobbyists? Or was he himself for sale?

Back on December 5, in a story placed on page five, Schmidt and Grimaldi had noted that, as AP was the first to report, “Dorgan had his own dealings with Abramoff’s circle. Dorgan acknowledged to the AP that in the fall of 2003 he pushed Congress to approve legislative language urging government regulators to decide whether the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts deserved federal recognition. About the same time, Dorgan met with the tribe’s representatives and Michael D. Smith, an Abramoff associate.”

But that wasn’t all. The Post also reported, “In 2001, Dorgan held a fundraising event in an MCI Center skybox during a hockey game. The fundraiser was organized by Smith and the skybox was leased by an Abramoff company. The senator said he believed that the box was controlled by the Greenberg Traurig lobbying firm, not by Abramoff.

Dorgan also signed a letter to the Interior Department urging the continuation of a program that would have the federal government and tribes share the cost of building tribal schools, a program pushed by Abramoff’s clients.”

Now why was the Post enticed into investigating Abramoff? Perhaps because the media have decided to be slightly more open these days about the motivations of their sources, Schmidt and Grimaldi reported, in the December 29 story, that “rival lobbyists, including some Republicans,” were complaining about Abramoff’s “outrageous conduct.” In other words, he was making too much money. These “Republicans” were not named, however; what’s more, “One of them contacted The Post in the Fall of 2003.” The Post admitted following this with a story about Abramoff in early 2004, sparking investigations of his activities by his lobbying firm and a congressional investigation.

What is absolutely clear is that his success generated opposition from his competition. And that is why Abramoff, rather than his competitors, initially came under scrutiny.

It is also clear that Abramoff targeted Democrats. The Washington Post website has a detailed graph showing the top 20 recipients of cash from Abramoff, his clients or associated companies and groups.  Number 13 on the list is Dorgan. But number 10 is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

On Fox News Sunday on December 18, however, Reid told host Chris Wallace: “?don’t lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal. Don’t try to give any of it to me.”

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