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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mollohan Cocktail

There's been some troubling discussion lately (starting, I think, with Saturday's front-page NYT article) about Rep. Alan Mollohan's finances. Mollohan is the ranking Democrat on the "Ethics" "Committee" (quotes for "Ethics" thanks to both Mollohan's apparent transgressions and to the GOP's inclusion of members on the "Committee" who gave money to Tom DeLay's legal defense fund; quotes for "Committee" because it doesn't bother meeting and appears totally dysfunctional).

I'm pressed for time and so can't write much. But I will say this:
  1. The facts look bad. From what I've heard and read, they involve earmarks that went to nonprofits whose execs donated heavily to Mollohan's campaign and some of whom are in business with Mollohan and his wife

  2. Mollohan should step down from the "Committee" at least temporarily (and probably permanently). It's absurd that he's the Dems' leading man on the "Ethics" "Committee". Failing to take a strong stand on this issue---as Pelosi has indeed failed to do---makes the Dems look every bit as hypocrital as the GOP (see Delay, Ney, Cunningham, Doolittle, etc) on this one case. If the Dems mean anything by their quite appropriate criticisms of the GOP's culture of corruption, then they'd better put their Mollohan where their mouths are. Moreover, taking a strong stand here would be good politics: Pelosi et al could say, "Hey, we don't take this garbage from our members---why should the American people take it from the GOP?" Mollohan is one guy. Cut him loose for the moment, and for the duration if the US Attorney's investigation turns up solid evidence of wrongdoing.

  3. I was quite proud to hear both Al Franken and Melanie Sloan of CREW make all of these points on the Al Franken Show today (see CREW's statement on the matter for more; as a comparison, I wonder how many GOP pundits and GOP-aligned groups like CREW have pushed for Bob Ney to resign?)


Blogger Bu$h Ate My Baby said...

Kudos for your post.

Of course, it took the NYT eight paragraphs to acknowledge that Mollohan is a Democrat. In fact, they were quicker to acknowledge the conservative bent of the complainant, The National Legal and Policy Center, then they were of Mollohan. $10 says that waiting until the eighth paragraph got them to the jump page.

4/13/2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Werbenmanjensen said...

I challenge anyone to name a politician with ethics.

4/13/2006 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...


thanks for the kudos. randomly, i happened to still have the NYT from that day. your suspicion turns out not to be confirmed: the mention of Mollohan's party affiliation occurs (in the next-to-last graf) before the jump. so you owe me yet another $10 (gotta make up for that credit-card roulette loss the other night!).

incidentally, you might want to do a little research on the various abramoff stories out there. a couple wks back there was quite a lot of noise on the liberal side of the 'sphere about how newspapers (i think, specifically, the nyt and the WP, tho i could be leaving out the AP or wrongly indicting one of the other 2) were not mentioning abramoff's penchant for GOP love until late in the articles, or even not at all.

so you are not alone in your feelings of persecution.

as for you, mrs. w, i give you paul wellstone. who, unfortunately, is no longer with us. i'll have to think about some others.

4/17/2006 4:37 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

and surely, peter, you will be interested to read about media treatment of Gov. George Ryan (Who knows? We Won't Tell You - IL).

you do seem to have highlighted a potentially important imbalance in journalistic coverage of scandals.....

4/17/2006 5:56 PM  
Blogger Bu$h Ate My Baby said...


If you could direct me to the Abramoff kerfuffle some time, I see if there is any there there.

As for Ryan, well, that story just broke yesterday, so let's see when the majors chose to mention his Republican affiliation:

Washington Post – first paragraph -- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/17/AR2006041700630.html

NYT – second paragraph -- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/18/us/18ryan.html

AP (used by various; CNN, USA Today, Fox News) – eighth paragraph -- http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/04/17/ryan.verdict.ap/index.html

Baltimore Sun – doesn’t seem to mention at all -- http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.ryan18apr18,0,4914270.story

So, it does seem that the AP was more interested in informing people that “this was the guy that suspended the death penalty than mentioning his party affiliation. Maybe that’s because “[drawing] international praise” by “commut[ing] the sentences of everyone on Illinois' death row” makes one a “good” Republican. It has been noted in other contexts (e.g. the Supreme Court) that conservatives or Republicans taking “liberal” stances on an issue leads to more fawning press coverage. Apparently not for the Washington Post or New York Times, however.


4/18/2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...


i figured the press would ultimately do its job on this one....and that you would take the time to prove it to me!

as for abramoff, i think we both have better things to do than look into that issue. was just making the point that people on both sides probably have some legit gripes to lodge on this issue....which may (or may not) mean that on this sort of thing, the media screw up in both directions in a roughly unbiased way.

meanwhile, think about the name of the bar where you want to spend that $10 bucks buying me drink(s).


4/18/2006 6:18 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...


a propos of your concerns regarding nyt pre-jump bias, a friend in the journalism business points out the following:

1. Today'd A1 NYT article about Mary Mccarthy discusses her $2k donation to Kerry in 2004 before the jump.

2. It buries this graf at the very end:

But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.

3. Meanwhile, the WaPo offers in the next-to-last graf of a long A1 article that

The White House also has recently barraged the agency with questions about the political affiliations of some of its senior intelligence officers, according to intelligence officials.

Whatever you think of Mary Mccarthy and what she appears to have done, I'm sure you will be quite upset to hear of such unbalanced journalistic conduct.

Perhaps you should write another letter to the WaPo?



4/23/2006 7:16 PM  
Blogger Bu$h Ate My Baby said...


You can't possibly be arguing that her donating the $2,000 (the maximum permitted by law and by any standard, quite a bit of coin for pretty much any individual, much less a government employee) to the campaign of the president's opponent is an important element in a story regarding her termination for alleged leaks? I actually don't think you are -- I think you are simply juxtaposing that to the paragraph you then quote, complaining about its placement: "But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration."

Let's break that paragraph down. It cites former CIA employees. As former employees, they probably have no direct knowledge as to events leading to her dismissal. This assumption is buttressed by the use of the word "may" in the phrase "may have led."

So they are delivering mere speculation. Not quite lead paragraph material.

They say the cause for the dismissal may have been related to her White House work during the Clinton administration.

According to the Washington Post, "She served as special assistant to the president and senior director for intelligence programs at the White House during the Clinton administration and the first few months of the Bush administration. She later returned to the CIA."

So it's certainly possible that there was some bad blood between her and the White House stemming from that period. But the sources don't give any substantive evidence. There was no alleged lamp throwing, for instance. If they had any grounds for making the link other than their speculation, wouldn't they have specified it?

4/27/2006 1:39 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...


You can't possibly be arguing that her donating the $2,000...is an important element in a story regarding her termination for alleged leaks...

Precisely. I am not arguing that. And apparently, neither are you. In fact, the only purpose for including that part of the story (much less doing so in a BAMBY-declared relevant pre-jump fashion!) is to suggest that she may have been somehow set against the Bush WH.

Meanwhile, a graf casting doubt---doubt that was subsequently reinforced by MM's lawyer's statement---on the assertion that MM was the source of the Dana Priest expose is buried at the end of the same article.

Seems like the sort of evidence of bias that you like to bring up when it suits your purposes.....

That was my point.


5/01/2006 11:02 AM  

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