1) Late Wednesday
afternoon the wire services moved a story announcing that John and Alice
Martin, the couple which had taped the cellular phone call of Newt
Gingrich stratagizing with top Republicans, had agreed to plead guilty to
wiretapping charges and will cooperate with investigators. The Washington
Times put the news across the top of page one on Thursday and every other
major paper ran stories inside.
reporter Laurie Kellman explained the seriousness of the investigation:
who handled the tape or knew of it before excerpts were published in the
New York Times on January 13 were Rep. Jim McDermott, to whom the Martins
say they gave the tape; House Minority Whip David Bonior, whose staff
allegedly suggested immunity for the couple; and Karen Thurman, Florida
Democrat, to whom the couple first sent the tape. Yesterday's plea bargain
with the Martins indicates that the Justice Department is pursuing more
serious charges against lawmakers and aides." The Times quoted a
Deputy Assistant Attorney General noting that anyone disseminating the
tape committed a felony.
Coverage of this
development: A brief item on CNN's The World Today Wednesday night. But
not a word on the April 23 or April 24 ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening
News or NBC Nightly News, nor a syllable about it on Thursday's morning
networks are ignoring the story the newspapers which published quotes from
the tape are actively impeding the investigation. In an April 3 Washington
Times story reporter Brian Blomquist relayed that "Deputy Assistant
Attorney General Robert Litt asked the New York Times, the Atlanta
Constitution and Roll Call in a March 26 letter to hand over their tapes
voluntarily, along with 'any accompanying letter' from their source."
The media outlets refused to help: "The newspapers said they would
not cooperate in a matter that might reveal a source."
A look back at
coverage of the taped call will remind you of the media's angle: more
interested in how it could be used to hurt Gingrich than in the unethical
way in which it was obtained. On the January 13 CBS Evening News Dan
Rather introduced a story by focusing not on the ethics of Democrats but
on how Republicans are guilty of trying to change topics:
Hill the House today was supposed to begin making full disclosure of House
Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethical violations and tax problems. It didn't.
And what's more, now there's an added ethics allegation based on what
Gingrich said, in what he thought was a secret telephone call, which
Democrats say is proof that Gingrich violated a promise to the House
ethics committee not to mount a political damage control effort. But
Republicans tried to shift the focus today away from what Gingrich
actually said. Bob Schieffer has the latest."
The next night,
on the January 14 CBS Evening News, reporter Wyatt Andrews demonstrated
how easy it is to tune in a cellular call and reviewed how the Martins
claimed they caught the call, then concluded his piece:
the Martins could be charged with a crime. Congressman James McDermott,
who leaked the tape, could be charged with a crime and ironically, in the
ways of Washington, mini-tapegate has for five days sidetracked
substantive ethics charges against the Speaker of the House."
later and the networks have yet to get sidetracked from their obsession
2) Disclosures on
the fundraising front haven't relented, but the networks refuse to cover
them. Here are two items from this week:
-- New York Times
reporters Jeff Gerth, David Sanger and Sheryl WuDunn figured out why the
Riady family of Indonesia poured so much money into the Democratic Party.
They planned to buy a big U.S. bank, a move that would require approval
from several regulatory agencies. The controversy over their donations and
their representative, John Huang, dissuaded them from the idea. In a front
page story on Thursday, April 24, the Times reporters explained:
disclosure that the family intended to invest hundreds of millions of
dollars in a California bank offers the first significant indication that
the Riady family had a specific business interest that would have required
help from a range of government agencies and regulators..."
Probing Illegal Funds from India," declared an April 23 page one
headline in The Hill, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill. Reporter Jock
first solid evidence of illegal campaign contributions by a foreign
government official in a dozen years, the Federal Election Commission is
investigating at least $46,000 in contributions from a senior Indian
intelligence officer to 18 current and former Democratic congressional
candidates. The confidential FEC investigation -- which some critics fear
has run off-track -- focuses on the activities of Lalit Gadhia, a
long-time Maryland political activist who has ties to Gov. Parris
Glendening (D) and pled guilty last summer to a felony charge of making
false statements in campaign disclosures.
admitted receiving $100 bills from a top Indian Embassy official and
illegally laundering the cash through Indian-Americans to election
campaigns of India-friendly Democrats. The scheme, denied by the Embassy,
was discovered by FBI agents who found receipts of packages that Gadhia
sent to the Embassy, The Hill has learned.
of international intrigue has drawn little attention despite the current
concern about foreign money in U.S. elections."
Indeed, none of
the networks, not even CNN picked up the Hill revelation of
"illegal" donations to Democrats. But when the Center for
Responsive Politics made an announcement about legal fundraising by
Congressman Dan Burton, chair of the House committee investigating
fundraising, at least one network found it newsworthy.
During the 8am
news update on the April 17 CBS This Morning, MRC news analyst Steve
Kaminski noticed, anchor Jose Diaz-Balart intoned:
Congressman Dan Burton who chairs the House committee investigating
campaign fundraising turns out to have a somewhat unusual record himself:
84 percent of the money Burton raised for last election came from outside
his state. It's important to state that there's nothing illegal about
Then why is it
news? (You can read the full story from The Hill at: