Thursday, October 7, 2010

There's No Defense for Ed Martin's Role In Memogate Scandal

A couple days ago, I cited a Post-Dispatch editorial that laid out the litany of scandals Ed Martin was involved in during his short 15-month tenure as Chief of Staff for Matt Blunt (before getting fired for his role in smearing a whistleblower). In light of the tea party's desperate attempts to pretend that Martin did nothing wrong during this scandal, I want to go into a little more detail about what he did and, specifically, show how pretty much every news outlet in the state of Missouri was openly condemning Martin's unethical behavior.

I start by mentioning that the recent "4 part series" purporting to get Martin off the hook only discusses the question of whether Ed Martin fired a whistleblower. Even if it were true that Martin "didn't fire a whistleblower" (which it's not), Ed Martin could not possibly be said to have behaved decently in the situation. Here's a brief rehash of what happenend:

  • After Ed Martin had already been busted multiple times improperly using the Governor's office for partisan purposes, a citizen forwarded reporter Tony Messenger an email from Ed Martin coordinating attacks by pro-life groups on Attorney General Jay Nixon while Martin was on the clock working for the state.
  • Messenger asked Martin about the email, and Martin claimed he deleted it, which would be a violation of state sunshine laws regarding the retention of public records.
  • Republican Scott Eckersley sent Martin and other members of the Blunt administration emails informing them that emails were, in fact, part of the public record.
  • Eckersley was then fired, and he said it was because he was warning them about violations of the state sunshine laws.
  • The GOP insider slime machine claimed the firing was because Eckersley "had a bad reaction to the end of his last relationship," and because,"he started making bad life choices in drinking and pornography."
  • In fact, Blunt and Martin's lawyers sent reams of personal records directly to reporters across the state in an attempt to smear Eckersley even while claiming that sharing their own personal records would be against the law.
  • The Blunt administration lied and claimed that Eckersley never mentioned his views about the email retention prior to a Sept. 28 meeting with Ed Martin (in fact, Eckersley sent multiple emails, including at least one to Ed Martin, about the topic prior to that meeting).
  • The Blunt administration also lied and claimed that the records didn't exist.
  • Someone in the Blunt administration illegally accessed Eckersley's email account while digging for information to try to smear him with.
  • Ed Martin was finally fired in a failed attempt to salvage the Blunt administration's dignity.

  • Now, out of all that, the only thing being challenged by the tea party is that Eckersley was fired for being a whistleblower. In other words, they're apparently perfectly willing to accept that Martin broke the law, lied repeatedly, and smeared Eckersley, but they think that if there were reasons for Eckersley being fired then we should all just forget about the whole thing. It's unbelievably deranged reasoning. But since they make no attempt whatsoever to defend the other facts of the case, I can only assume that the St. Louis tea party willingly admits that the candidate they endorsed has a hatred for government transparency, is a serial liar, and is willing to smear any law-abiding and honerable conservatives who get in his way. Quite a principled stand they're taking.

    But back to the claim that Scott Eckersley is "not a whistleblower." Jim Durbin, amazingly, catches himself in a lie while trying to make this case. In his earlier post, he claims that "there is no evidence evidence showing Eckersley to be a Whistleblower."

    Here is Durbin's reasoning:
    1) The single cited story by Russ Carnahan, or by anyone, claiming proof of emails written by Eckersley comes from an AP story written on November 17, 2008.

    Here is that email.

    Note carefully that the email is a legal opinion on the way the Governor's office can respond to allegations of illegally deleting emails.

    Specifically, Eckersley's counsel is that if the records are not retained, they don't fall under the Sunshine law.

    Should there be a question, Eckersley continues, drag Jay Nixon into it to force him to talk about what it means.

    It's a political and legal document. No where does it say that Eckersley is warning Henry that what he is talking about is improper.

    And yet this is the smoking gun the AP reported on.
    First of all, Durbin's claim that that AP article was "the single cited story by Russ Carnahan, or by anyone, claiming proof of emails written by Eckersley" is patently false. One can find numerous stories by the Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, and others, making that point. Futhermore, the email Durbin includes in his original post disproves his own point. In that email, Eckersley makes the point that emails are public record, which is precisely what Martin and the Blunt administration were denying. But even more ridiculous is that Durbin's post just a couple hours later has another email from Eckersley where Eckersley is warning Ed Martin that the emails violate their official policy (and the law):

    In other words, Durbin's claim in his first post that the only evidence for whistleblowing was the one email was a blatant falsehood. And it was a falsehood that he must have realized just two hours later (if not earlier). Yet he didn't correct his false information, despite knowing that it was false. Unless Durbin has the same memory as the guy in Memento, he was lying. Of course, this isn't the first time: Durbin also previously admitted that he knowingly withheld a correction to false information he was spreading because he didn't want to "help SEIU concoct a new story." He has a history of putting out false information and refusing to correct it for cynical political reasons: in other words, he is a completely untrustworthy source of information.

    But I digress. Durbin's own reporting showed that Eckersley warned Ed Martin about the violation of their policy, yet Durbin misleadingly tries to claim that Eckersley wasn't reallly a whistleblower. Durbin goes on to claim that Eckersley was fired for "being late" and "insubordination." Of course, at the time of the firing, the Republican smear machine claimed that Eckersley was "looking at porn" and "drinking," and, in fact, Ed Martin is still claiming that Eckersley was fired for "looking at porn." This claim is also a blatant lie, since the Blunt crew started searching Eckersley's internet records after he was fired, not before. Eckersley, by the way, contends that the claim was based on him being directed to a site against his knowledge.

    Not only that, but a quick perusal of the articles written by journalists from around the state who were familiar with all of the details of the case showed that there was basically unanimous agreement that Martin had behaved in a slimy manner and that Eckersley had been treated unfairly.

    From the Kansas City Star:
    ST. LOUIS | The release of thousands of e-mails from top officials in Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration appears to partially vindicate a disgraced staff lawyer who was fired last year.

    Scott Eckersley’s rise and fall — and proof of his longstanding claim that he had warned the administration over e-mail secrecy — are documented in a cache of 60,166 pages of e-mails released to an unprecedented consortium of media organizations, including The Kansas City Star.

    In seven weeks he went from being well-liked in the administration to being out of a job, fired in the midst of a spiraling controversy over whether e-mails between top staff members should be released to the public.

    The e-mails also reveal that Blunt’s former chief of staff Ed Martin orchestrated political opposition with outside groups to judicial nominees and to the state’s system for selecting judges.
    And, a little further:
    In the following days, Chrismer insisted to reporters that “there is no statute or case that requires the state to retain individual’s e-mails as a public record.” Blunt told reporters that staffers would not be required to save e-mails for three years.

    The next day, Eckersley advised Martin about the existing office policy on records retention. He told his boss, Herschel, that the governor is “going around saying we don’t have an office policy” and that “I don’t think Chrismer gets it.”

    Later the same day, Chrismer asked Herschel to direct Eckersley not to e-mail anyone about e-mail retention policy, and Herschel asked Eckersley to go through him “before you start e-mailing people.”
    From the Post-Dispatch:
    For more than a year, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration has defended itself against accusations that it has ignored laws that guarantee an open government.

    The administration contended that a fired staff lawyer never offered advice about the governor's policy requiring public records, including e-mails, to be retained.

    But he did.

    Blunt’s staffers said the administration did not regularly conduct state business out of public view on campaign e-mail accounts.

    But they did.

    And the governor's then-chief-of-staff denied the existence of e-mails showing he had engaged in political activities on state time.

    But hundreds of them exist.

    Proof of that pattern of mistatements is contained in more than 60,000 pages of e-mails, filling 22 boxes, that were turned over late last week to three news outlets, including the Post-Dispatch, which participated in a lawsuit seeking the records.
    And the Springfield News-Leader:
    Lest we forget, Eckersley is a 30-year-old attorney who Martin thought was expendable. He wasn't shown the door with a pat on the back. Nobody called him a "good friend" who did a "great job." No, Martin tossed Eckersley and his reputation on the trash heap. And then, with the full knowledge of the governor, he orchestrated a taxpayer-funded character assassination unlike anything ever seen before in Missouri government.
    So I guess the only question left for conservatives is who are you going to believe: the tea party or everyone who was paying attention to the facts of the case three years ago?

    1 comment:

    1. While admittedly a bit off-topic, but regarding Ed Martin, I find it very interesting to watch the two local Tea Party founders as they each seek to monitize "their cause" in their own unique ways. Loesch seems to have found the golden ring on her own while Hennessy looks like he's now whoring for a post-election job with Ed Martin, given that he's been unsuccessful in finding other ways to make money from this gig. From the get-go, I've viewed both of them as being more interested in pushing their own personal self-interests more than the "Tea Party passion." Now it seems as if Hennessy has become nothing but a lap dog for the sleazebag Martin, given that he's found no other way to cash-in on the Tea Party fad, unlike his cohort in crime.

      I think it's always been about the money and potential access to power for BH. By the way, I'm guessing that Tea Party Caucus has gone by the wayside, even though the 17 mystery members are still listed on that site.

      Just sayin'