Monday, November 22, 2010

Exhibit B of Wagman's Biased and Lazy Reporting

Yesterday, I wrote about the terrible reporting of Jake Wagman that fed into Ed Martin's ridiculous insinuations of "voter fraud" in Congressman Carnahan's decisive 4,500 vote win over Martin. Wagman left out important information, and, as a point of comparison, has been completely ignoring students who were apparently illegally purged from voter rolls and denied provisional ballots in an election that was decided by less than 180 votes. All of this was worse, I wrote, given the context of Wagman's other terrible reporting on the Russ Carnahan/Ed Martin race.

Today, I present a further example of that context. As noted, the St. Louis Tea Party that idolizes Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe has had nothing but glowing praise for Wagman's reporting on the Carnahan/Martin race for the past two months. Check out this tweet from Dana Loesch in September:
Yup, Dana Loesch said it was a "solid piece." That should be your first warning.

If you read the story, you can see why Loesch was so excited about it. The post basically amounts to nothing more than an Ed Martin press release, suggesting that the "perception of coziness" from Tom Carnahan being awarded $107 million of federal funding would be an "unwelcome liability" for the Carnahans. Wagman quoted BFF Ed Martin in the story, along with Lloyd Smith, the executive director of the Missouri GOP. He did not quote any Democrats in his hit piece.

And to further see just how absolutely terrible Wagman's reporting was, compare it to his colleague Bill Lambrecht, who actually took the time to figure out the details of the funding. Here's my previous summary of Lambrecht's article:
In order for Ed Martin's claims to be true, Russ Carnahan would have had to have some influence over the process of awarding the funds. However, as is clearly reported in the article, neither Russ Carnahan nor Robin Carnahan had any roll in deciding how the funds were used:
Russ Carnahan was among 244 House Democrats who voted for the legislation. But officials from the Energy and Treasury departments, who jointly administer the program, said that neither Russ nor Robin Carnahan played a role in the awards.
But hold on because it actually gets better. Not only did Russ Carnahan not play a role in the awarding of the funds, he couldn't possibly have played a role, because the funding was awarded automatically to projects that met the basic criteria:
The upfront payments to Lost Creek, a $300-million-plus project, and various other projects aren't awarded competitively but on the basis of meeting various criteria. For instance, companies were required to submit accredited designs and start building by the end of this year. Energy Department officials described the process as automatic; the Treasury Department is required to issue the payments to those who qualify within 60 days of application.

"Treasury has no discretionary authority in this," said Treasury spokeswoman Sandra Salstrom.
In other words, any projects that met certain criteria were funded, including another $85 million dollar project in Missouri last year and a $170 million dollar project in Illinois.

So not only was there no influence from Russ or Robin, there was no possible role influence could play! Martin's claims of "funneling" were completely fabricated. Tom Carnahan says as much in the article:
In an interview, Carnahan, 41, the youngest son of former Gov. Mel Carnahan and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, said he is untroubled by criticism of the payment. He said that neither his family's political clout nor any lobbying could have played a role in the process.

"Not only was there not any contact or anything like that, it was not necessary," he said, referring to the eligibility requirements.
Tom Carnahan also said that his company has invested a lot of money in rural Missouri:
Carnahan asserted that his 5-year-old company has been responsible for $600 million investments in Missouri "that have made gigantic contributions to the economy in rural Missouri. I'm very proud of that. We need to be doing more to support renewable energy, not less."
And lest you think that this tax credit was the result of some sneaky language put in by Russ to help out his brother, the article reports that the payments were actually composed of two tax credits: one that has been around since the 70s and one that was first approved in 1992. Prior to the stimulus, the credits were reauthorized in 2008, and even Roy Blunt voted for them:
In fact, Robin Carnahan's opponent in the Senate race, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, was a key backer of the financial bailout bill in 2008, one of several measures that reauthorized the tax credit.
Finally, Martin and tea partiers have been complaining that the award was in the form of cash rather than tax credits, and this was also explained in the article:
Critics of the Lost Creek funding have seized on the design of the payment. Rather than giving the credits after companies file tax returns, the stimulus legislation provides for upfront payments equivalent to 30 percent of the cost of the project. It was done that way, the Treasury Department has said, so "the near term goal of creating and retaining jobs is achieved, as well as the long-term benefit of expanding the use of clean and renewable energy."
So given that Ed Martin has been repeatedly making accusations about undue influence in a process that Carnahan could not possibly have influenced, what exactly is Martin's explanation for his repeated acusations of corruption?
"I'm not saying there's anything illegal; it may not be corruption with a capital 'C' with people taking bribes. But it doesn't smell right," said Martin, who raised the issue while debating Russ Carnahan over the weekend.
It doesn't smell right. That's Ed Martin's pathetic explanation for months of smears about a process that Carnahan couldn't influence.
Now, I suppose you could try to defend Wagman by pointing out that he got quotes from the Carnahans the following day, but that largely misses the point. If you put out misleading information one day, then put out true information the following day, there's going to be a percentage of people who only saw the first information. So putting out one-sided smear pieces is damaging to the journalistic ideal of an informed public. Furthermore, when you see what a great job Lambrecht did actually getting the details of the case, it makes you wonder why they hell Wagman just prints smears from a press release without doing any investigation whatsoever. Really, it's just not responsible journalism, however you spin it. Which is exactly why Dana Loesch loved it.

1 comment:

  1. At a time when newspapers across the United States are losing revenue, the Post Dispatch can ill afford to keep a lazy and biased "reporter" like Wagman. As a weekend only subscriber, I'm going to let them know that I expect unbiased reporting from our area's only local print daily. One thing that continues to bother me about the PD is that local activists for health care reform held many large rallies and other events prior to the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The PD never bothered to send a reporter to those events, but somehow Wagman can manage to show up any time the Tea Party wiggles it's pinkie finger.