The Coverage of “Bridgegate”
Let's think about how the media operates.
I am noticing a number of pieces/posts/comments that are bemoaning what is perceived as unfair media coverage of Chris Christie’s bridge problem vis-à-vis coverage of whatever the author thinks is a worse offense by the Obama administration.
For example, John Podhoretz in the NY Post: Why Bridgegate made headlines but Obama’s IRS scandal didn’t
To begin with, I reject the premise because the IRS story did make headlines. In fact, not only was there extensive reporting on the IRS story, there were congressional hearings. As such, the notion that the IRS business was ignored is simply incorrect.
Further, I always find these types of allegations odd because if the story in question was not reported upon, how do any of us know anything about it?
Podhoretz notes (and then draws a conclusion):
according to Scott Whitlock of the Media Research Center, “In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they’ve allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy.”
Why? Oh, come on, you know why. Christie belongs to one political party. Obama belongs to the other. You know which ones they belong to. And you know which ones the people at the three networks belong to, too: In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.
Let’s think about this:
1. To accept the notion that the press will not report on Democratic scandals one must be forget the 1990s and the name “Bill Clinton.” See, also, Spitzer, Eliot and Weiner, Anthony.*
2. The news media likes an easy narrative that will draw in viewers and readers. Note, for example, the pro-war nature of the Iraq war coverage (the president was, I think, Republican at the time).
3. The bridge story blew up for one very basic reason: the release of clear evidence. This story was a minor one (I had not even heard of it until this week, and I pay attention to the news) but it was the release of the texts and e-mails that clearly demonstrated malfeasance on the part of Christie’s staff are what made this a story, not some partisan desire by the press to attack a Republican.
4. Christie himself laid the foundation for a story like this to have legs. When you cultivate an image of a tough, no nonsense politico who will yell at school teachers, you are asking to be called a bully. The very fact that he had to say “I am not a bully” shows that he is aware of this situation. One event does not an image create—it has to have a context to start with. When people act within an already established narrative, then the story is amplified (e.g., Quayle and not being smart, Clinton and womanizing, Gore and exaggerating, Bush and not being intellectual, etc.).
5. In terms of the best explanation of media behavior, this is easy: a minor story became a major story because a) the details are straightforward, b) there is clear, easy to understand evidence, and c) it fits within an already established narrative.
The reason that Fast and Furious, the IRS controversy, and Benghazi have not resulted in the outcomes that many conservatives would like is not because they have not received adequate attention in the media (they have—as well as congressional attention), it is because those situations are not what many conservatives want them to be.
And by the way, when speaking of “the media” I mean the panoply of major media outlets, whether we are talking broadcast, cable, or print. I will say that yes, I do think it is possible that any given journalist, editor, or producer might allow partisan bias to influence what story is covered and how. However, I do not think that “the media” is monolithic and, moreover, voting Democratic is not going to stop an editor from running a story that will sell a lot of newspapers or a producer from avoiding a story that will attract a lot of eyeballs. Further, the consumers of news have to recognize that often they themselves are filtering information in a way that makes it seem like the deck is stacked against them. The phenomenon is not dissimilar from the way that we are always certain that the refs are calling the game in a way that negatively affects our team.
*Weiner is an addition–thanks to a comment from Michael Reynolds for the reminder.
Exactly. I want to see the email from Axelrod that says ‘time for some IRS problems for the tea party.’ In the absence of any such email, the whiners are presenting a false equivalence.
You left out Anthony Wiener.
Of course conservatives who suckle at Roger Ailes’ teats believe a completely different version of those non-scandal scandals. In their world it was all proven, unquestionable fact. They can’t understand why something they believed to be true had so little impact. The obvious answer: that they are systematically lied to by their preferred media, is never considered.
Again I’ll point to the religious connection. If you’ve spent your life believing fairy tales you’re going to have a hard time differentiating fact from fiction. Once you’ve swallowed God, the devil, angels, miracles, virgin births, burning bushes, boats full of animals, whales full of Jonahs, sons-of-God who just had to be crucified because, um, a loving God demanded it. . . Well, what’s an imaginary scandal or two? Once you decide that you can just make up reality, why stop at religion?
And before someone throws a Jesuit at me, right-wing evangelical denominations ain’t about Saint Augustine or Thomas Aquinas. Their religion is primitive, emotional, tribal and utterly stupid. You cannot expect people who believe the Bible should be taken literally, to be fine judges of reality.
Good post Steven. The Republicans have tried to make scandals out on non scandals for the last 6 years so outside the echo chamber no one pays any attention to them anymore. The latest twist is this may have been about a one billion dollar investment package. I really don’t believe that Christie didn’t know about this before the documents were dumped last week. I think that will come out and end his political career. This upsets many Republican power brokers because they have a pretty weak bull pen for 2016.
Indeed, I did. I had a nagging feeling I was forgetting an obvious one. I will add it to the post.
Latest jobs report, Iraq meltdown, crazy stuff in North Korea, coldest temperatures in history: yet all I see on the news is about a traffic jam on a bridge somewhere in New Jersey.
@Tyrell: Except that you are offering a false narrative in which those things are not being reported on as well.
And, I am sorry, abuse of public trust matters. Do you really think that it is not worthy of reporting to reveal that a public official abused power for partisan political gain? Do the people who had hours stolen from their lives not count at all?
(Seriously, though: the reason you know the jobs numbers, or about events in Iraq or North Korea is because of the news media).
I would add something else. The comparison of Bridgegate coverage to IRS coverage over the last six months is HIGHLY misleading. The IRS story took place *seven* months ago; the Bridgegate story a few days ago. You simply can’t compare the first week of coverage to something further downstream. I bet if he extended his search to “the last seven months”, he would get very different results.
Now, why would he do that and screw up a perfectly good phony outrage?
“the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they’ve allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy”
I have to laugh because that looks a lot like cherry-picking your time-frame. Didn’t the IRS scandal break in May, like 8 months ago? Missing the initial surge in coverage aren’t we? Looks like someone at that outfit got their certificate in Lying with Statistics.
[Ooops. @Hal_10000 beat me to it.]
Yes. There was no media coverage of the polar vortex at all. It’s not like Rush Limbaugh claimed that the media was completely making up the polar vortex thing.
@Hal_10000: I didn’t really pay attention to the reference to the temps. Yes, no reporting of the polar vortex at all. *sigh*
If one is really going to make that claim, one cannot be taken seriously.
Conservatives are just getting butt hurt here because the media accurately reported on a REAL scandal involving a conservative, and also accurately reported that the so called “scandals” pushed by the Republicans were fake.
@Hal_10000: Welcome to Brent Bozell and his party of hacks know as Media “Research” Center.
This “bridge somewhere in New Jersey” just happens to be the busiest bridge in the world. Eight states have a population smaller than the number of people who crossed this bridge during Revenge Week.
And I’m glad you think this doesn’t matter:
This is Republican governance in action. Just try to avoid needing an ambulance during a week when the local GOP monarch decides to throw his weight around on the busiest bridge in the world.
Revenge Week seems to have been carefully timed to inflict maximum pain. Monday (9/9/13), the first day of Revenge Week, was the first day of school. Friday night was going to be the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. The plug was pulled on Revenge Week at 8 am Friday, but only because a Cuomo appointee (Foye) got mad and abruptly intervened. Speaking of timing, it seems especially nuts to time this “traffic study” to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. GWB is an obvious terror target. When Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and his crew went to jail for planning to attack five targets, GWB was one of them.
That the people that own the networks and papers often vote the opposite is for some reason never brought up by the people that make this (exaggerated) claim.
Isn’t it rather like “And there were no survivors!!” If no one lived, how do you know what happened?
I absolutely hate when people start whining about coverage of X event by bring up their preferred Y event not being covered or mentioned at all. That’s usually the sign you’re dealing with an idiot with an ideologically axe to grind and the conversation is going nowhere fast. The translation is usually “I don’t want to talk about this, talk about what I want to hear!!”
Again, if you didn’t hear about it, how the hell did you hear about it?
Question: where do you live? Is it on a island with limited access points? Is it a major city with a population bigger then several states? is it somewhere where space and time are at a premium and you have limited alternate routes?
This sounds like the complaint of someone from a rural area who’s never had to deal with a major interruption like this. Someone died because of this – it wasn’t a traffic jam, it was a deliberate impediment of travel.
The NYC metro area has a population greater than roughly 46 states.
This. You take perceived slights with little factual basis, run them through an outrage machine, and then you get ratings. Sweet, juicy ratings.
Now was that so hard? All I wanted was a distinction between the idiots and the deluded fools, to use something like your terms. (Or was it ernie’s?)
I saw the Loyola in your pocket and flinched.
Two more points:
1) the press love covering presidential elections, and Christie is a candidate, whereas Obama isn’t anymore (although, of course, that didn’t help Bill Clinton).
2) It’s a lot easier for people to relate to a scandal if it features behavior they can imagine seeing in a co-worker or neighbor. A Benghazi cover-up (especially what actually happened, as opposed to what the Right wanted to have happened) is harder to imagine than having sex with an intern or bullying a subordinate.
I am humbled that anyone could confuse me with Mr. Reynolds.
The only list I ever made in any newspaper was the police blotter.
Fast and Furious: a couple hundred dead brown people, but since they’re on their side of the border, no big deal. Only person disciplined over it was the whistle-blower.
IRS Scandal: In Obama’s own words:
Main named official behind it takes the 5th when asked how she carried out her job, allowed to retire with her pension.
Justice Department spying on journalists: Eric Holder told two conflicting stories under oath, meaning that one of them was a lie.
I don’t care about Christie. If he goes down over this, big whoop. I would just like to see a smidgen of equality when it comes to investigating other scandals.
@Hal_10000: The apples-to-oranges comparison re: time frames was the first thing that I noticed, as well. Probably because I was prepping a lecture that involves teaching what a “relevant range” is earlier this afternoon.
Didn’t the IRS stuff break more than 6 months ago? Just from wiki it looks like may. Why did the media cover the IRS scandal more in the last 6 months than watergate was covered in the last 6 months, must be republican bias.
Yes, this is part of it as well.
@Jenos Idanian #13: As usual, you aren’t making an argument, or even cogently presenting evidence.
I guess that’s why you don’t grunch
@_@; Augh! Thanks a lot; I need to bleach my brain now.
“Why Bridgegate made headlines but Obama’s IRS scandal didn’t”
Maybe because we’re still waiting for somebody to prove that “Obama’s IRS scandal” is in fact a scandal.
Christie’s staff simply got the memo on the government shutdown late and thought the bridge was an open air monument.
Yes, it was a real scandal that the right-wing mainstream media wouldn’t report on the Bush-appointed Inspector General of the Treasury Department who lied to Congress when he said that was no IRS targeting of progressive groups and told his staff to not to turn over documents to Congress proving there had been.
this is small change, doesn’t even rank compared to the IRS scandal. at least fat boy owned up and apologized for it, unlike whats his name…..you know that guy who is blameless/clueless/shameless all at once?! did anyone even get fired for the IRS thing anyway?
Finding out the IRS singled out political groups for extra scrutiny (and that a majority of them were conservative because a majority of political groups in total are conservative) doesn’t rank next to intentionally causing lane closures on a highly trafficked bridge? Not to mention the bridge scandal has a direct link to the governor’s office, where the IRS scandal barely made it to Washington at all?
Explain how the two rank to you. I’m fascinated.
Brian Schweitzer nailed it this week. He pointed out that he, as governor, does not supervise all state workers. But he HAS to know what a small number of them – his closest advisers – are doing. If you don´t know what your closest advisers are doing you are being incompetent.
@Jenos Idanian #13: The Gish Gallop begins right here.
All you need to know there is “John Podhoretz.” People like John feel that “Benghazi,” “Fast and Furious,” and the “IRS Scandal” haven’t been covered at all. Also, many of those people feel that Obama’s “possibly fraudulent birth certificate” issue have scarcely been covered either.
This is just more of the “biased media coverage” talking point that the conservative movement has been pimping very effectively for over 30 years. That talking point is a major reason why the media has retreated into offering us a regular diet of “both sides do it” and other false equivalencies when discussing political dysfunction in Washington.
Fun fact: The George Washington Bridge is used by 276,000 vehicles each day.
If you make the average trip take an extra hour (conservative estimate, since most traffic is around rush hour and there were 4-5 hour delays), and each vehicle holds one person (also, very conservative — there are busses, etc), then that is cumulative 31 years per day.
Since they kept this up for four days, thats a minimum of 124 years — round up (since everything else is rounded down above) and that’s two lifetimes.
So, in addition to the one person killed, Cristie’s delays wasted two lifetimes. Body count is at 3.
That 75% of a Benghazi.
@Gustopher: A little difference between the two, even at its worst, Benghazi was a screw up, shutting down the lanes was intentional and made at the highest level of the Governor’s office. Pretty sure no one in the Obama administration woke up one morning and said, lets kill an ambassador today.
That is one very astute observation, Dr. Taylor.
What IRS scandal, exactly? They targeted groups (both liberal and conservative) applying for a tax exemption for additional scrutiny?
Well, hallelujah. You guys act like these groups were denied some constitutional right. NOBODY has a right to a tax exemption, especially groups like this that don’t even begin to meet the stipulations of the statute.
Frankly, as far as I’m concerned they were doing their jobs. They need to be doing MORE of it, not less. Thanks to all the manufactured outrage, we now have 501 applications more or less being rubber stamped.
Mqaybe the story and the coverage to compare Christie to is the drinking water contaminaiton in West Virginia. 300K people have gone five days without the use of potable water. Yet, most of the media does not seem to care about West Virginia or about the question of how does a state and local governments response to a spill of something that cannot be easily cleaned up (or even measured in the water), and what can be done to prevent such incidents in the future short of de-industrializing the U.S.
But the argument still holds that the media is probably not obsessing about West Virginia because it is West Virginia and the story does not move the U.S. closer to being a one party state.
@superdestroyer: Yes, it is a huge scandal that the media won’t expose the dangers of coal mining and coal’s usage.
Here’s the logic these people are using: “If these stories had been properly covered everyone would know the TRUTH ™ AS IT HAS BEEN REVEALED TO ME!!!! It is so obvious that there has been a massive cover up, the only reason people don’t know the TRUTH ™ is because the Lame Stream Media has rolled over like Obama’s lap dog!”
Sounds like the MSM is in the Koch Brothers’ pocket to me. You have to realize SD that West Virginia getting it up the a$$ isn’t “news” because there is nothing new in that fact.
On the slightly more serious side, I have been reading quite a bit about it. Apparently, so have you.
@superdestroyer: Yes, if there is one thing liberals are dreading it is the media starting to focus on lax regulation and the economic and social consequences of environmental devastation. The only reason the media is not covering stories like that is because covering those might make people vote for the republicans, defenders of the regulatory state and the environment.
Which makes it clear not only that Podhoretz is distorting the facts, but that he is doing so quite deliberately.
@Tillman: closing a few lanes to a bridge is “hi-jinx”, sicking the irs on your political opponents is “intimidation”.
the vast majority were “non-progressive” at best, even a law student would know that! are you for voter suppression or something?
The company involved in this accident is called.., Freedom Industries. You can´t make that up.
Yes, because the vast majority of these groups are Conservative. In fact, many liberal political campaigning groups have Conservative sounding names.
If you can prove that Obama or his aides actually did that in any way shape or form, I suggest you call Darryl Issa and give him your evidence. I can assure you, Darryl is quite open to baseless assertions founded on bullsh!t. He could probably use some more as he seems to be running low.
Actually no, only a FOX News viewer would “know” that. Leave out the word “vast” in your statement and you will reach the realm of accuracy. But then, why bother? FOX doesn’t.
@Andre Kenji: Andre, you will love this: The Marxist plot against West Virginia
When a company called Freedom Enterprises (no, really) poisons the water supply for 300,000 people by carelessly allowing thousands of gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol to leak into the water supply from a worn-out storage pond conveniently located just upstream from the area’s main water treatment plant, that’s called “free enterprise.” Free enterprise is good.
If anyone tries to do prevent such disasters, that’s called “regulation.” Regulation is bad, because it limits free enterprise.
go read the rest. it’s a hoot.
There’s yet another reason why this story has attracted coverage, and will continue to attract coverage: because it’s pretty obvious that we still don’t have the whole story.
Even if you believe that Christie didn’t personally order Revenge Week, it’s important to notice how he behaved after it was over. Over a period of months, while his people orchestrated a coverup, he provided cover for the coverup by suggesting that the lane closure was justified, by supporting the phony “traffic study” alibi, and by mocking and insulting reporters and lawmakers who asked questions. Instead of supporting the effort to find out what happened, he did everything he could to block it. Why?
And his current alibi for himself doesn’t add up, either, because he’s still trying to hide behind that phony “traffic study.” This is the heart of his current alibi: ‘I thought all along it was just some kind of legitimate traffic study, and I had no reason to doubt that.’ Well, except that he did have reason to doubt that. It’s been known for months that local authorities, including police and emergency services, were given zero warning. The bridge manager taking orders from Christie’s crony was specifically “instructed not to speak to anyone in Fort Lee.” That’s congruent with a revenge plan, but it’s not remotely congruent with the concept of a legitimate traffic study. You don’t need to be any kind of professional traffic engineer to realize that. This is a giant red flag, and Christie knew this all along. This is sufficient to indicate that he’s still not leveling with us.
Christie is trying to handle this with the following spin: ‘yes, communications were poor, mistakes were made, and Wildstein and Baroni have taken responsibility for that.’ And Wildstein has tried to use this spin: ‘we had to hide it from Fort Lee to avoid skewing the study.’ Sorry, but this doesn’t pass the laugh test, because no one could possibly think it’s OK for local emergency services to be kept in the dark. But this is specifically what Wildstein ordered. The bridge manager who implemented the order testified that he knew it was wrong but he did what was ordered because he was afraid of being fired. How is Weinstein’s order not criminal? Why isn’t Wildstein in jail? Why didn’t Christie act immediately to try to put Wildstein in jail? Maybe because they were in high school together? Wildstein announced his resignation on 12/6 but kept collecting his $150,000 salary until the end of the year.
Everyone loves a mystery, and everyone wants to keep reading a mystery until the conclusion is reached. We’re not there yet.
My “conservative” acquaintances are not complaining about coverage, but rather the “lack of outrage” about Mr. Obama using the IRS to target political opponents. It is simply impossible to discuss the situation with such people when we can’t even agree on the facts.
@Tony W: Well, if you weren’t so stubborn and just accepted TRUTH ™ into your soul you assuredly would agree on the “facts”.
As others have pointed out, this doesn’t make sense given that by “one party state” you mean “big government regulatory state.”
Everything about this story makes it perfect for exactly that type of narrative — especially on a national level since this is a type of spill arguably caused by (a) lax regulation enforcement and (b) that local and state authorities can’t handle. Kinda perfect for the “situation that only the feds” can handle narrative.
Perhaps you need to refine that “argument.”
@Andre Kenji: WAAAAHHH!! Why does the media makes jokes about Christie’s weight but no jokes about Schweitzer’s?!? Because the latter is a Democrat!?!!?! WAAAAHHHH!!!!
The vast majority are political action groups masquerading as social welfare organizations in order to use the tax code to mask their donor’s identities.
Are you for tax fraud or something?
@superdestroyer: Goddamnit, if it weren’t for the usual liberal media conspiracy theories I’m sure that you wouldn’t have received a single downvote.
@Sejanus: Schweitzer is Gisele Bundchen when compared to Christie. Most fat people that I know are skinny when compared to Christie, by the way. 😉
By the way, THAT´s illegal in Brazil:
Any governor that did something resembling this thing would have been from office, C´mon, Brazil is not known for the efficiency of it´s laws or by being tough with politicians. That´s a pretty low standard.
Not for nothing, but the Feds just launched an investigation in potential misuse of Sandy relief funds by Christie. From what I can tell, this one has teeth as well.
The guy is even incompetent at being corrupt, and the hits just keep on coming.
Given that the vast majority of applicants were also ‘non-progressive’ makes that not only likely but proper.
Ah, I see. “I had no idea. It was all done by my inner-circle staff, whom I’ve fired. And even though I literally grew up with one of them, I barely recognize his name” equals “owned up to it”.
Of course, this remarkable standard of responsibility is applied to all.
@Jenos Idanian #13: “I don’t care about Christie. If he goes down over this, big whoop. I would just like to see a smidgen of equality when it comes to investigating other scandals.”
I agree with Jenos. It’s essential that we give equal investigatory time to both real and fictional scandals.
@Jenos Idanian #13: “IRS Scandal: In Obama’s own words: “This is pretty straightforward,” said Obama. “If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that is outrageous, and there is no place for it, and they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity and people have to have confidence that they are applying the laws in a non-partisan way. You should feel that way regardless of party.” “But I have got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it, and we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this,” he added.”
And indeed, they investigated… and found out that most of the accusations were false, and that the IRS was properly investigating groups on both the right and the left to see if they qualifiied for the tax breaks they were claiming.
Of course Baby Jenos ignores everything that happened after Obama’s statement. It’s kind of like saying we should be bombing Germany and Japan and quoting Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor speech as justification, conveniently forgetting the events of 1941-45…
@Tyrell: “…coldest temperatures in history…”
I’m sorry, but where are these?
@KM: “I absolutely hate when people start whining about coverage of X event by bring up their preferred Y event not being covered or mentioned at all. That’s usually the sign you’re dealing with an idiot with an ideologically axe to grind and the conversation is going nowhere fast. The translation is usually “I don’t want to talk about this, talk about what I want to hear!!””
It’s doubly infuriating when the event in question *was* covered, and covered quite a bit.
@Mutaman: “Maybe because we’re still waiting for somebody to prove that “Obama’s IRS scandal” is in fact a scandal. ”
No – the GOP has spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove that, and gave up, because it’s not (a) a scandal involving high-level officials, and (b) probably not a scandal at all (the low-level guys were looking for clues that certain applications were indeed false).
@Timothy Watson: “Yes, it is a huge scandal that the media won’t expose the dangers of coal mining and coal’s usage. ”
I think that it conclusively proves that the media is liberal, since as we all know, Stalin loved coal.
I mean, I’m not one for conspiratorial thinking, but wow, the government and media both piling on Chris Christie as his ascension to frontrunner for 2016 peaks? That has to be exploding a few heads in the Fox News schematorium. Ratings!
It’s a kuhn-speer-a-see!
Exactly. Just like the lame stream media had to bring down Herman Cain cause they knew he would beat Obama.
I had to balk at that too.
I do remember Jan. 1977 here in the Midwest. I don’t remember Ty being around though.
I was working for the Street Dept. in Murphysboro at the time. It was very cold.
As for latitude we are SOUTH of Washington DC.
@ernieyeball: Wandering very far off-topic, I was working nightshift in an outdoor job during that winter of ’76-’77 and I also remember it as extraordinarily cold.
I also seem to remember that there was a volcanic eruption that cooled the planet (and produced amazing sunsets), but Mr Google’s Wonderful Machine doesn’t allow me to confirm that. But what was really interesting (and why one could waste astonishing amounts of one’s life on the internet) is that the eruption of Mt Pinatuvo in ’91 actually WARMED the northern hemisphere. Had something to do with the amount of sulfur gases versus ash in the eruption.
Thought maybe someone would find that as fascinating as I did.
Now back to the regularly scheduled program.
@JohnMcC: It comes down to whether your exploding volcano is spitting out hot gases….or a lot of ash. So it’s not as easy as saying volcano == [cooling] or volcano == [warming.]
Not that this will keep the Global Warming Denial crowd from jumping on the bandwagon, however….
@grumpy realist: At the risk of really really hijacking this thread, thanks for your attention. I guess like so much in science (in life!) once you see it, it’s obvious.
It´s still hot here in the Southern Hemisphere, where is supposed to be hot, by the way.
@Andre Kenji: sure, like ‘tea party” or something?!
@HarvardLaw92: how is that fraud? did they break a law or something? the scotus said otherwise, unless something changed.
@OzarkHillbilly: i don’t watch tv aside from sports, are you one of those who watches fox and yells at the tv?
@David in KC: How can you be so sure of that when he hasn’t even provided a legal birth certificate? (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)
Tell you what, fill out a government form in order to try to claim a tax exemption that you don’t qualify for, pop it in the mail, and then see what happens.
These groups are falsely claiming to be social welfare organizations, in violations of the specific mandates of 26 U.S 504(c)(4)(a), specifically:
* A false statement of material fact
* Knowledge that the statement is untrue
* Intent to deceive
* Justifiable reliance by the the deceived on the material statement made
* Injury to the deceived.
These groups are making a false statement of material fact, on an official form under penalty of perjury, in order to obtain a tax exemption and to obtain the legal benefit of (as political orgs) being able to shield the identity of their donors from public scrutiny. They used either the mail or the wire to perpetrate the fraud.
They are 527 orgs pretending to be 501c4 orgs in order to avoid having to disclose the identity of their donors, nothing more.
I can make a strong case for the satisfaction of all five of those elements in that scenario. Hell, I’m sure that you can with a little effort, and you’re not even an attorney.
So, boom. Tax fraud. Perjury. Mail / wire fraud.
Need I go on?
The “like/dislike” and “helpful/unhelpful” clicks always seem to support one side of the argument on these posts. What are we dealing with here, liberal academics? Im kidding of course, there is an exact even partisan split in academia, same as the media.
@HarvardLaw92: well i’m not an attorney (and i don’t play one on tv) – i did do my own divorce though! end of the day, it’s just going to make more attorneys richer, as is always the case- conspiracy maybe?
@Tillman: it’s even weaker than “bridgegate”- tv ads promoting joisy as a vacation hot spot after the hurricane did a few billion $$$ in upgrades.
i used to vacation in south jersey, nice place…wouldn’t want to live there now.
@HarvardLaw92: During that dust-up’s high media phase I seem to recall that there had been an IRS ruling that took the teeth out of the law you cite. I think Lawrence O’Donnell was raving about it night after night. Lacking a decision to enforce from the IRS at the time that the applications were posted, could a later administrator come along and charge those organizations with a crime? Just askin’. (Seems that the sense of victimization that characterizes the TP folk would go all the way to 11. What an amusing spectacle that would be!)
@bill: I don’t have TV, but I have plenty of FOX news idiots around me and you sound just like them.
Christie facing fresh investigations
Representative Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat who initially asked HUD to investigate the spending of the relief fund, told CNN that the successful TV ad campaign featuring the Christies had cost $4.7m while another proposed series of TV commercials that did not put the governor and his family on screen would have cost just $2.5m. “This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery,” he said.
The problem for Christie is that the state paid an extra 2.2 million dollars for an ad campaign that seemed to do more to promote him than it did to promote the state, during an election campaign.
The key phrase is that last part bill. Christie really should have known better. The conflict of interest is so obvious anyone could see it, much less a former USDA.
In Brazil he would be already out of office solely for appearing in these ads, specially in a election year. And Brazil is not known for institutions or for being tough with politicians.
I first heard about this months ago on a blog. The national media didn’t seem to cover it at all until there was smoking gun proof.
@kevin: Write a comment with contextual nuance, logic, and a fair dose of snark. You’re bound to get up-votes.
You could also just be a partisan firebrand, but even the liberal ones here overstep their bounds regularly enough for down-votes.
Finally, why the bit about academia? Do we discuss the political distribution of actuaries or chemical engineers as if those should be equal?
IRS rules are just that – administrative rules. In any court case, they are suggestive as to intent to deceive, nothing more. The operative determinant would be the language of the statute(s) themselves.
O’Donnell was right to rave about it. It’s nothing short of carte blanche for political corruption without the slightest hope of discovery. These people form C4’s precisely so they can raise unlimited amounts of money, in secret, to spend on political campaigns. They spend just enough to preserve the illusion that they serve a social welfare purpose, then transfer the rest to a linked 501(c)(3) or associated 527, who then spend the rest on political campaigns. Often, they form a web of 501(c)(4)’s and transfer funding between them, and all of them spend on political campaigns.
While C3’s and 527’s are subject to disclosure, they need only disclose that the funds came from the 501(c)(4). There is no further disclosure as to the men behind the curtain pulling the strings.
It’s nothing more than a dodge to get around our already pitifully limited and toothless campaign finance laws, and in a sense legalized bribery, Taken together, this mess is probably the greatest threat to the idea of participatory democracy that we’ve ever known.
@kevin: Ever ask yourself why academia runs liberal? Or reporters for that matter? If everyone who has carefully studied a matter reaches conclusions opposite yours, it could be that they’re all biased. But there is another moderately obvious explanation.
Pretty quiet on the post front here at OTB for the last couple days.
Hope everyone is OK.
I think Doug would rather do anything than write about Bridgegate….after all, a corrupt politician using the power of the state to punish his political opponents via harassment of the citizens isn’t something that really interests a professed Libertarian…..
The Washington Post‘s Chris Cilizza reports a rather major discrepancy regarding the MRC graph making the rounds:
I also find MRC’s choice of sample disingenuous. From Newsbusters:
If you’re going to discuss “media bias,” the big three networks are a really, really small piece of a larger universe, and Americans’ media habits reflect this. According to a July 8, 2013, Gallup poll 55 percent of Americans say TV is their primary news source. Of the 55 percent who say that TV is their primary source, the most charitable assumptions only have 26 percent of Americans turning to the networks as their primary source of news. And a look at ratings demonstrates that the evening newscasts’ audience is in decline.
A bigger picture of “the media” would take into account not only the three major news networks, but major newspapers, digital sources, cable news, and talk radio. I suspect that if all of these were included in MRC’s sample, then we would see a far more media mentions of the IRS tax situation.
Per stonetools, Doug’s dad passed away 🙁
Oh, how terrible and sad. My condolences to him and his family. What awful news.
I only hope that everything is well with the Mataconis family. Loved ones may go, saudade will stay forever.
@Andre Kenji: brazil, really? what’s that got to do with anything? fat boy was a media darling after sandy, mainly because he shook obama’s hand and didn’t let politics interfere with the unstoppable fountain of aid that come with theses disasters.
You really don’t see the problem inherent in using public money to produce what amount to thinly veiled campaign commercials? Indeed, they turned down a lower bid precisely because it didn’t involve Christie being in the commercials.
I agree that the media runs hot and cold, and loves a scandal, but come on …
@bill: I´m talking about Brazil because I know the Brazlian legal system, my knowledge of other countries legal system is at it´s best thin. But I imagine that other countries have similar restrictions, because we are talking about political advertisement in disguise, and paid by the taxpayer.
That´s something that even many Banana Republics do not accept.
To start, I’m not happy that I had to ask my phone what an actuary actuarrely is. I feel there are a lot of academics commenting on the media here. Bias from the media seemed to be the cause of discussion.
So you are saying that academics and reporters run liberal? Oh..
@kevin: Yeah, funny that people whose job it is to study issues closely tend to be that way. It’s almost as if the better-informed one is, the less likely one is to continue to hold conservative views. I remember an observation I heard somewhere:
Q: What’s a liberal?
A: A conservative who was mugged by reality.
Doug, sorry for your loss.
@kevin: You don’t have to be an academic to know what an actuary is, unless your idea of an “academic” is someone who graduated from middle school.
I didn’t say someone had to be an academic to know what an actuary is. Just figured i would point that out.
That sounds more like a joke that you heard somewhere rather than an observation.
@HarvardLaw92: the media loved christie because he was rubbing elbows with obama- honeymoon’s over now as he’s a viable candidate for the teflon dame – it’s not like he was running against someone anyway. obama would have approved of this use of sandy funds i’m sure. joisy was founded on graft and will always be a graft state, it is what it is.
jeez, when’s Doug coming back anyway?
@kevin: No, jokes are funny.