Thursday, October 06, 2005
Finally: Today's New York Times finally runs an article on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commitee's illegal accesssing of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's credit report, more than two weeks after the story first broke.
But the article is really a case study on spin -- how to provide all the facts, but mislead and obsfucate in order to protect their ideological friends. The story is written as a horse race piece and not a hard news crime/scandal piece. You don't find out that there is a criminal investigation until the seventh graf. Talk about burying the lede. Frankly, if a first year journalism student turned this into me they'd probably get a D. It's well written, but the story is out of order.
Democrats Are on Defensive in Maryland Senate Race
This headline is written to guarantee that you don't read any farther. It communicates nothing. It's boring. Dull. You probably don't want to read the story. The lede:
National Republicans, who face an uphill battle in their efforts to capture the open United States Senate seat in heavily Democratic Maryland next year, are trying to exploit potential legal problems that Democrats are now suddenly facing in that race.
Ah, you made it past the headline, let us see if we can put you to sleep before you go any further. "Potential legal problems?" Boring. Read no further.
The Republicans are seizing on a disclosure that two researchers at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee improperly obtained the credit report of Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a Republican who is considering a bid for the Senate seat.
Dang! You read the next paragraph. This is a soft-peddled lede. We've got to mention this, but we would rather you not think to hard on it. You see, they "improperly obtained the credit report." If this were Republicans we would've used the term "illegally." We make Republicans look bad, but not Democrats.
In recent days, Republicans have sought to put Democrats on the defensive, saying the incident underscores just how concerned the opposition is to the prospect of a Steele candidacy.
"He is very popular and Democrats have been at his heels since he announced his exploratory committee," said Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
For their part, Democrats describe the incident as an isolated event that Republicans are focusing on for political gain.
Have you forgot about the credit report yet? Good. See, nothing more to read here. It's just a he said/she said political thing. You can stop reading now.
Mr. Steele, the first black elected official to hold statewide office in Maryland, is considered a rising Republican star. Republicans from President Bush down have reportedly urged him to run ever since Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat, announced he would not seek re-election after nearly three decades in office.
This is the obligatory, who is this Steele guy and why is he running paragraph. You can stop reading now. Please.
The two sides have been battling since late last month, when it was disclosed that the United States attorney's office for the District of Columbia and the F.B.I. were investigating the possibility that Mr. Steele's credit report was obtained illegally by the two Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staff members.
See, this is really not important, because we here at the Times have been ignoring it for a couple of weeks. If it were important, we would've told you sooner.
Democrats contend that the incident was nothing more than a lapse in judgment by the two researchers, who were suspended in July after reporting what they had done to senior officials at the committee. The two are Katie Barge, who was the committee's research director, and Lauren Weiner, her deputy, according to officials.
Phil Singer, a spokesman for the committee, said that the two women subsequently resigned and that committee officials immediately turned the matter over to the United States attorney's office. He said the credit report was never circulated and was destroyed.
"The D.S.C.C. handled this incident in an exemplary way," Mr. Singer said. "The D.S.C.C. regretted that this incident occurred and has apologized to Mr. Steele."
Why are you still reading this article? You see, everything is fine. The Democrats are terribly sorry about the whole incident, now go back to eating your breakfast. Is that an Einstein Bros. bagel? Are you going to eat it?
Channing D. Phillips, spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office, confirmed that committee officials reported the incident in July. He would not comment on the specifics of the investigation, including whether it was limited to the two former staff members.
See, we talked to the prosecutor. Covering all our bases. Could you please stop reading now?
It is illegal to obtain a credit report under false pretenses. The maximum penalty for doing so is two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Ugh. Pretty serious crime, huh? If Republicans had done this, we certainly would've put this up higher.
Republicans have claimed that Democrats were seeking to smear Mr. Steele because his candidacy could seriously threaten Democratic hopes for the Senate seat.
"It certainly demonstrates their fear of a potential Michael Steele candidacy," said Mr. Ronayne, the spokesman for the Republican committee, who added that Democrats were trying to minimize the matter.
Mr. Steele has denounced the episode. "It tells you the depths to which some folks will go to try to win," he said during a recent appearance on a radio program, according to published reports.
Of course Republicans would say this sort of stuff, but we put it down here to make our liberal readers feel good. After all, they stopped reading after the D.S.C.C. spokesman said they were terribly sorry. We let the Republicans yammer just for faux balance.
Last week, five Republican senators wrote to the head of the committee, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, and asked him for assurances that the committee had not obtained their personal credit information. The committee responded that it had not.
Schumer? That must be a misprint. We here at the New York Times are sure our buddy Chuck had nothing to do with this. Besides, newspaper surveys show that only a fraction of one percent of people read the entire story. Hey, Chuck! Who loves ya baby?