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In Praise of Great Reporting: The Kansas City Star

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In Praise of Great Reporting:
The Kansas City Star - A McClatchy Newspaper



Kansas City Star headquarters, Kansas City, MO flickr.com
By Michael Collins
“Scoop” Independent News
Washington, D.C.

This week we honor the Kansas City Star, that fine McClatchy newspaper in Kansas City, Missouri. Thanks to a heads up from Missouri activist Phil Lindsay, we have a wonderful narrative on the US Attorney scandal in Western Missouri.

It seems that there was a ninth US Attorney fired (we’re well beyond 9 but that’s OK). Todd Graves, the US Attorney in Kansas City was reluctant to bring an election influencing lawsuit that supposedly (some say) was touted by Missouri political operatives.

You’ve probably guessed this one but in case you haven’t, there was a close US Senate race between the hard right conservative Republican Jim Talent (R-MO) and Clare McCaskill the Democrats finesse choice as challenger. McCaskill was running ahead and not by slinking away from tough issues. She supported a stem cell initiative and saw it through to victory. She obviously made an impression with the good people of Missouri by her clear respect for their intelligence on this issue. It is, after all, a matter of life and death, compassion versus indifference.

What to do? Hmm…let’s think. Oh, right, the Republican - Regent University brain trust at the US Department of Justice was on duty. Who knows for sure but just maybe someone said…let’s indict some Democrats for something, hmm…one of those voter registration groups…for, lets see…right, voter fraud!

Graves would have none of it. And now he’s gone, replaced by Bradley Schlozman, a hard right ideologue who has presented his credentials as a lawyer who seeks only the truth. Tuesday, June 5th Scholzman goes under oath where he’ll have multiple opportunities to revise his previous positions by forgetting. It’s called the Modified Gonzo-Libby Hangout.

But I digress. What does the Missouri story sound like? If your answer was New Mexico, you are correct for $800. Thinking Washington State, collect your $800. If you said Wisconsin, sorry, US Attorney Biskupic cooperated and brought an indictment against a Democrat right before the 2006 elections.

Somehow Biskupic got a conviction in a trial that was mocked by some. Turns out they were right. When the case went to appeal, here’s what the chief judge on the conservative appeals panel decided. Remember, the judge is talking about a case where an individual closely associated with the Democrats was subject to a pre election indictment.

The prosecution, which led to the conviction and imprisonment of a civil servant for conduct that, as far as the record shows, was designed to pursue the public interest as the employee understood it, may well induce congress to take another look at the wisdom enacting ambulatory criminal prohibitions.

Chief Judge Esterbrook took the extraordinary action of ordering the defendant released immediately from federal prison. That’s how a good judge deals with an affront to justice.

When the White House tells a US Attorney, to cooperate, they can look forward to either of two bad outcomes: getting fired if you say no or making a weak case if you say yes. Now we know just how lousy these cases must have been, the ones ordered up form the heart of darkness in your nation’s capitol, the United States Department of Justice and turned down in Washington State, New Mexico, and, not it seems, Missouri.

While describing the US Attorney situation in Missouri, the Kansas City Star Editorial, May 13, 2007, summed up the entire US Attorney scandals in just two sentences:

No one comes off looking good in this mess. Congress must find out exactly why Graves’ retirement date was accelerated.

Perhaps the worst damage is to the image of federal prosecutors, whose role in our democracy is too significant to be soiled by political scheming.

Check out this collection of stories from the Kansas City Star coverage just since May. Look at the dates. See if you find yourself understanding just exactly what’s going on. You will! The KC Star reporters have focus, they pay attention, and they obviously communicate with each other and their peers elsewhere.

Why can’t we get the same out of the rest of the corporate media? We’ll buy your papers, check your web sites, and thank you when we see you if the rest of you will just report the news and follow up on stories. When you put out a great story, follow it, we need the information. Is it too much to ask?

Thank to the Kansas City Star for outstanding reporting on one of the critical issues of our time. Also, thanks to their corporate cousins, the McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau for their exceptional work. Focused, in depth reporting on the risks we face helps us all.

N.B. Its 5:13 pm in your nation’s capitol, and the Washington Post has nothing on the front page about Missouri US Attorney Bradley Schlozman’s appearance before congress tomorrow.

***********

Attachments:

US Attorney Dismissals in New Mexico and Washington State

New Mexico: US Attorney David Iglesias. Resigned after failing to bring voter fraud charges that might influence an election.
“Scoop” Independent News March 12, 2007

David Iglesias., New Mexico. “Leaned on” by a Senator and his heir for failing to indict Democrats before 2006 elections.

Senator Pete Domenici, (R-NM), recommended David Iglesias as New Mexico’s federal prosecutor. Imagine the volatile senator’s outrage when he reportedly called and asked Iglesias for a favor. Domenici was concerned about the slow pace of expected indictments of Democrats in election related cases according to Iglesias. Should the indictments come just before the 2006 election, they would help Republicans in tight races. The alleged interference took its toll. Iglesias said “I felt sick afterward. I felt leaned on. I felt pressured to get these cases moving.”

A big part of the pressure was from Congresswoman Heather Wilson, (R-NM). She called Iglesias and reportedly pressured him to indict the same Democrats requested by Domenici. Iglesias would have none of it. Wilson later said that she’d called to help Iglesias with his investigation, an assertion that became the object of mockery among commentators. Regarded as Domenici’s political heir for the New Mexico Senate seat, she was one of those Republicans who would benefit form early indictments of high profile Democrats. Wilson needed every bit of leverage available to win re-election. She won by less than 1,000 votes in one of those controversial elections.

There were no pre-election indictments by prosecutor Iglesias.

Washington State: US Attorney John McKay. Resigned after failing to bring election fraud charges that might influence an election.
“Scoop” Independent News March 12, 2007
John McKay, Washington State. Investigate “voter” fraud in 2004 Governor’s race or tell me why you didn’t!

John McKay of Washington State was apparently the object of a longer held grudge by the White House. He refused to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 election for Governor of Washington State. McKay told Senate investigators of receiving a call from the chief of staff for Republican Congressman “Doc” Hastings. The call concerned a prosecution to challenge the Democrats in their 200 vote victory in the 2004 race for governor.

The Seattle Times published a letter from trade association executive Tom McCabe to Rep “Doc” Hastings from July 2005. Talk about a demand letter. Hastings, a former chair of the House Ethics Committee, surely knew what this meant.

I urge you to call on President Bush to fire John McKay, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington.
…. If you decide not to do this, let me know.
Tom McCabe
Executive Vice President
(N.B. The cc. list on this letter includes one “John Fund.”)

After receiving the letter, Hastings staffer Ed Cassidy called prosecutor McKay making inquiries about the status of the 2004 allegations. McKay quickly cut him off expressing concerns about illegal influence (it’s a crime to try and influence a federal prosecutor's decisions in this way).

The call ended and a few months later so did McKay’s federal service. His reward for service to his country was a threat that DOJ would release information damaging to his reputation. They did. It was widely dismissed.

ENDS

Permission to reprint granted provided there is a link to this article in “Scoop” Independent News and attribution of authorship to Michael Collins.

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