With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Negative Journalistic Credibility (Yes, Yet Another Washington Post Edition)

On One Level, This Is Pretty Funny...

On one level, this is pretty funny: From "washingtonpost.blog - - The Editors Talk About Site Policies, Design and Goals":

washingtonpost.blog - The Editors Talk About Site Policies, Design and Goals : Posted at 06:32 PM ET, 01/20/2006 Some Comments Returned Some previously posted comments have been returned to post.blog. Specifically, all comments that meet washingtonpost.com's standards for community interaction have been returned to the post "Deborah Howell Responds." For a fuller discussion about why the comments were orginally removed, read the Q&A transcript of the Friday live discussion with Executive Editor Jim Brady. -- Liz Kelly Editor, Interactivity & Opinions....

Posted at 04:22 PM ET, 01/19/2006 Comments Turned Off As of 4:15 p.m. ET today, we have shut off comments on this blog indefinitely. At its inception, the purpose of this blog was to open a dialogue about this site, the events of the day, the journalism of The Washington Post Company and other related issues. Among the things that we knew would be part of that discussion would be the news and opinion coming from the pages of The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com. We knew a lot of that discussion would be critical in nature. And we were fine with that. Great journalism companies need feedback from readers to stay sharp. But there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we've decided not to allow comments for the time being. It's a shame that it's come to this. Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of the Web culture... Jim Brady Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com

UPDATE, 7 p.m.: As you might expect, we're getting a ton of e-mail on this, and while I can't answer those e-mails individually, I'll address the two main points being made, that 1) we're afraid of being criticized and, 2) that were no personal attacks, profanity or hate speech in any of the comments.... What we're not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it's OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commenters. And that's exactly what was happening. That leads into the second complaint. The reason that people were not routinely seeing the problematic posts I mentioned were that we were trying to remove them as fast as we could....

Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 01/19/2006 Deborah Howell Responds I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties. Lobbyists, seeking influence in Congress, often advise clients on campaign contributions. While Abramoff, a Republican, gave personal contributions only to Republicans, he directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties. Records from the Federal Elections Commission and the Center for Public Integrity show that Abramoff’s Indian clients contributed between 1999 and 2004 to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats....

On another level, it's quite sad.

If Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell were a real reporter, she would know how many of the Indian tribes' relationships with members of congress antedated the arrival on the scene of Jack Abramoff, and would not be talking about "195 Republicans and 88 Democrats" to whom Abramoff had "directed" Indian tribes' contributions. She would be talking about three different sets of money flows: Abramoff's $130,000 of direct campaign contributions to Republicans, the money given as campaign contributions by Abramoff's clients, and the $80 million or so that was paid to Abramoff and company for access to Republicans leaders--$25,000 for setting up a meeting with George W. Bush, et cetera.

With respect to the third money flow, she would write that some portion of it (the guesses I am hearing is about a quarter) flowed through to politicians (and overwhelmingly Republican politicians) as "lifestyle enhancements"--luxury vacation trips paid for by Abramoff's credit card, and so forth.

With respect to the second money flow--money donated by Indian tribes that had hired Abramoff--she would write that some of them were expenditures directed by Abramoff, and some of which were expenditures that the clients would have made in any case. For example, Bloomberg reports that the Saginaw Chippewa gave $279,000 to Democrats over 1997-2000, and $277,000 over 2001-2004, after they had gotten into bed with Abramoff. It is a safe bet that little or none of those contributions to Democrats were "directed" by Abramoff. The Saginaw Chippewa gave $158,000 to Republicans in 1997-2000, and $500,000 to Republicans in 2001-2004, after they had gotten into bed with Abramoff. It is a safe bet that much of this extra $340,000 of contributions to Republicans were "directed" by Abramoff.

With respect to the first money flow, she would write that Abramoff was a Republican giving campaign contributions to Republicans and only Republicans.

But these aren't stories you read in the Post, are they? To get these stories you have to read something like Bloomberg.

UPDATE: A correspondent points out that when Howell writes:

The Post has copies of lists sent to tribes by Abramoff with specific directions on what members of Congress were to receive specific amounts. One of those lists can be viewed in this online graphic...

The document to which she links appears to "direct" $220,000 of contributions to Republicans, and $4,000 of contributions to Democrats.