Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Confronting Inaccuracy and Journalistic Misconduct by Politico’s Ken Vogel

Multiple stories and blog posts have been written about Koch and its shareholders over the past several years.  Unfortunately, a great deal of what gets said is blatantly false or spun to confuse readers and leave a wrong impression.  A Politico story written by Ken Vogel, a former employee of the left-leaning and George Soros-funded Center for Public Integrity, is the latest in a long line of examples.

Although the reporter reached out to a number of others in formulating his story about Koch, and relied on anonymous sources, none of us at Koch were contacted by him. There were a number of inaccuracies in Vogel’s story, as well as a continuation of his practice of using anonymous sources to attack or speculate about Koch’s alleged activities. Rather than take on all the inaccuracies, we asked for a specific correction on one matter – the false linkage of Koch to a recent California ballot proposition.

As the email chain below illustrates, the reporter twice refused to correct his story. Finally, we sent a third email asking him to at least include a statement from us in his piece. Again, he refused. In all the interactions we’ve had with news media these past several years, we’ve never had an outlet refuse to include our comment.

To set the record straight, here is Koch’s statement On California’s Proposition 32 refuting the reporter’s piece:

“We have been on the record, since November 5th 2012, as definitively not involved in the Prop 32 issue in California. We did not support, either directly or indirectly, this ballot initiative which would have restricted public and private sector employees’ rights to contribute to candidates.”

Finally, we provide a link to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics and include a few of their standards as a reminder of the conduct that should guide conscientious and balanced reporting.

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
  • Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
  • Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

Emails between Koch and Politico

—– Original Message —–
From: Ken Vogel
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 06:32 PM
To: Tappan, Rob
Subject: RE: Today’s article on Koch

Hey Rob:
Sorry we didn’t connect this afternoon; I was handling a breaking story.
I would welcome the chance to get coffee sometime next week or the following, and also to give you a tour of Politico and introduce you around, if you’re interested.
Regarding Koch Industries’ stance on Proposition 32, we don’t feel an update is justified, because our story does not assert that Koch Industries took a stance on Proposition 32.
Thank you for taking the time to correspond on this point — I look forward to meeting you in person!
Ken
________________________________________
From: Tappan, Rob
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 5:21 PM
To: Ken Vogel
Subject: RE: Today’s article on Koch

Ken:

Thanks for your note. Sorry we weren’t able to connect by phone this afternoon.

On the contrary, I would most definitely like to take you up on your offer to meet for coffee sometime in the near future.

With regard to the item that we’ve been trading emails on for the past day or so, it looks as though we agree to disagree. The repeated references to Koch certainly could lead a reader to believe the Kochs were somehow involved in Prop 32, and I would think a responsible journalist and a respected news outlet would want to make sure there was no such confusion if we’ve stated that we were not.

Let me make a suggestion that might suit both of our respective viewpoints.

I ask that you please post this short statement as either an update to your story or as an addendum at the end of the piece. In that way, we can put this particular matter in your story to rest:

Statement by Koch Industries regarding California Proposition 32 (2012):

“We have been on-the-record– since November 5th 2012– as definitively NOT involved in the Prop 32 issue in California. We did not support, either directly or indirectly, this ballot initiative which would have restricted public- and private-sector employees’ right to contribute to candidates.”

I think this is a reasonable request. Happy to discuss. Thanks.

Sincerely,

–Rob Tappan

________________________________________

—–Original Message—–
From: Ken Vogel
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:33 PM
To: Rob Tappan
Subject: RE: Today’s article on Koch

Thanks for emailing me back, Rob.
I take it from your response you’re not interested in getting that coffee.
Just to keep you in the loop, after I emailed you last night, I reached out to [a Koch consultant] to ask whether I should continue routing Koch-related inquiries through him. He said I should, so perhaps you and he could figure this out on your end, and then let me know the resolution.
As for your puzzlement with my response, it may stem from your mischaracterization of it. I did not write, as you assert, that I “did not make ‘any kind of an assertion’ as to Koch concerning this issue.”
I wrote something quite different: “we did not make an ‘incorrect assertion’ – or any kind of assertion – that the Kochs or Koch Industries took a stance on Proposition 32, nor did we make any assertion that the Kochs or Koch Industries ‘contribute[d] to any group with the intent of passing or defeating Proposition 32 in California.’”
The above is accurate, as is the language in the story regarding this issue, so, again, a correction would be inappropriate.
As to your comment that you had “many issues” with the piece, if you would be so kind as to identify specific instances in which you believe there were errors, I will address them specifically, as I have done above.
My invitation for that coffee and tour of Politico still stands, as does my willingness to address any additional concerns on this or any other story.
Thanks again,
Ken

________________________________________
—–Original Message—–
From: Rob Tappan
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:44 AM
To: Ken Vogel
Subject: RE: Today’s article on Koch

Dear Ken:

Thanks for getting back to me.

With regard to your inquiry to [a Koch Consultant], [he] is not a Koch employee.  In the past, you have contacted us directly on occasion and I ask that you contact me in the future if you have any questions concerning Koch.

We had many issues with your piece yesterday, but that is not unusual, given, among other things, your reliance on your prior flawed reporting as support for many assertions in the piece, as well as your typical practice of using anonymous sources to comment on what they believe motivates Koch.

Rather than go through all of that, we instead decided to focus on the issue I raised in my email to you concerning the false linkage of Koch to a recent California ballot proposition.  I am puzzled by your response that you did not make “any kind of an assertion” as to Koch concerning this issue.  If you didn’t make any assertion concerning Koch and the California issue, then why did you even mention it and why did you use language that suggests, at a minimum, Koch was involved in some way in the activity that the California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating?  It appears that you were trying to raise the specter of some connection with Koch through your detailed discussion of it or otherwise falsely link us to the issues, which is why we believe it is important to clarify that Koch had no involvement in those issues.

From your response, it appears that you are admitting that you knew Koch had no involvement in these issues, so we would ask that you amend your story to clarify this issue so as to avoid any confusion among those who might happen to read your story.   Indeed,  as discussed below, given that Koch previously made a statement concerning this very issue back in November, at a minimum, you should include reference to that in your story, and it is irresponsible to do otherwise.

Thanks.

–Rob Tappan

________________________________________
—–Original Message—–
From: Ken Vogel
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 9:13 PM
To: Rob Tappan
Subject: RE: Today’s article on Koch

Hey Rob:
Thanks for contacting Maggie, then me, and sorry it took a few hours to get back to you. Busy day.
I reached out to [a Koch consultant] on Monday as I was writing the story with a request for comment and some specific questions, but he didn’t provide any response. In the future, should I reach out to you, instead?
Either way, I would welcome the chance to chat with you over a cup of coffee, and would be happy to give you a tour of Politico and introduce you to some folks here, if you’re interested – and don’t mind trekking out to Rosslyn!
As for the concerns you expressed in your email to me, below, we did not make an “incorrect assertion” – or any kind of assertion – that the Kochs or Koch Industries took a stance on Proposition 32, nor did we make any assertion that the Kochs or Koch Industries “contribute[d] to any group with the intent of passing or defeating Proposition 32 in California.”
So we don’t believe a correction is appropriate.
Please let me know if you have any additional concerns on this or any other story, or if you’re amenable to grabbing that cup of coffee.
Thanks again for reaching out,
Ken

________________________________________

—–Original Message—–
From: Tappan, Rob
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 5:42 PM
To: Ken Vogel
Subject: FW: Today’s article on Koch

Dear Ken:

We’ve not yet met formally. I work here in the DC offices of Koch Industries, and I sent a note earlier to Maggie regarding an aspect of your piece that appeared in today’s edition and online.

Please take a look at the note below and let me know if you’d like to discuss. We’re looking for a correction to an incorrect assertion that was made in the piece.

Many thanks.

–Rob Tappan

________________________________________

—– Original Message —–
From: Maggie Haberman
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 03:43 PM
To: Rob Tappan
Subject: Re: Today’s article on Koch

Hey Rob – I looked again at the story and I really think you need to talk to Ken. Sorry I can’t be of more help here.

Sent from my iPhone

________________________________________

—–Original Message—–
From: Tappan, Rob
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 4:32 PM
To: Maggie Haberman
Subject: Today’s article on Koch

Dear Maggie:

Thanks for speaking with me earlier today regarding the piece that appeared in today’s Politico.

As I mentioned to you, one inaccuracy in particular compels us to write you and request that you run a correction to the story.

·         As we discussed, this has to do with the false implication that Koch was involved in some way with the California Proposition 32 initiative that was up for consideration in this past November’s election. That is clearly not the case, as we have been on-the-record– since November 5th 2012– as definitively NOT involved in the Prop 32 issue. We did not support, either directly or indirectly, the recent Proposition 32 ballot initiative that would have restricted public- and private-sector employees’ right to contribute to candidates. Proposition 32 would have prohibited both unions and corporations from using any payroll deductions from employees’ paychecks for political purposes.

·         Here is the link to our Nov. 5th statement:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/11/koch-brothers-california.html

·         We have consistently fought for the protection of Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech and to participate in the electoral process. We believe that government-imposed restrictions on free speech and political activity will destroy a free society.

·         To reiterate, we did not contribute to any group with the intent of passing or defeating Proposition 32 in California.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you would like to discuss this further. Thanks.

–Rob Tappan

Share |