Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

More Distortions from Jane Mayer and New Yorker

Advocacy journalism is once again on display at the New Yorker in Jane Mayer’s latest distortions regarding Koch.  The piece relies on an Associated Press report from October 16th that implies we have some involvement with Herman Cain’s presidential campaign.  We don’t.

Here is the statement that we released publicly on the matter on October 18:

“We have long admired Herman Cain for his success in growing jobs and business in this country, and for his long-standing commitment to the values of economic freedom. Although we have not formally committed to supporting any presidential candidate, we are certainly glad to see Mr. Cain confront the issues of runaway spending and stifling government interference that are holding back the economy and the lives of all Americans. Anyone that has spent time with Mr. Cain, as we have, can tell you he is a man of deep dedication to our nation and his independence of thought is obviously what is appealing to voters.”That statement was posted a full two days prior to Ms. Mayer’s piece and yet she ignored it entirely.  We received no call from her editors to verify the piece and if any fact checker has reviewed it, we certainly haven’t heard from them. Here are several other flaws in Ms. Mayer’s account, excerpted from her piece:

The Associated Press broke an interesting story recently noting that Herman Cain, who has portrayed himself as an outsider to politics, has in fact worked closely since 2005 with Americans for Prosperity, a corporate front group…

Mr. Cain has never obscured his interaction with AFP and so the notion that AP “broke an interesting story” is an exaggerated way of saying “wrote something that was already widely known.”  Notice also the cheap shot describing AFP as a “corporate front group.”  Groups on the left that Ms. Mayer describes and no doubt prefers, of course, get much more favorable descriptors.  The Center for Public Integrity, which is funded by left-wing foundations, is a “non-partisan watchdog” in Ms. Mayer’s eyes.  AFP is not a ”corporate front group” and it is not a pro-business group.  Rather, as detailed on its website, “AFP is an organization of  grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state, and federal levels.  The grassroots activists of AFP advocate for public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.”  It has more than 1,800,000 active participants in all 50 states and is supported by contributions from more than 90,000 Americans in all 50 states.

The historically publicity-shy Kochs have stepped out of the shadows recently, vowing that Americans for Prosperity will spend some $200 million in the 2012 Presidential campaign in hopes of defeating President Obama.

Again, false in multiple respects.  A frequently seen canard that Mayer repeats here is that Koch is somehow secretive or, as she puts it, in the “shadows.”  This distortion feeds the conceit that journalists like her are exposing something nefarious.  But Koch has always been candid about its support for various public affairs groups and we try, when contacted before a story runs (which didn’t happen here), to be responsive to legitimate media requests.  In addition, Charles and David Koch have advocated publicly on economic freedom and free market policy issues for more than 40 years.  Second, we have never made any “vow” that AFP or Koch itself for that matter will spend $200 million in this election cycle, and Ms. Mayer cites no support for this assertion.

In light of this, it seems fair to ask exactly how Cain fits into this larger project, and how dependent he is on the Kochs.

Ms. Mayer never contacted us for input, so her “fair” curiosity here seems rather selective:

The AP story … stopped short of revealing any past or current financial ties between Cain and the Koch Brothers’ political organization.

Notice the sleight of hand.  There’s a total absence of facts to support the thesis that Ms. Mayer apparently prefers, so she implies that something is being hidden or that AP held back in its reporting.

Earlier this week, I asked J. D. Gordon, communications director for Cain’s campaign, whether Cain was an employee of Americans for Prosperity. “No,” he said, “He’s not an employee.” …

Gordon acknowledged that Cain had received “speaking fees” from Americans for Prosperity. He said he would have to get back to me with details. Meanwhile, I called Levi Russell, the communications director for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, to ask if he could confirm whether or not the ostensibly non-partisan, non-profit, independent political advocacy group had been paying Cain. He said that the organization’s relationship with speakers prevented it from disclosing how much they paid Cain. He added, “Over the years, Herman Cain has spoken at our events sometimes without charge, and other times we might pick up travel expenses or give a modest honorarium. But I can tell you that since Herman Cain announced he was running for President he has not been paid for any appearances.”

With spokesmen not exactly jumping at the chance to explain the financial ties between Cain and the Kochs, all that was left were public documents.

More distortion.  Both spokespersons gave Ms. Mayer straightforward responses and yet she twists it as though they are reluctant.  Again, she never called us at all.

Update: Lee Fang, a researcher and writer at the liberal blog Think Progress, writes in to point out that Think Progress reported on the links between the Koch Brothers and Cain prior to the Associated Press.

It is interesting that Ms. Mayer updated her original post to acknowledge that Lee Fang and Think Progress, which is a partisan surrogate for the Obama administration, “reported on the links between” Koch and Cain before AP did.  It appears that Ms. Mayer has learned her lesson after failing to acknowledge that her hit piece on Koch in last year’s New Yorker “us[ed] a great deal of [Mr. Fang and Think Progress'] research,” as Think Progress was forced to point out after that piece was published.  Of course, many have pointed out the deep flaws, lies, and distortions in Mr. Fang’s obsessive coverage of Koch — including hereherehere, and here.

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