Last week, the New York Times published both an editorial board piece and a news report detailing allegations that Gov. Scott Walker and his allies violated campaign finance laws during the Wisconsin recall elections. While the paper prides itself on its national audience and standing as a newspaper of record, it miserably failed to present the facts in a clear, lucid fashion.
By burying key information, and paying extraordinary and unqualified attention to previously discredited theories, the Times sought, intentionally or not, to convict Gov. Walker in a makeshift court of public opinion. Here is why the Times is wrong, and why its story and editorial piece reveal a deep bias against a Republican governor.
1) In its June 19 story, the Times spent eight full paragraphs explaining why prosecutors believe Walker and conservatives violated state law. It wasn't until paragraphs nine and ten that the paper noted that a federal and state judge have both shut the investigation down.
2) Not once do the Times reporters note on June 19 that the John Doe probe originated in the offices of a Democratic district attorney. Only in paragraph thirteen does that fact appear, and it is in a direct quote from Walker.
3) The story explains, "The Internal Revenue Service is formulating new rules that would clarify and restrict how much money tax-exempt organizations can spend trying to elect or defeat candidates". But those IRS rules haven't been promulgated, so there is no chance Walker or any Wisconsin conservative violated them.
4) Near the bottom of the story, the Times points out: "In an earlier John Doe investigation into whether campaign work was being done on county time in the office Mr. Walker had led as the Milwaukee County executive, three of Mr. Walker’s former aides and several other associates were convicted of crimes."
But Walker himself was never charged, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor Marty Kaiser explained recently, "Scott Walker was never known to be a target of the first John Doe investigation that has been closed." While Kaiser's claims are perplexing in light of his paper's reporting during the first John Doe, they do properly reflect the fact that Walker was never accused of wrongdoing in the legal process.
5) "Gov. Scott Walker’s Campaign Violations" blared the June 20 headline of the Times' editorial about the matter. No charges have been filed alleging that, no judge or jury has concluded that; that is merely the opinion of the New York Times editorial board. It is not factually supported by anything in the justice system.
6) The editorial declares, "The latest to get caught doing so [violating campaign finance laws] is Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin." Again, prosecutors have filed no charges, and no conviction has been obtained, so it is unclear how Walker got "caught."
7) "Finding loopholes like this is now the job of candidates and their lawyers around the country in the post-Citizens United era" the editorial scribes complain of the state of campaign finance regulation. If Walker used a loophole that the Times doesn't like, then the paper should direct its frustration at lawmakers and regulators who implemented policies with loopholes.
8) "The Walker case shows how important it is for government at all levels — Congress, federal agencies and state officials — to put severe curbs on the ability of outside groups to meddle in politics with unlimited dollars" concludes the editorial board. If the paper wants more regulation, fine, but that does not mean that what Walker or conservative groups did was a violation of the law. The very fact that the law needs to be changed to apply to past actions means those actions were legal when they were done.