Yet Another Panel on Internet Ethics!
Sociology of Journalism II

Sociology of Journalism

Jeff Leen, assistant managing editor of the Washington Post investigative unit, says that the late David Rosenbaum's April 3, 2002 story on Jack Abramoff was "a puff piece," was "viewed by [Jack] Abramoff as positive." By contrast, he says, Susan Schmidt's February 22, 2004 piece was "hard-hitting investigative reporting." Rosenbaum's "did not generate a Senate Committee and a DOJ investigation." Susan Schmidt "put the pieces together" and "generated widespred outrage... [with the] $45 million number"--that is, Schmidt's reporting that Abramoff and Scanlon collected $45 million in fees over four years had a much greater impact than Rosenbaum's reporting that Abramoff has collected $1.8 million from one tribe in six months, even though one might think "half a dozen tribes times sixty months times a hundred thousand a month" and do the math.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Susan Schmidt's story:

A Jackpot From Indian Gaming Tribes: Lobbying, PR Firms Paid $45 Million Over 3 Years Feb 22, 2004 A.01: A powerful Washington lobbyist and a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) persuaded four newly wealthy Indian gaming tribes to pay their firms more than $45 million over the past three years for lobbying and public affairs work, a sum that rivals spending to influence public policy by some of the nation's biggest corporate interests. Touting his ties to conservatives in Congress and the White House, lobbyist Jack Abramoff persuaded the tribes to hire him and public relations executive Michael Scanlon to block powerful forces both at home and in Washington who have designs on their money, according to tribe members.

Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes -- Michigan's Saginaw Chippewas, the Agua Caliente of California, the Mississippi Choctaws and the Louisiana Coushattas -- have also become major political donors. They have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show. The payday for the GOP is small though, compared with the $15.1 million the tribes have paid Abramoff and his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, which has rocketed to the ranks of top lobbyists on the fees it has charged gaming tribes, lobbying records show. And those fees -- 10 or 20 times what the tribes paid their former lobbyists -- are about half of what Scanlon has taken in. Scanlon, 33, himself a former Greenberg lobbyist who was recommended by Abramoff, has been paid $31.1 million, according to documents and interviews with tribal members.

The fees are all the more remarkable because there are no major new issues for gaming tribes on the horizon, according to lobbyists and congressional staff. The tribes' payments for lobbying and public affairs work are comparable to what large corporations spend on lobbying in Washington: General Electric Co. paid more than two dozen lobbying firms $30.4 million over the same three-year period, according to federal records. The nation's top four pharmaceutical companies paid dozens of lobbying and law firms $34.8 million between mid-2002 and mid-2003, according to the records.

"Those fees would certainly stand out as greater in magnitude than what rank-and-file tribes pay," said Phil Hogen, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, which regulates Indian gaming. "I guess they have been persuaded there is some value or return for that, but what that is, I'm not aware," Hogen said...

Here are the opening paragraphs of the late David Rosenbaum's story:

At $500 an Hour, Lobbyist's Influence Rises With G.O.P. - The Archive - The New York Times: April 3, 2002 A1: In the last six months of 2001, the Coushatta Indians, a tribe with 800 members and a large casino in southwest Louisiana, paid $1.76 million to the law firm of Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist here. Last month, the Bush administration handed the tribe a big victory by blocking construction of a casino by a rival tribe that would have drained off much of the Coushattas' business. William Worfel, vice chairman of the Coushattas, views the administration's decision as a direct benefit of the eye-popping lobbying fees his tribe paid Mr. Abramoff, more money than many giant corporations like AOL Time Warner and American Airlines paid lobbyists in the same period. ''I call Jack Abramoff, and I get results,'' Mr. Worfel said. ''You get everything you pay for.''

In the seven years since Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, Mr. Abramoff, 43, has used his close ties to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican whip, and other conservatives in the House to become one of the most influential -- and, at $500 an hour, best compensated -- lobbyists in Washington. He is also an important Republican fund-raiser. Mr. Abramoff's recent success and importance in Republican circles is a reminder that even as much of official Washington has been focused on the war in Afghanistan, efforts to beef up national security after Sept. 11 and the crisis in the Middle East, the business of lobbying has been humming along quite nicely, more out of the spotlight than usual but more profitable than ever for those with the right connections.

Unlike many lobbyists who take almost any client who is willing to pay their fee, Mr. Abramoff says he represents only those who stand for conservative principles. They include three Indian tribes with big casinos and, until recently, the Northern Mariana Islands. ''All of my political work,'' he said, ''is driven by philosophical interests, not by a desire to gain wealth''...