I am, I confess, a little surprised by this. But the Associated Press just doesn’t seem able to come clean on this Reid-Abramoff-Marianas matter.
Let’s jump down into the details.
As you remember, on Thursday John Solomon of the AP wrote a lengthy piece detailing alleged contacts between Jack Abramoff’s team at Greenberg Traurig and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).
I followed up with a post explaining what seemed like a key problem with the article. The better part of the article is taken up with detailing Team Abramoff lobbying Reid on behalf of the sweatshop owners of the Marianas Islands, key and notorious. The whole thrust of the narrative suggests an illicit or suspect quid pro quo. But if you look closely what’s never mentioned in the article is what Reid did on the Marianas sweatshop owners behalf — which is of course a rather key detail.
I got on the phone with Reid’s office and the lobbyist in question, Ron Platt, and they both said that Reid was and remained on the side of the debate — he supported the minimum wage bill the Marianas folks opposed. That claim was confirmed by other supporters of the legislation.
In other words, whatever Abramoff and his crew might have tried to persuade Reid to do, he didn’t do it.
That has to be a key part of the story, if you’re discussing contacts between Marianas lobbyists on this issue. Only it’s a part of the story the AP just neglected to mention.
Okay, so jump forward. After he spoke to me, Platt released a statement restating the gist of what he told me.
So what does the AP do with the information? They run a story with the lede that the Abramoff lobbyist confirms the meetings with Harry Reid. In other words, they portray a blackeye for their original story as a further confirmation of their story.
Now, yes, he did ‘confirm’ the meetings. But the fact that he had made contact with Reid’s office was never seriously in dispute by anyone. They note that the lobbyist in question says the billing records overstate the nature of the work. Even this isn’t quite accurate. It’s more that he’s saying the AP’s characterization overstates the nature of the work. But let’s set that aside, because whatever the nature of his lobbying was, it doesn’t address the key issue.
Nowhere in the new article can the AP writers bring themselves to note that Reid never adopted Abramoff’s clients’ position on the issue. So whatever quids Abramoff’s folks were offering up, Reid never gave them a quo. From start to finish he was the co-sponsor of the bill Abramoff’s clients wanted to defeat.
That’s key information — arguably, the central piece of information in the whole case. But the AP keeps pressing their misleading narrative while omitting this key point.
This is a good example of what happens when getting (or in this case, not losing the story) becomes more important than getting the story right.