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Why GOP Scandal Mongers Can't Have Nice Things

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AP Photo

Here's today's example. Yesterday I heard word on Twitter that ex-IRS Chief Douglas Shulman had visited the White House a whopping 157 times. The story started at The Daily Caller. It's not totally clear whether that was whopping or sub-whopping. But whatever. Clearly Shulman was there often enough to be in regular contact with President Obama about cracking down on the West Memphis Tea Party. When I first saw my usual twitter trolls yapping about it, the first thing that seemed a bit off was that, remember, Shulman was actually appointed by George W. Bush and remained in office through most of President Obama's first term. So presumably he's not a really strong Democratic partisan.

But now a real reporter (in this case my old friend Garance Franke-Ruta) has looked past the toplines of the White House visitor logs and done frankly just the very basic due diligence that any reporter would do when reporting out a story like this. There are a few problems with the story. First, why on Earth would Shulman need to visit the White House 157 times except to crack down on the Tea Party and other American Patriots? Well, it turns out there's this thing conservatives have never heard of called OBAMACARE, which actually relies a fair amount on the IRS for implementation.

Take it away Garance ...

The public meeting schedules available for review to any media outlet show that very thing: Shulman was cleared primarily to meet with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill. He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama's director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That's 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.

But it gets better. Those 157 visits? Those are times he was 'cleared' to visit the White House. The logs only show he actually showed up 11 times. It's quite possible that the records missed a couple visits. But it seems likely that the story - which originated at The Daily Caller - was off by about ten fold.

Now, this isn't an indictment of conservative journalists. There are so many great ones like Byron York or my friend Eli Lake. But as a group, the standards of most institutional right wing journalism are just so appallingly bad that their stories simply aren't credible. (I'd note that Lake works at either nonpartisan or slightly-progressive leaning pub.) Of course there are exceptions like the Menendez phony escort story. Which, wait, that ended up being a hoax enabled by appalling shoddy reporting standards. Again, if you wonder why conservative scandal mongers can't have nice things ... look at the conservative media.

Also, try finding real scandals.