The Washington Free Beacon, the conservative news outlet that captured national attention for its reporting on audio tapes of Hillary Clinton discussing a 1975 child rape case, appears to have had a paid political operative help conduct research for the story, according to multiple reports.
Business Insider and BuzzFeed reported on the involvement of Shawn Reinschmiedt, former research director for the Republican National Committee and now a private contractor, in researching the tapes.
He “runs a firm that has been working with the Beacon since we launched,” Michael Goldfarb, the founder of the Free Beacon, told Business Insider in an email. According to BuzzFeed, Reinschmiedt’s research firm received $150,000 from the Center for American Freedom, the non-profit organization that includes the Free Beacon, in 2012.
Goldfarb did not respond to emails or calls for comment from TPM. Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief at the Beacon, exchanged emails with TPM about the matter, but declined to confirm that Reinschmiedt had been paid for his Hillary research or remained a paid consultant for the outlet.
The University of Arkansas, whose library held the tapes, told BuzzFeed that Reinschmiedt was “the primary point of contact” during the research. He helped parse through the library’s documents and communicated with library officials to assist the Free Beacon reporter, Alana Goodman, who bylined the Hillary Tapes story, according to BuzzFeed. Continetti told Politico that Goodman traveled to Arkansas for the story.
The Hillary Tapes story attracted national media attention, sparking renewed conservative criticism over Clinton’s work in the case and leading to follow-up reports by mainstream news outlets like The Daily Beast.
Correction: This post has been updated to correct Matthew Continetti’s first name.