NPR wrongly suggested Reid, Stabenow face "ethics allegations" over Abramoff contributions

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reported that one of Democrats' "big problems right now" is "convincing voters that the so-called 'culture of corruption' is a Republican thing." According to Seabrook, "there's a growing list of ethics allegations against Democrats in Congress," and as examples, she noted: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV], Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, and others took campaign contributions from Indian tribes that were associated with [disgraced former lobbyist] Jack Abramoff." In fact, neither Reid nor Stabenow are facing allegations of ethical misconduct regarding Abramoff contributions, and the mere receipt of contributions from Abramoff clients is not an indication of corruption.

On the May 4 edition of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Capitol Hill correspondent Andrea Seabrook reported that one of Democrats' "big problems right now" is "convincing voters that the so-called 'culture of corruption' is a Republican thing." According to Seabrook, "there's a growing list of ethics allegations against Democrats in Congress," and as examples, she noted: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV], Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, and others took campaign contributions from Indian tribes that were associated with [disgraced former lobbyist] Jack Abramoff." In fact, neither Reid nor Stabenow is facing allegations of ethical misconduct regarding Abramoff client contributions; the mere receipt of contributions from Abramoff clients was not prohibited by law or ethics rules.

From the May 4 edition of National Public Radio's Morning Edition:

SEABROOK: These tourists, strolling along the terraces at the U.S. Capitol Building, point out one of the Democrats' big problems right now: convincing voters that the so-called "culture of corruption" is a Republican thing. And maybe this is why it's so hard -- there's a growing list of ethics allegations against Democrats in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, and others took campaign contributions from Indian tribes that were associated with Jack Abramoff.

Regarding Reid, the Associated Press twice reported -- on February 11 and 13 -- that the Senate Democratic leader coordinated with Abramoff to "oppose" a bill that would have raised the national minimum wage -- which included a provision addressing the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory represented by Abramoff. But, in fact, Reid was a co-sponsor of that legislation and spoke on the Senate floor on behalf of its passage, which the AP neglected to report in either article.

As Media Matters for America documented, a number of media outlets have wrongly conflated Abramoff's illegal influence peddling with the receipt by political officials of contributions from Abramoff clients or associates. At the same time as media outlets have suggested that receiving money from tribes is unethical, they have completely ignored the receipt of donations from Abramoff clients by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Instead, those media outlets have cast McCain as an "untainted" reformer with respect to the Abramoff controversy -- effectively holding McCain to a different standard from that to which they have held Democrats who received money from Abramoff clients. The Associated Press reported on January 5 that McCain's chief of staff acknowledged that McCain had received at least two campaign contributions from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians while Abramoff was their lobbyist.

NPR has itself ignored McCain's receipt of Abramoff client contributions while noting that Democrats have received them. One opportunity for NPR to report McCain's receipt of contributions occurred in a February 9 segment in which NPR correspondent Peter Overby reported that political scientist James Thurber, testifying before McCain's Indian affairs committee, said: "I think the individuals in the House and the Senate should look at themselves and the staff should look at themselves very clearly and not totally beat up on lobbyists, because much of what was associated with Jack Abramoff was going on for a long time by members of Congress and staff." While Overby reported that Thurber was speaking directly to McCain when he made the statement, he did not note that McCain, too, has received contributions from Abramoff clients and therefore might himself be characterized as having had some link to "what was associated with Jack Abramoff."

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
NPR
Show/Publication
Morning Edition
Stories/Interests
Abramoff Scandal
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