Right-wing baselessly accuses Obama of "selling judgeships" for health care vote

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Right-wing media figures have run with The Weekly Standard's John McCormack's completely baseless accusation that President Obama is buying Rep. Jim Matheson's (D-UT) vote on health care reform by appointing his brother, Scott Matheson, to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. McCormack provided no evidence to support the allegation -- which both Rep. Matheson and the White House have called "absurd" -- and even those pushing the charge acknowledge that Scott Matheson is "plenty qualified for the job."

Weekly Standard's McCormack pushes baseless smear that Obama is "selling judgeships for health care votes"

McCormack: Was Scott Matheson's nomination "used to buy off his brother's vote?" In a March 3 post, McCormack wrote, "Obama Now Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes? Obama names brother of undecided House Dem to Appeals Court." Without providing any evidence to support his allegation, McCormack asked if Scott Matheson's judicial nomination was "used to buy off his brother's vote":

Tonight, Barack Obama will host ten House Democrats who voted against the health care bill in November at the White House; he's obviously trying to persuade them to switch their votes to yes. One of the ten is Jim Matheson of Utah. The White House just sent out a press release announcing that today President Obama nominated Matheson's brother Scott M. Matheson, Jr. to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

[...]

So, Scott Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge, but was his nomination used to buy off his brother's vote?

Consider Congressman Matheson's record on the health care bill. He voted against the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee back in July and again when it passed the House in November. But now he's "undecided" on ramming the bill through Congress.

Right-wing media immediately adopt McCormack's smear; Bachmann calls for an "investigation"

Barnes brings smear to Fox News: "I think the timing is very, very interesting." Weekly Standard editor and Fox News contributor Fred Barnes stated on the March 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report that Obama is "seeing 10 of the no votes from the last time at the White House tonight, one of whose brother, Jim Matheson of Utah, his brother just got an appeals court judgeship out in the 10th Circuit -- just named for that. But I'm not implying anything, just an interesting factoid today that I thought I'd throw out there." Barnes added, "I think the timing is very, very interesting." From the March 3 edition of Special Report:

BARNES: This was Obama's 35th speech on health care. The more he gives, the less popular it becomes. And I don't think this one helped him at all. He's seeing 10 of the no votes from the last time at the White House tonight, one of whose brother, Jim Matheson of Utah, his brother just got an appeals court judgeship out in the 10th Circuit -- just named for that.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER (Fox News contributor): You're not implying anything?

BARNES: But I'm not implying anything --

KRAUTHAMMER: No, not at all.

BARNES: -- just an interesting factoid today that I thought I'd throw out there.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's a coincidence - the coincidences [inaudible].

BARNES: I think the timing is very, very interesting.

Look, there is nothing in it for people to vote for this. It's unpopular. And if they can get out of it, they will.

And think of this -- this, if I were a House member, what would I worry about the most, and that is voting for the Senate bill and then expecting the Senate to make changes in it through reconciliation.

Hot Air: Obama said he "will do everything in his power," "and so he will, so he will." In a March 3 post, Hot Air blogger Allahpundit stated, "Brother of Democrat who's undecided on ObamaCare nominated for federal judgeship." The post further stated, "His exact words this afternoon: 'I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform.' And so he will, so he will." Quoting from McCormack's post, Allahpundit continued:

Scott Matheson's plenty qualified for the job (follow the link for his resume), but it shows you how desperate The One is to win votes in the House at this point that he wouldn't even care about the optics here. Dropping this announcement on the very day that he's hosting Matheson's brother to twist his arm on O-Care? What's next? Televising the bribes he's been making to inconvenient Democratic primary challengers? Put the graft on C-SPAN, Barry!

RedState: "Chicago-style politics once again coming home to roost." In a March 3 post titled, "If you can't beat 'em, bribe 'em: Obama now trading judgeships for votes," RedState's Lori Ziganto wrote, "Chicago-style politics once again coming home to roost. The Weekly Standard is reporting that Obama is now selling judgeships for health care votes." Ziganto further stated:

Perhaps they learned from the bribes of Senators "you don't even have to get us drunk first" Landrieu and Nelson that outright cash money bribery back-fires a bit and are trying different tactics for Congressman. Scratch my back and I'll scratch -- your brother's!

Michelle Malkin: "It's the Chicago Way. It's the Demcare way. And it stinks to high heaven." After tweeting about McCormack's post, Michelle Malkin quoted McCormack in a March 3 blog post titled, "The Chicago Way: Judgeships for Demcare votes?" and stated, "There are no coincidences in Obama world, I've joked many times on this blog. This one looks like a quid pro quo, smells like a quid pro quo, and quacks like a quid pro quo." Malkin added:

Let us consider the possibility, for a brief moment, that it is merely coincidence.

Is the White House so fantastically blind and tone-deaf that it failed to detect the blood-red flags and blaring alarm bells that Scott Matheson's judicial nomination would raise coming on the very day President Obama is wooing his brother, Jim?

Incorrigibly corrupt or incorrigibly stupid. Take your pick.

***

Allahpundit reminds us of Obama's words this afternoon: "I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform."

Whatever it takes: Borrow, bully, bribe.

It's the Chicago Way. It's the Demcare way. And it stinks to high heaven.

Drudge Report: "TONIGHT: Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes?" On March 3, the Drudge Report linked to McCormack's post along with a link to a Reuters article reporting that Obama "began a final push for healthcare reform on Wednesday, urging Congress to vote on the plan in the next few weeks":

drudge_matheson1

On March 4, the Drudge Report featured the following headlines, linking to McCormack's post and a Washington Post report on the administration's efforts to pass health care reform:

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Bachmann calls for "an independent investigation." Republican lawmakers have also seized on McCormack's baseless allegation to demand an investigation into Matheson's appointment. On the March 3 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stated, "[T]oday, the president offered a judgeship to the brother of a member of Congress. Tonight, the president has that same member of Congress at the White House, pressuring him to change his vote on health care. We really need to have an -- an independent investigation into this matter":

KING: Michele, why can't you come together on this?

BACHMANN: I think that we can come together. But I think a big question that has to be addressed right now, Larry, is what in the world is going on in the White House?

Because today, the president offered a judgeship to the brother of a member of Congress. Tonight, the president has that same member of Congress at the White House, pressuring him to change his vote on health care.

We really need to have an -- an independent investigation into this matter, because we've seen the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the union loophole.

And now, the big question is, is the White House trading health care votes for judgeships?

This is a pretty serious issue, Larry.

Fox Nation: "Obama Now Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes?" Fox Nation linked to McCormack's Weekly Standard post under the headline, "Obama Now Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes?" From Fox Nation:

obamasellingjudges

Beck: "What a coincidence." During the March 4 edition of his radio show, Glenn Beck stated, "Let's go to the brother of an undecided House Democrat, somebody who says I'm not really sure. Now, remember, Robert Gates [sic] has just said anything, do whatever it takes to get health care passed. Anything." He later added, "Now we have Jim Matheson -- White House has just sent out a press release announcing that President Obama has nominated his brother to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Well, that's fantastic. ... What a coincidence."

Rep. Matheson's office and White House have called the smear "ridiculous" and "absurd"

Politico: "Matheson knocks down vote trading questions." Noting that McCormack's "report raises the question but doesn't answer it," Politico's Chris Frates reported that Rep. Matheson's spokeswoman "called the question 'patently ridiculous,' saying there was no deal made between her boss and the president that guranteed [sic] Scott Matheson's nomination in exchange for Rep. Matheson's vote." Frates later noted that a "White House official calls the charge 'absurd.' 'Scott Matheson is a leading law scholar and has served as a law school dean and U.S. Attorney. He's respected across Utah and eminently qualified to serve on the federal bench,' the official said."

Right-wingers spread baseless allegation despite acknowledging that Scott Matheson is "plenty qualified for the job." McCormack's post noted that "Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge," and Hot Air's Allahpundit stated that "Scott Matheson's plenty qualified for the job." Nevertheless, they advanced the baseless speculation that Obama is "selling" judgeships for votes on health care reform.

Hatch praised Matheson nomination and said Matheson "is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service." The Associated Press reported on March 3 that "[t]he nomination was also praised by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who reiterated that Matheson's experience has prepared him well for the position":

The nomination was also praised by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who reiterated that Matheson's experience has prepared him well for the position.

"I'm pleased President Obama has nominated Scott Matheson to fill the vacancy on the 10th Circuit," Hatch said. "I've known Scott a long time, and he is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service. The Matheson family has had a significant impact on Utah and can rightly be proud of Scott's nomination."

Matheson has reportedly been in the running for the appointment since June 2009. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on June 9, 2009, that "Matheson already has let the White House and Utah's senators know he would like to be considered" for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals:

A slot -- expected to be filled by a Utahn -- will be available at the end of August, when Judge Michael McConnell, who teaches law at the University of Utah, officially will resign.

Naming a replacement won't happen fast. It may take President Barack Obama months to nominate someone. But Matheson already has let the White House and Utah's senators know he would like to be considered.

McCormack falsely suggested Rep. Matheson is only "now" undecided on health care reform

Noting that Rep. Matheson voted against the House bill last year, McCormack suggested that Matheson has been consistently opposed to health care reform and "now" has changed his mind to be "undecided" about health care reform legislation. In fact, while Matheson voted against the House's health care bill, he has long made more favorable comments about the Senate's version of health care reform, of which Obama's proposal largely mirrors.

From McCormack's March 3 post:

Consider Congressman Matheson's record on the health care bill. He voted against the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee back in July and again when it passed the House in November. But now he's "undecided" on ramming the bill through Congress. "The Congressman is looking for development of bipartisan consensus," Matheson's press secretary Alyson Heyrend wrote to THE WEEKLY STANDARD on February 22. "It's too early to know if that will occur." Asked if one could infer that if no Republican votes in favor of the bill (i.e. if a bipartisan consensus is not reached) then Rep. Matheson would vote no, Heyrend replied: "I would not infer anything. I'd wait to see what develops, starting with the health care summit on Thursday."

But Matheson long preferred Senate proposals to House bill, which he voted against. On July 21, 2009, Matheson outlined "some of the substantial changes required before he could vote for" the House health care reform bill and "said the suggested changes represent what will be a common-sense, bipartisan proposal that shares many of the features under review by the U.S. Senate in their committee negotiations." In a November 6, 2009, press release, Matheson "said he will vote against HR 3962" because it does not ensure "that the health care system is secure, stable and affordable." The press release further noted that "Matheson said he is encouraged that a bipartisan, budget-deficit-neutral, cost-lowering bill is on the table in the Senate." After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced health care reform legislation to the Senate on November 18, Matheson reportedly stated that he was "unsure whether he would vote for Senate Democrats' current health-care reform bill," but that the Senate bill "at least on the top line basis will reduce costs over time, so it is going in the right direction."

Matheson supports Senate plan's "tax on so-called 'Cadillac plans.' " The Salt Lake Tribune reported on December 22, 2009, that Matheson "backs the tax on so-called 'Cadillac plans,' especially after analysts with the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said it is one of the most powerful ways to slow health care inflation." Obama's proposal includes a version of the tax. From The Salt Lake Tribune report:

Senate Democrats want to tax expensive insurance plans, saying it is a key way to lower the astronomical rise in medical costs, but doing so would hit many union workers and that has House Democrats more than a little squeamish. So instead the House wants to tax millionaires.

This backburner issue is likely to get much hotter if the Senate manages to pass a health reform bill soon, as expected. That would force House and Senate leaders to decide whether to support a cost-containing tax despite union opposition, or protect their power base at the expense of a desired reform.

Despite his ties to labor groups, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, backs the tax on so-called "Cadillac plans," especially after analysts with the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said it is one of the most powerful ways to slow health care inflation.

"That makes the idea attractive to me," said Matheson, who opposed the House's health reform bill in part because it didn't do enough to control costs.

Obama's recently released health care plan "largely follows Senate version." As The New York Times reported on February 22, Obama's "blueprint" for health care reform "sticks largely to the version passed by the Senate in December, but offers some concessions to House leaders who have demanded more help for middle-class people."

Senate bill, Obama proposal lack public option Matheson opposed. The New York Times reported on October 28, 2009, that Matheson "prefers nonprofit member-run cooperatives, rather than a government plan." The Associated Press noted on February 22 that "Obama did not include the government-run insurance plan sought by some Democrats. He kept the Senate approach, which gives Americans purchasing coverage through new insurance exchanges the option of signing up for national plans overseen by the federal office that manages the government health plan available to members of Congress. Those plans would be private, but one would have to be nonprofit."

Senate bill, Obama proposal include state-based exchanges Matheson favored. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on November 5, 2009, that Matheson proposed "drop[ping] the nationwide health insurance exchange called for in the [House] bill in favor of state-based exchanges." As the AP noted on February 22, "Liberals hoped Obama would go with a national exchange like the House bill did, but he stuck with the Senate's state-based approach."

Weekly Standard previously pushed dubious claim that White House threatened Nelson with Air Force base

Weekly Standard's Goldfarb claimed the White House is "threatening to close" Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base "to extort" Sen. Ben Nelson's vote on health care reform. On December 15, 2009, Michael Goldfarb wrote, "According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn't fall into line" on health care reform." Nelson's office and the White House said Goldfarb's report was "not true" and "completely baseless and false."

Goldfarb later stated that "as I understand it, Rahm Emanuel delivered a message to the Senate leadership that if Nelson did not get behind this, Offutt Air Force base would find itself on the next round of BRAC closures." But Goldfarb later changed his story, retracting the claim that Emanuel made the alleged threat. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Sen. Mike Johanns, Nelson's fellow Nebraska senator, "said he doesn't believe the rumors."

Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh ran with Goldfarb's smear. Despite denials from Nelson's office and the White House, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh seized on Goldfarb's blog post and advanced the dubious allegation.

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