The New York Times has an article today titled, “Inquiry of Democratic Senator Started With Partisan Push.” The story by Eric Lipton describes our success in getting media coverage for our original research about Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his relationship with a major donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Lipton then states that to Menendez and his staff our work is “proof that the news media frenzy focusing on his actions to help a Florida eye doctor is at least in part a political smear.”
The only problem with this story line is that the New York Times approached us shortly before the January 29 FBI raid on Melgen’s eye practice in Florida and asked us if we had any information on Melgen. We did not seek to place it with any news organization because there was (and is) even more to the story, and we were (and are) still researching it.
Since the Times asked for it, we provided what we had at that point, information showing Menendez was using his position as Chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere to push a windfall contract for his biggest political and personal benefactor. This information was the basis for the “heart” of a February 1 front-page story titled, “Senator Has Long Ties to Donor Under Scrutiny.”
Now Lipton, in photo, asserts that Menendez is the victim of some kind of “partisan” cabal when it was his own newspaper that sought out the story.
Litpton was well aware of our interactions with other Times reporters because NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm discussed them with him on the phone and during the interview for his story. It appears Lipton’s deliberately misrepresented our relationship with his own employer in order to fit the premise of his story.
The Melgen story was the second major New York Times story based on information we provided on a exclusive basis in less than a year. The first appeared on July 27, 2012 about a “mysterious donor” named Bob Williams who despite having no visible means of support, donated $900,000 to political candidates and committees. Ironically, most of the money went to Republicans. And Williams was a member of the N.Y. Republican Party’s Chairman Advisory Council.
Again, Lipton chose to ignore what happened at his own newspaper apparently because it would contradict his portrayal of NLPC as a “Republican” or “partisan” group.
Lipton misrepresented other elements of his interview with Ken Boehm. He opens the story with the provocative quote from Ken that “We’ve never sent a Democrat to jail.” The quote was taken out of context in order to invert its meaning.
Ken described to Lipton how we were responsible for the highest-ranking member of the Bush administration going to prison. Her name was Darleen Druyun, the Bush Administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. She pleaded guilty of a crime for her role in the Boeing Tanker Deal Scandal, which NLPC first exposed in a complaint to the Defense Department Inspector General. The Wall Street Journal ran the story on the front page leading soon thereafter to the canceling of the multi-billion-dollar deal and the Druyun guilty plea. Boehm noted to Lipton that we have sent a Republican to prison, but no Democrat, in response to Lipton’s questions about the “partisanship” of NLPC.
The manipulation of the Boehm quote is a serious breach of journalistic ethics.
Ken also showed Lipton a New York Times article describing how NLPC had filed a Senate Ethics complaint against Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski on a sweetheart land deal with a major donor to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens. In that 2007 case, Murkowski sold the land back to the donor a day after NLPC filed the Complaint. Again he ignored it. It did not dovetail with his “partisan push” theme.
Lipton breathlessly reported that Ken formerly worked for Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican. It is true, Ken worked for Smith – thirty years ago!
We will continue to dig on Menendez and other corrupt politicians in both parties. Lipton did accurately report on the significant skill of Ken and other members of our staff in sniffing out graft. The Times story on the port security deal was picked up by hundreds of news organizations and not a single fact we gave the Times has been challenged. Unlike Lipton, we have a proven track record of accuracy.
Menendez is a victim of nothing but his own checkered past and ethical shortcomings that are only now coming to light. Sorry Eric, Menendez makes for a pretty unsympathetic victim.