Commentators on both the Left and the Right are suggesting that the impending indictment of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is retribution against Menendez for his recent criticisms of Obama administration foreign policy. While we concur that almost everything that Attorney General Eric Holder does is tainted by politics, a few points about the Menendez case are in order:
1) The reported charges against Menendez, that he tried to interfere with a Medicare fraud investigation of his largest donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, and that he went to bat for Melgen in the Dominican Republic port security deal, were not cooked up by the political operation at the White House.
In today's New York Times, Frances Robles provides new details of the extensive political giving of two wealthy Ecuadoran brothers, Roberto and William Isaias, who are wanted in their home country for allegedly looting a bank. From the Times:
"There is a certain mercenary aura on the Hill when it comes to overlap of fund-raising from wealthy individuals with problems," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a research group. "The key elements are all there: They are wealthy and have problems that are solved by the discretionary judgment of someone in the administration. They have tons of money and are willing to write checks all over the place."
President Obama’s alternative energy “stimulus,” administered through his Department of Energy by previous Secretary Steven Chu, had already become a joke because of the failures and foibles of so many recipients of Recovery Act funds. But now – as though officially commemorating the absurdity of this historically bad U.S. government program – one of its bankrupt beneficiaries has changed its name from one of simplicity to one of mockery.
Taxpayer-supported Tesla, recipient of a $465 million stimulus loan guarantee to produce yet another electric toy car (the Model S) for rich people, reported its 4th quarter earnings last week. The word from billionaire CEO Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) was, “we’ll do better next quarter – promise.”
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.
Undoubtedly alternative energy and transportation innovator Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) – like his competitor for the taxpayer-funded, six-figure electric automobile market Henrik Fisker – is a smart guy. But will economic and technological realities humble him, or worse, make him look like a fool?
After the experience recounted last week by New York Times journalist John Broder, who test drove the Tesla Model S in frigid conditions that required frequent unplanned recharging stops throughout the Northeast, humility is out of the question for Musk. The jury is still out on inanity.
Attentive NLPC readers were aware of the extent of Exelon Corporation’s activism to gain regulatory favor in support of “green” policies in which it reaped millions of dollars in government grants and mandates, but last week’s lengthy New York Timesarticle about the cronyism-tainted relationship between the Chicago-based utility and the Obama administration revealed a few nuggets.
The story told how Exelon, with top executives as “early and frequent” supporters of the president as his political career ascended, were able to gain more access to the White House than others thanks to their longstanding relationships. According to one Exelon lobbyist, his employer was considered “the president’s utility.”
It appears Urbina crossed the line into sensational journalism with his baseless claims by failing to conduct proper background checks, and his tendency to overstate the credentials of anonymous sources. This problems with his reporting apparently have driven a wedge between Times editors trying to justify the story, and those concerned over the long-term repercussions for the paper.
On July 7, we askedNew York Times ombudsman Arthur Brisbane to look at the newspaper's front-page series on natural gas by reporter Ian Urbina, who alleged that the sector is in the grips of a speculative bubble. We specified a number of apparent ethical problems with Urbina's methods and sources.
In Sunday's paper, Brisbane addressed the central concern raised by us and many others - that Urbina ignored the fact that production of natural gas from domestic shale deposits is booming. Brisbane wrote:
NLPC today asked the New York Times ombudsman to review the newspaper's front-page series on natural gas published last week. The articles by Ian Urbina alleged that there is a speculative bubble in natural gas drilling. We have identified a number of apparent ethical problems with Urbina's methods and sources.
Here is the complete text of my letter to The New York Times ombudsman Arthur Brisbane, whose actual title is Public Editor: