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Friday, January 20, 2006

Howell's Howler VI

Debora Howell wrote "I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties."

This can be consstrued to be a correction. Thus I feel free to blog on other topics (nothing like promising not to do something to make one want to do it). However, it is at most a very minimal correction. Unlike her colleagues Howard Kurtz and Jeff Leen, who chose to lie about this fact, Howell admits that she did indeed write that Abramoff gave money to both parties. She also admits that she should not have done so. However, she claims that two different claims, one true and one false are different ways of saying the same thing. This is nonsense.

Since the original falsehood was printed, a web only correction is not sufficient. is having problems and gave me this when I searched for "Howell" and "correction" so I don't know if they have printed a correction. I am fairly sure they haven't.

In posts below I declared my ignorance of any evidence that Abramoff directed his clients to give money to Democrats. There is proof that he did. I apologise for my ignorance. Howell directed me to the proof here.

Obviously a large part of my outrage about Howell's original false claim was caused by my ignorance of the proof of this related but not identical claim.

Howell deliberately conflates two different issues in her reply. When discussing contributions directed by Abramoff, she links to a graph of contributions by "Abramoff, his tribal clients, and the lobbyists that make up team Abramoff." which is misleadingly entitled "How Abramoff Spread the Wealth." Since it is unusual to detect a lobbyist in the act of directing contributions, the graph might be the best possible simple summary of the giving. To link to it when defending the claim that Abramoff directed donations to Democrats is not at all reasonable.

I think that Abramoff tilted contributions towards Republicans as sharply as he could without tipping his client/victims off to the fact that he was not honestly serving their interests. Evidence (not proof) of this is provided by the facts that, when they hired Abramoff, clients' giving did indeed shift toward Republicans and that Abramoff's tribal clients gave more to Republicans than Democrats while all non Abromoff client tribes among the top 10 givers, gave more to Republicans.

Looking closely at the list of "Coushetta requests" I note three Democrats, Jean Carnahan, Max Cleland and Thomas Daschle. Abramoff also asked the Coushetta's to give to Cleland's opponent Saxby Chambliss with the note "challenger of incumbent". Clearly giving both to the incumbent and the challenger is not a sign of support for the incumbent. It also doesn't seem to me to be so bright, since it is not hard for the incumbent to detect such double dealing, but I know it is done. The list is, of course, incomplete going from Bu to Da. The name of a recipient who runs Delay's leadership PAC has been torn off hmmm.

The entry for Daschle seems to be crossed out. The large donations are to Burns, DeLay and Gale Norton's group where the amount is increased by a hand written note to $100,000. The graphic is strong evidence of favoring Republicans, but it does include direction of donations to Democrats.

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