Fact Checking Connecticut Newspapers
It has been interesting for me to read various newspaper articles and editorials about the arrest of Chris Donovan's former finance director. Following the issue closely has revealed just how poorly Connecticut's paper are really doing in covering important state news.
Perhaps the most glaring error is that several newspapers such as The Day are reporting, Donovan to sit out special session as FBI probe continues. The heading is inaccurate. Speaker Donovan will participate in the special session, however, as the article goes on to state, he "will temporarily relinquish his leadership role during the state legislature's forthcoming special session". The Patch is similarly reporting, House Speaker Chris Donovan Won't Take Part in Upcoming Special Session. In The Patch's case, it does not appear that the article corrects the error in the headline.
Matt DeRienzo is also particularly sloppy in his editorial, OPINION: Chris Donovan’s betrayal of Connecticut’s working families. He writes,
On Thursday, the FBI arrested his finance director, charging that Donovan, or “Public Official Number 1,” as he is referred to in court documents, used his position as speaker to squeeze campaign contributions out of businesspeople affected by pending state legislation he controlled and then hide it from the Federal Elections Commission.
However, that's not what the FBI said. The affidavit talks about the conspirators hoping to get the Speaker to oppose a certain bill, but there is no indication that the Speaker even knew of the effort, let alone tried "to squeeze campaign contributions out of businesspeople". I'm fairly disappointed in Matt, because in other cases, he has tended to rely on facts instead of conjecture or hyperbole.
The Day goes on to have an editorial, Malloy should veto law targeting debates. This is one of the most factually inaccurate editorials I've read in a long time. The law they are talking about does not target debates, particularly the debates that they mention in the editorial.
In election campaigns dominated by moneyed interests and misleading and downright dishonest advertisements, there is nothing quite as honest, straightforward and informative as candidate debates.
So our General Assembly has passed what is alleged to be campaign finance reform legislation that does nothing more than discourage, if not eliminate them….
Let's say this newspaper joins with WTNH Channel 8, as it has often done in the past and hopes to again, to televise a debate for U.S. senator and invites the candidates for the office to appear and journalists from the two news organizations to ask the questions….
I tried to add a comment to this. Their system requires that a person be a member to comment, so I signed in, and still it won't allow me to comment, so I'm sharing the comment here.
"In election campaigns dominated by moneyed interests and misleading and downright dishonest advertisements, there is nothing quite as honest, straightforward and informative as candidate debates."
For debates well run debates where the sponsoring organization is not supporting or opposing candidates in the debate, perhaps this is true, however, many recent debates seem to be little more than sideshows in the political circus.
The issue with Chris Donovan's former finance director is about information about donors being hidden. This is the big problem that needs to be addressed. The campaign finance reform bill before Governor Malloy addresses this issue without threatening fair and honest debates.
Unfortunately, the bill only addresses Connecticut state elections, since Federal elections, like the U.S. Congress race that Chris Donovan is in, and a U.S. Senate debate, such as you mentioned in your editorial are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Elections Commission where the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling has precedence.
The Connecticut law, if signed by Governor Malloy, would apply to independent expenditures which support or oppose a candidate. I certainly hope that the debates that The Day is involved with are fair and honest, and not supporting or opposing candidates. Debates that do support or oppose candidates would be a travesty that would even further diminish the reputation of news organizations.
However, given the misinformation in The Day's editorial, I have to question the honesty and straightforwardness of its editors and a certainly hope that The Day provides a subsequent editorial recanting this one and providing accurate information.
The public does need to be diligent to make sure that elected officials cannot be bought and that their staffers properly do the job they are hired to do. Yet the public also needs to be diligent to make sure that the fourth estate is properly doing its job, and so far, it appears as if in several cases, the fourth estate is has not been up to the task.