Which is bigger news for the mainstream media: accusations of impropriety against a Republican rising star, or politically-motivated accusations of impropriety against a Republican rising star? We're about to find out.
Plenty of reporters were certainly eager to inform their readers and viewers about allegations against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that claimed he had spent about $2,000 more than was allocated on travel expenses during his time as a U.S. attorney.
But it turns out that the author of the Justice Department report that made those allegations is an uber-partisan who has previously used her position in the Inspector General's office to advance a leftist agenda. Will the media report these facts, and their implications for the report on Christie's alleged improprieties?
The Daily Caller reported Tuesday:
According to [former DOJ official Hans] von Spakovsky, [Christie accuser Maura] Lee was “one of the most belligerent, unprofessional lawyers” he encountered during his time at the DOJ. “Because of her,” he said, “we had to completely change our security protocol.”
Another former senior DOJ official who asked not to be named confirmed Lee’s involvement in strategizing to leak information to the Washington Post, saying that she was not a trustworthy person and had major political motivations…
The former coworker also alleges that Lee sent out e-mails to the more “left-leaning DOJ employees,” suggesting that they leak sensitive information to the Washington Post. According to this former DOJ employee, once Lee was found out, the entire security system within the Voters Rights Division had to be revamped.
Not only that, but according to this source, Lee’s superiors – including von Spakovsky – were authorized by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility to search her e-mails. They found evidence of Lee’s attempts to leak information to the Washington Post on, among other things, the Texas redistricting issue in 2005 when a handful of DOJ attorneys argued the new plan was unconstitutional because it unfairly favored Republicans…
Both von Spakovsky and the former DOJ employee are of the opinion that considering the history of its author, the recent report targeting Chris Christie is absolutely politically motivated. Moreover, both said that another IG report was also done on internal travel expenses of DOJ employees that, in some cases, exceeded the budget limit by tens of thousands of dollars. That report, however, was never released.
“There is absolutely no logical explanation for why this report [for the five attorneys general] would get leaked and the one about internal employees was kept confidential,” said von Spakovsky.
In short, the report must be taken with a pound of salt.
But the questions remains: will media outlets that jumped at Lee's accusations - including outlets from the New York Times to the Philadelphia Inquirer to local papers such as the Trentonian and the Newark Star-Ledger - follow up by noting her apparent political motivations?
The political inclinations of DOJ officials was certainly a hot topic for the media during the recent New Black Panther Party voter intimidation controversy. Many reporters painted whistleblower J. Christian Adams as poltiically motivated. And of course "politicization" was a frequent refrain during the George W. Bush administration, when the mainstream media parroted Democrats' charges against the DOJ.
The Christie controversy (or lack thereof) will be a bit of a test case: is DOJ politicization a bi-partisan problem in America's newsrooms?