AP's 'Novel' Name That Party Wrinkle: Purging Dem Party IDs from Original Local Reports

December 22nd, 2008 5:47 PM

DemOrGOPgraphic0708.jpgTwo situations over the weekend illustrate that the Associated Press's habitual failure to identify the political party of Democrats in trouble is more than likely a conscious decision. This is despite the AP Stylebook's guidance (as of 2000, the latest free edition I can find; a PDF is here) that a reporter should "include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is."

In both of the instances I will cite, local papers decided that party affiliation was important enough to include. But AP reporters decided that they weren't, even though out-of-state readers are less likely to know the party affiliation of the politician(s) involved.

The situations involve ousted and disgraced former Attorney General Marc Dann in Ohio, and Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia congressman. Both men are Democrats.

Dann resigned in May after reports of several on the job improprieties by Dann and officials close to him and the revelation of an extramarital affair. He is back in the news over his alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Compare and contrast how the Columbus Dispatch, which did the original reporting, and the AP, which referenced the Dispatch's work, covered the latest on the guy I called "Gunga Dann" earlier this year (HTs to Instapundit and Hot Air):

Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 18 -- "Dann faked financial reports, complaint says; Thousands diverted to family and aides, inspector general finds"

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann falsified his campaign finance records to disguise tens of thousands of dollars spent to benefit himself, his wife, children and top campaign staffers, a complaint filed today says.

Statements of receipts and expenditures that Dann's campaign filed with the secretary of state "contain incomplete, inaccurate and false information concerning expenditures from the fund for travel, food, beverages, cell phones and other expenditures," Inspector General Thomas P. Charles said in a sworn statement filed with the complaint before the Ohio Elections Commission.

..... (11th paragraph) Dann took office in January 2007 after campaigning against the "culture of corruption" in Columbus. He was forced to resign May 14 of this year after his fellow Democrats mounted an impeachment effort and investigators led by Charles conducted an extraordinary raid on the attorney general's office.


Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 19 -- "Dann accused of misusing money; Ex-attorney general may have falsified reports to hide expenses"

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann was hit with two elections complaints yesterday, alleging that he broke state law by converting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, then disguising it in falsified reports submitted to the state.

The complaints filed with the Ohio Elections Commission by Inspector General Thomas P. Charles and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner accuse Dann, his wife and top campaign staff members of violating Ohio law no less than eight times.

Receipts and expenditures that Dann's campaign filed with the secretary of state "contain incomplete, inaccurate and false information concerning expenditures from the fund for travel, food, beverages, cell phones and other expenditures," Charles said in a sworn statement filed late yesterday.

The complaint included 1,000 pages of supporting records.

..... (20th paragraph) Dann, a Democrat, was elected in 2006 and took office Jan. 7, 2007.


Associated Press, Dec. 20, carried in the Minneapolis Star Tribune ("Report: Former Ohio attorney general raised campaign cash for vacations, Christmas presents"; this is the original story Hot Air referred to, though the link it used was dynamic, and is no longer available)

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann used his campaign account to bankroll home repairs and family vacations, according to a newspaper review of state investigative reports.

The reports are part of a complaint filed last week with the Ohio Elections Commission by state Inspector General Tom Charles. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner also filed an elections commission complaint against Dann last week alleging misuse of campaign funds.

The AP report contains no reference to Dann's Democratic Party affiliation in its 15 paragraphs. At least the Dispatch eventually got around to it, though later than it should have, in its reports.

In the second example of a disappearing Democratic Party ID, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Marcia Gelbart and Emilie Lounsberry reported yesterday on Congressman Chaka Fattah's recent troubles involving taxpayer dollars:

Inquiry looks at Fattah program
Investigators are asking about the use of federal grant money in a scholarship project he founded and now is shutting down.

Federal investigators are examining a multimillion-dollar scholarship program that U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah founded four years ago and abruptly announced last month that he was shutting down.

The inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators asking about the use of federal grant money that has flowed into the program, named CORE Philly.

Two people familiar with CORE Philly said last week that the FBI had contacted them. One, a public-relations consultant, said she had been served a grand-jury subpoena requesting copies of videos she made for the program.

Fattah (D., Pa.), elected last month to an eighth term, said Friday that he had learned of the inquiry in July from the program's former executive director.

The related AP report (link is dynamic) that referenced the Inquirer reporters' work at philly.com, is party affiliation-free, and begins as follows:

Pa. congressman's scholarship program questioned

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Federal investigators are questioning a discontinued scholarship program founded by a Pennsylvania congressman.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that investigators are asking about the use of federal grants given to College Opportunity Resources for Education, or CORE Philly.

The program was set up by Rep. Chaka Fattah four years ago but is ending after next spring. He says the investigation was about a $700,000 grant from the Justice Department to cover staffing, computers and more.

As noted earlier, if the local reporters felt that (eventually) mentioning party affiliation was important, then it's clearly more incumbent on AP to do the same for the benefit of readers outside of the local area. But the wire service didn't do that in its reports. Gee -- I wonder why?

UPDATE: Maybe this is hoping for too much, but perhaps the wire service was appropriately chastened by Ed Morrissey's call-out at Hot Air yesterday on its Marc Dann coverage. The second paragraph of a story update this afternoon (link is dynamic, and may change shortly) by Stephen Majors says that "Dann, a Democrat elected in 2006 on an anti-corruption platform, resigned in May amid a sexual harassment scandal in his office that included his admission that he had an affair with an employee." Imagine that.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.