For my Rocky column Sat., I asked U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s campaign Manager, Dick Wadhams, about Schaffer’s accusation that there were factual errors in The Denver Post’s stories showing that Schaffer defended abusive immigration policies in the Marianas Islands, using tactics promoted by corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In addition to ripping off Native Americans, Abramoff made big money defending the Marianas Islands’ exploitative immigration policies, which may even have resulted in forced abortions. Abramoff spearheaded a successful lobbying campaign to block immigration reform in the Marianas. Abramoff specifically targeted the House Resources Committee, which had jurisdiction over the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and on which Schaffer was a member. Only last month, after decades of oppositin from Abramoff and Congressmen like Schaffer, did Congress finally pass immigration reform for the Marianas.
As reported in The Post, Schaffer visited Marianas, courtesy of an organization with ties to Abramoff, and defended its immigration policies in Washington DC. Overall, Schaffer’s lobbying tactics aligned with Abramoff’s.
An April 22 report by Colorado Media Matters pointed out that Schaffer, in an interview on KFKA-AM (1310), said The Post’s stories contained “egregious reporting errors” and many facts that were “untrue and complete prevarications.
Asked about these alleged errors, Wadhams couldn’t cite any facts that were wrong in The Post’s stories.
He said the stories were “designed to give the reader the impression that Bob Schaffer was directly involved with Jack Abramoff.” This, he said was “untrue” and “false.”
I regret not giving The Post a chance in my column to respond to Wadhams’ statement. So I asked The Post’s political editor Curtis Hubbard what the purpose of the stories was.
Hubbard emailed me:
The Post’s reporting relied on documentary evidence showing clear parallels between Jack Abramoff’s lobbying efforts on behalf of the Northern Marianas Islands and its textile manufacturers and the actions of Congressman Bob Schaffer, among others.
The lobbying effort included arranging trips to the islands for members of Congress as a way to develop goodwill. Abramoff then pointed to those trips as the basis for being able to successfully stymie legislative attempts to reform labor practices there.
The strategy also called for discrediting Interior Department advocates for labor and immigration reform on the islands by Republicans on the House Resources Committee. Documents show numerous meetings between Abramoff (and his staff) and Resource Committee staffers prior to two key hearings — hearings in which Bob Schaffer played a major role and in which he largely worked to discredit the witnesses.
Schaffer has said he had no direct contact with Abramoff. If his campaign is claiming he unwittingly implemented Abramoff’s strategy (perhaps at the behest of Resource Committee staffers, the committee’s chairman, or other Republicans), he should make that clear.
If the campaign is claiming that the close similarity between Schaffer’s actions and Abramoff’s plan is pure coincidence, they are free to do so. But it is our responsibility to report those congruencies and let the readers decide.
So The Post’s stories simply stated the facts, and left the reader to decide what to make of it all.When I told Wadhams, who has my respect for talking to me about this, that The Post’s stories didn’t state that there was a direct connection between Schaffer and Abramoff, Wadhams said:
Oh spare me. Jason, Jason. Don’t give me that. The intent of the stories was to try to give the reader the impression there was a direct connection. They were written that way. The editors wanted them written that way. They directed they were written that way. Give me a break. What are you talking about?
I told Wadhams that Schaffer had taken a more extreme position in his radio interview. Schaffer didn’t talk about the impression the stories created but about facts in the stories. Here’s our exchange on this:
Jason: [Schaffer] said there were many facts, actually, not just one, that were wrong, that are just untrue. These stories actually asked the question. They never said that there was a direct connection [between Schaffer and Abramoff].
Wadhams: Oh bullshit. Read the stories, Jason.
Jason: I’ll read those stories.
Wadhams: I’m sure you have and I’m sure you took great glee in those stories, because they did your bidding for you because you are against Schaffer and for Udall. But what’s your point now.
Jason: My point is, I don’t think the stories lied.
Wadhams: Don’t wrap yourself in objectivity here.
In my interview, for a brief moment, Wadhams sort of acknowledged that the stories did not contain factual errors. But he didn’t say that Schaffer misspoke or that Schaffer should clarify his position. Here’s our exchange:
Jason: Well, there are these facts that you say that The Post got wrong?
Wadhams: No, I said that the stories were designed to give the reader the impression that Bob Schaffer was directly involved with Jack Abramoff. That’s patently untrue and false. That’s what I said. And that is absolutely what we said from the beginning. And we haven’t changed our reaction to those stories.
That’s not what Schaffer said in his radio interview. If I were in Wadhams’ shoes, I’d just admit that Schaffer got it wrong and that The Post’s facts were indeed correct. I’d ask Schaffer himself to explain what he really meant when he said The Post’s facts were wrong.
And I’d tell Schaffer to apologize publicly to The Post.