Monday, February 06, 2017

News-Leader, Post-Dispatch pick up on my Huffington Post Roy Blunt/Betsy DeVos blog

It is not often that the Turner Report breaks a story that should have national impact.

That was the case January 21 when the connections between President Trump's Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos and Senator Roy Blunt were revealed..

The idea that DeVos contributed to Blunt's campaign was not surprising. She has boasted about her contributions to politicians in the past. Several national and regional news sources noted the money Blunt received from DeVos family members during his successful re-election bid last year.

What my post did was take the connections further. Though Blunt received more than $29,000 from the DeVos family in 2016, he also picked up an additional $8,800 when he was first elected six years earlier.

But the real key to my post was the revelation that the pro-voucher group All Children Matter, whose executive director was Betsy DeVos, paid $196,232.33 for an advertising blitz against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill in 2004 McCaskill's opponent, of course, was Blunt's son, Matt Blunt. The advertising, which came in the waning days of that campaign, was widely considered to be the key to the younger Blunt's narrow victory.

So I published the blog post January 21 and though it was widely read and shared and at this point is closing in on 24,000 visitors, it was not picked up by anyone.

It's not as if this information has not been published before. I wrote about those contributions during the time between 2004 and 2008 when All Children Matter was establishing its influence in Missouri, through people such as Matt Blunt, his chief of staff Ed Martin and state representatives Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar (now a state senator). Speaker of the House Rod Jetton appointed Cunningham chairman of the Education Committee after she wrote him a letter talking about how much money she could bring in from All Children Matter.

As far as I can determine not one media source picked up on my January 21 blog post, though it was spreading through social media.

Toward the end of last week after reading an article on Huffington Post detailing the money various senators had received from the DeVos family, I decided to submit a blog to the publication. That at least sparked some interest though not in any way I had anticipated.

The Huffington Post piece at this point has been liked on Facebook nearly 5,000 times and shared more than 2,300 times, and it apparently inspired someone to do something about it and that is what it took to get one major Missouri publication to finally note what I had written.

Earlier today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted an article about changes that were made briefly to Roy Blunt's Wikipedia page, noting some of the information from my blog post and article and then were changed back.

That was the Post-Dispatch's idea of what the real news story was.

It's not news that an organization run by Betsy DeVos, the woman that Roy Blunt says he will vote for Tuesday for Secretary of Education, is the same woman whose organization contributed nearly $200,000 to help Blunt's son become governor and she and her family gave more than $38,000 to Blunt's campaigns.

The news is that someone changed Blunt's Wikipedia page.

I took issue with a couple of things the reporters put into the article and contacted them earlier today. This paragraph was the one that bothered me:

I was referred to as a former teacher, when in the context of the article, I thought it should be noted that I had also been a reporter. That was relatively minor though, compared to a line that I thought put my original reporting in doubt.

"The bulk of the larger figure was from a DeVos-supported activist group reportedly spent against
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., when McCaskill ran for governor against Roy Blunt's son, Matt, in 2004"

That phrasing made it appear there was some doubt that the money was spent to defeat McCaskill. I noted that in the Huffington Post blog I had linked to the Missouri Ethics Commission document in which All Children Matter said it had spent the $196,232.33 for that purpose.

I contacted one of the reporters, Chuck Raasch, noted my concerns and he responded almost immediately and updated his article (one of the advantages to online reporting).

The source given for the amount of money was from an anti-Blunt blog post by a former teacher and journalist, and actually said that Blunt had received about $38,000 from DeVos or members of her family over multiple elections. The bulk of the larger figure was from a DeVos-supported activist group reported spending against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., when McCaskill ran for governor against Roy Blunt's son, Matt, in 2004.

I could have protested the reference to my post as anti-Blunt. I go where the facts take me, but I appreciated his quick response.

I still can't figure out, however, why the Wikipedia page was a more important story than the contributions that helped Matt Blunt wins the governor's race.

The Post-Dispatch was not the only newspaper to mention the Huffington Post blog. Reporter Will Schmitt of the Springfield News-Leader contacted me this afternoon for information for an article he was writing about the growing opposition to Betsy DeVos and the pressure being placed on Roy Blunt.

I answered his questions, provided some additional information and was pleasantly surprised when I read his article later in the afternoon:

The HuffPo article, written by blogger Randy Turner of Joplin, includes a copy of a Missouri Ethics Commission report from October 2004 showing $196,252.33 in payments for negative advertisements against then-gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill from an organization DeVos ran called All Children Matter.

McCaskill, now a U.S. Senator, eventually lost that race to Roy Blunt's son, Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

Schmitt went the extra mile on the story, digging further into the Ethics Commission documents, noting that the All Children Matter money used to defeat McCaskill and lift Matt Blunt into the governor's mansion came from such sources as retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield and John Walton of the Wal-Mart empire.

Schmitt also took the question about DeVos connection to Blunt's son's governor race to the senator, or at least to a spokesman for the senator.

Blunt spokesman Brian Hart said he had no information related to Matt Blunt's campaign and said the senator had issued no further statement beyond the remarks, provided to the News-Leader last week, that sparked the initial Facebook firestorm.

Schmitt's article was complete and thorough and the type of reporting that Missouri newspapers should be doing about the DeVos nomination.


Bus Plunge said...

The Post referred to 'Bus Plunge' as 'an obscure Ozarks blog' ....welcome to the club, Randy! LOL "He did not deny the details contained the Springfield News-Leader article from 1991, which is excerpted here in an obscure Ozark blog. Before hanging up, Dixon promised he would send a statement."

kitty chiwawa said...

Congratulations, Randy! The rest of the country needs to know what SW Missourians have known for a long time. Boy Runt is a crooked politician, among other things... :)

Steve Holmes said...

One of the interesting big-picture aspects of the Wallace Bajjali coverage by "alternative media" is its growing ability to influence the traditional media and to move the needle of public opinion. You in Joplin, George Schwartz in Amarillo. My alma mater, MU Journalism School, is teaching blogging. I predict, in the next ten years, there'll be a Pulitzer category for blogs.

Anonymous said... one cares

Subscriber said...

It's beyond my ability to explain willful ignorance; but, Randy, please know your platform is appreciated and valued.