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Maybe the NY Times Figured We Wouldn't Notice - By Dennis Byrne

OK, I admit that when I saw a lengthy and prominently played New York Times story this morning about a congressman who "used his powerful perch on the House Appropriations Committee to funnel $250 million into five nonprofit organizations that he had set up," I assumed that the paper was going after another Republican.

True, that assumption was my own bias against a paper whose liberal bias is reaching legendary heights.

As I read the story, I didn't even notice that the story failed to identify the political affiliation of the congressman, Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia, in the first paragraph. Nor in the second. Nor in the third.

By now, I noticed this omission, because standard journalistic practice calls for a politician's party to be identified, if not in the first paragraph, at least pretty damn quick.

I read on. Fourth graph, still nothing. Fifth, sixth and seventh. Nothing. The New York Times must figure that everyone knows who Mollohan is. Only us rubes wouldn't.

Finally in the eighth graph I find this:

The case has led several Republican leaders to call for Mr. Mollohan's removal from the House ethics committee, where he is the senior Democrat. [Emphasis added]

That's 315 words into the story. Before the first mention that Mollohan's a Democrat. And, it turns out, an important one.

Maybe someone has a logical explanation for why it took so long. The choices are:

• Incompetent and careless writer and editors.
• Biased writer and editors.

Or maybe the Times figured that political affiliation--this time--was of no consequence.

Actually, it is of significant consequence, as you might gather from the straight news story, which broke in the Wall Street Journal on April 7:

Congressman's 'Earmarks' Spur Federal Probe

April 7, 2006; Page A1

FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- On a mountaintop above old coal seams that once fueled West Virginia's economy, a gleaming steel-and-glass research center is taking shape, its winged design and 120-foot data tower visible for miles.

The $136 million building is being built with taxpayers' money for the Institute for Scientific Research, a nonprofit group launched by the local congressman, Democrat Alan Mollohan, and funded almost entirely through provisions he put into annual spending bills.

A 12-term congressman, Mr. Mollohan sits on the House Appropriations Committee, a panel that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff dubbed the "favor factory." Working with fellow West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd, Mr. Mollohan has steered at least $178 million to nonprofit groups in his district over the past five years using "earmarks" -- special-interest provisions that are slipped into spending bills to direct money to pet projects.

The money has brought more than jobs and building projects to his district. It has formed and financed a tight-knit network of nonprofit institutions in West Virginia that are run by people who contribute regularly to Mr. Mollohan's campaigns, political-action committee and a family foundation. One of these people also invests in real estate alongside Mr. Mollohan and his wife. The network of contributors also includes private companies that get contracts through these nonprofits.

Such a pattern raises questions about whether the donations or deals might be a way beneficiaries of earmarks could influence the legislator's actions. Now, federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of Mr. Mollohan's finances and whether they were properly disclosed, according to people contacted in the inquiry. Mr. Mollohan hasn't been accused of wrongdoing. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, whose public-corruption unit is conducting the inquiry, declined to comment....

Here' how the UPI reported the story:

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- A Democratic congressman has fueled five non-profit groups in his West Virginia district with $250 million in earmark funding, The New York Times reports.

- Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant who blogs at http://dennisbyrne.blogspot.com/. He may be reached via email at dennis@dennisbyrne.net.