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Daily Howler: A. B. Stoddard recited a script--a script with a long, ugly history
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STODDARD KNOWS SCRIPT! A. B. Stoddard recited a script—a script with a long, ugly history: // link // print // previous // next //

STODDARD KNOWS SCRIPT: Modern pundits are quick to affirm their cohort’s Approved Standard Narratives. Case in point: The Hill’s A. B. Stoddard is a fast-rising darling. Yesterday, she knew what to do when the Wall Street Journal wrote about Candidate Clinton.

Stoddard knew what she had to do. She raced to apply Approved Script.

Quick background: On Tuesday, the Journal published this highly speculative report; it suggested the possibility that six members of a Daly City, California family may have made illegal contributions to Hillary Clinton’s Senate and White House campaigns. Under this theory, the Paw family may have donated someone else’s money; such “pass-through” contributions have long been a violation of federal law. The “evidence” in the Journal article is all circumstantial and speculative; Media Matters has noted basic problems with the report’s procedures (click here, for example). For the record, fairly small sums of money are involved. Since 2005, the six members of the extended Paw family have contributed a total of $45,000 to Clinton’s two campaigns.

Have the Paws made illegal contributions? It’s always possible that they have—and of course, it’s possible that they haven’t. Simply put, the Journal doesn’t know. Meanwhile, midway through his highly speculative report, Brody Mullins made a key point, in passing:
MULLINS (8/28/07): For the 2008 election, individuals can donate a maximum of $4,600 per candidate—$2,300 for a primary election and $2,300 for a general election...

In the wake of a 2002 law that set those limits, federal and state regulators and law-enforcement officials said they have seen a spike recently in the number of cases of individuals and companies illegally reimbursing others for campaign donations. Those cases don't necessarily implicate the candidates, who sometimes don't even appear to be aware of such payments executed on their behalf.
Uh-oh! Presidential candidates often don’t know when they receive such contributions. (For examples from recent campaigns, see below.) In short, Mullins simply doesn’t know if the Paws have done something wrong. And if they have, he doesn’t know if the Clinton campaign knew about it.

Did the Paws do something wrong? The Wall Street Journal doesn’t know. But so what? Stoddard, a rising young media darling, did know the Official Narrative suitable for serving on such an occasion. On last night’s Tucker, she showcased the way her reckless young cohort will reflexively act in such settings.

Has Hillary Clinton done something wrong? A. B. Stoddard doesn’t know. But so what? On Tucker, Stoddard was quick to offer her thoughts about what this murky story could mean. Here’s how her discussion of the topic with Carlson began. People like this should be kept away from cameras or open microphones:
CARLSON (8/28/07): It is very distressing. Hillary Clinton will accept huge amounts of money from people whose money that may not be, according to the Wall Street Journal—

PAT BUCHANAN: The Paw family.

CARLSON: The Paw family, a down-on-its-heels family, that has donated $45,000 to Hillary Clinton. Father is a mailman in San Francisco.

BUCHANAN: Two hundred thousand in the last couple of cycles.

CARLSON: Is this going to elicit an FEC investigation?

STODDARD: I don’t know the answer to that. But I think that this is exactly the kind of thing that could take her down.
Good God! No word of caution; no bits of context. No correction of Carlson, who started with the insinuation that Clinton has knowingly taken illegal money. (Obviously, he doesn’t know that.) Instead, Stoddard went directly to the Planet of the Scripts. “I think that this is exactly the kind of thing that could take her down,” she said. Moments later, just like that, she amplified her Approved Narrative:
STODDARD: The problem is, this kind of feeling that Obama and Edwards are stoking among die-hard Democrats. Many people think she is the most capable or experienced, there is still a sour taste in their mouth about the financial transgressions of the Clintons, which have filled books and will continue to. I think that this, if it turns into something, will be a huge problem for her.

CARLSON: The idea that she is a corporate Democrat.

STODDARD: That they cannot stop taking money from illegal sources.
Just like that, the magic word: If. Stoddard has no idea if these donations were illegal. If they were, she has no idea if the Clinton campaign knew. But she was quick to start pimping script about what could happen if this “turns into something.” “Many people” still have “a sour taste in their mouth” about the Clinton’s financial transgressions, she said, forgetting to say what those alleged transgressions were. To state the obvious, these “many people” include the media losers who have invented tales about the Clintons and Gore over the past fifteen years.

According to Stoddard, there’s an idea about in the land—an idea that the Clintons “cannot stop taking money from illegal sources.” That’s the script—and she’s sticking to it! Has Clinton done anything wrong in this case? Stoddard doesn’t know—but she does know the rules. You don’t clarify, caution, apply brakes or explain. You don’t correct your host’s misstatements. You don’t warn your viewers about the shortcomings of a highly speculative report. You don’t offer context from recent history. (We do—see below).

No! Instead, you crank script. And by the way, script may vary depending on the candidate! In situations where this type of conduct was shown to occur, Candidate Dole got a total pass—and Candidate Gore got lied about, viciously, for years. With Candidate Clinton, the chase is back on. Yesterday, Stoddard helped prove it.

HOWLER HISTORY—DOLE V. GORE: You’ve never heard of Simon Fireman, finance vice chairman to Candidate Dole in the 1996 White House campaign. But uh-oh! Before the whole shebang was over, everyone had heard of Maria Hsia, a minor Democratic fund-raiser.

No one ever heard of Fireman; everybody heard about Hsia. Which is odd, because Fireman and Hsia were alike in one way; each made illegal, “pass-through” contributions during Campaign 96. In July 1996, Fireman pleaded guilty to funneling $69,000 in illegal donations to the Dole campaign. (He had directed his employees to make the contributions, then reimbursed them with his own money.) In February 2000, Hsia was convicted of funneling illegal “pass-through” contributions to the DNC in 1996—contributions she received at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple, one day after Gore appeared there for an iconic event.

Fireman was close to Dole—a major player. But there was never any evidence that Dole knew about his illegal conduct—and for that reason, quite correctly, Dole was never dragged through the mud. By contrast, Hsia wasn’t close to Gore; during her trial, federal prosecutors explicitly stated that Gore didn’t know about her conduct. But so what? Gore was trashed all through Campaign 2000 by those who simply chose to pretend that he had conspired in her conduct. In this matter, the conduct of Hardball’s Chris Matthews was especially egregious—quite hard to believe. There are no words for the relentless way Matthews kept deceiving his viewers (links below).

We can draw two lessons from these historical tales:

First: Candidates are often unaware of illegal conduct on the part of donors. There was never any sign that Dole or Gore knew about these “pass-through” contributions—the very type of contribution the Journal says the Paws may have made. In a rational world, people like Stoddard would warn the public about this basic reality.

Second: Players like Stoddard know script. In the mid-1990s, the Washington press corps dumbly decided that the Clintons were the world’s least honest known humans. So tribunes like Matthews lied about Gore all through the course of Campaign 2000—and players like Stoddard are eager to apply this Familiar Old Script in exciting new contexts. Stoddard has no earthly idea if the Paws have done something wrong; if they have, she has no idea if Clinton knew about it. But so what! Rather than offer these points of caution, she handed viewers a pleasing old script. Darlings, there’s a “sour taste” out there—and “an idea” is afloat. A young tribune ran to promote it.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: As with Dole, so with Gore; federal prosecutors said, in open court, that he didn’t know about Maria Hsia’s conduct. But so what? Matthews simply pretended he did, for weeks on end, on Hardball. It’s hard to describe the extent of the lying—of the damage that was done to world history. In other professions, people who behave this way go to jail. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/02. For a real-time report about Matthews’ misconduct, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/17/00.

Matthews’ conduct was simply astounding. Have you ever heard anyone mention it?

DOLE SI, CLINTON NO: Did the Paws make illegal “pass-through” contributions? The Journal doesn’t know. But in 1996, Simon Fireman did make such illegal donations—and he was Dole’s finance vice chairman! But Dole wasn’t trashed for Fireman’s conduct because there was no sign that he knew about it. For the record, Fireman pled guilty in July 1996. Here are the opening grafs from Charles Babcock’s report in the Post:
BABCOCK (7/11/96): A former top fund-raiser for Republican Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign has agreed to pay $6 million in personal and corporate criminal fines and face a possible prison term for illegally funneling $120,000, mostly through his employees, to the campaigns of Dole and others since 1991.

It is the largest penalty for a case of illegal political donations, a Justice Department spokesman said. Simon C. Fireman, the 70-year-old head of Aqua-Leisure Industries, which makes swim masks and pool toys, and his assistant, Carol A. Nichols, reached a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office in Boston...
Under the agreement, which must be approved by a federal judge, Fireman will pay a $1 million fine to the U.S. Treasury, and his privately held firm will pay $5 million. The U.S. attorney also will recommend that Fireman serve six months in prison. Nichols agreed to pay a $7,500 fine and be put on probation. Employees who made the donations will not be prosecuted, a prosecutor said.

Fireman resigned as a vice chairman of Dole's national finance committee after the Kansas City Star reported in April that some of his employees said they were given the cash to make $1,000 donations to the Dole presidential campaign. Under federal law, it is illegal to make donations in the name of another person by reimbursing him or giving him the money to do so, as Fireman admitted.

The federal charges said Fireman illegally donated $69,000 to Dole's campaign last year. Nearly $39,000 was in cash donated through Aqua-Leisure employees, another $13,000 was from a loan to another businessman who also used "conduit" donors, and the rest from yet another businessman Fireman persuaded to make similar illegal donations. The Boston Globe reported that Fireman had sponsored a fund-raising event for Dole in Hyannis Port, Mass., last August.

One of Fireman's goals was a government job, according to the charges. U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern said in an interview yesterday that Fireman had made remarks to others about becoming an ambassador, as reported by the Star.