Michael Gaynor
Times public editor seeking facts about Times killing ACORN-Obama expose before 2008 election from ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncrief
By Michael Gaynor
April 21, 2009

Is Mr. Hoyt surreptitiously pursuing discovery for Times lawyers instead of seeking the answer to the question, "Did Times editors tell Ms. Strom to 'stand down' instead of to pursue a possible 'game changer' in order to help the presidential candidate they favored"?

If you search the names "Anita MonCrief" and "Heather Heidelbaugh" at the archive of The New York Times, you will not get any "hits."

That's because The New York Times never saw fit to write about them, NOT because they are not newsworthy.

In fact, they were VERY newsworthy last October and last March, and they are very newsworthy now.

Clark Hoyt is the current Public Editor of The New York Times.

Ms. MonCrief is the whistleblower who testified against ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) in a Pennsylvania court as a witness for Ms. Heidelbaugh last October and revealed to me on October 21, 2008 that earlier during that dayNew York Times national correspondent Stephanie Strom had told held (via voicemail) that her editors had told her to "stand down" on an ACORN-Obama expose and added in a subsequent telephone conversation with Ms. MonCrief that day that the reason was that the expose might be "a game changer" and Times policy was not to do "a game changer" close to election day.

Mr. Hoyt somehow obtained Ms. MonCrief's email address and emailed her to find out the facts after "The O'Reilly Factor" played most of the voicemail on April 1, 2009.

No spin here.

Instead,the texts of the emails exchanged between Mr. Hoyt and Ms. MonCrief.

Hoyt to MonCrief, April 3, 2009:

"I am the public editor, or ombudsman, of The New York Times, and I am following up on a number of reader inquiries I've received since Heather Heidelbaugh testified before Congress. Ms. Heidelbaugh quoted you as saying that you had been a confidential source for articles by Stephanie Strom about ACORN but that after you sent Ms. Strom donor lists supplied by the Obama campaign to ACORN, she reported to you that 'her editors at The New York Times wanted her to kill the story because, and I quote, "it was a game changer."'

"I'd like to know more about this and would appreciate any help you could give me. I'm especially curious about where the words 'game changer' came from. Were they words that Ms. Strom spoke or e-mailed to you, or were they words you used to characterize what she said? Ms. Heidelbaugh's testimony is ambiguous on this point; it is not clear to me who she is quoting. A voicemail from Ms. Strom to you that Bill O'Reilly played on Fox News did not contain those words. Did you and Ms. Strom have a subsequent conversation where they might have come up?

"I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks in advance."

MonCrief to Hoyt, April 3, 2009:

"Those were her words in the conversation we had after I got her voice mail. She said that it was their policy not to print a game changer for either side that close to the election.

"The 'O'Reilly Factor' redacted part of the voice mail message that Stephanie Strom left for me. Here is the part that is missing. It was cut right after the 'stand down' part.

"'Ah, we're running a story tonight for tomorrow that, ah, pretty well lays out the partisanship problems that Project Vote may have, ah, based on a report that I got. So, ah, they think that going to do, — that's going to be the story about the partisanship issue, and so they want me to hold off on coming to Washington.'

"The whole audio will be available online by Monday, April 6, thanks."

Hoyt to MonCrief, April 3, 2009:

"Thank you for this. It is helpful."

MonCrief to Hoyt, April 17, 2009

"I do appreciate you contacting me. I have faith in your position as ombudsman and know that things do take time, however, I have not seen any indication that the investigation has been completed or that readers questions are being answered. Will there be a post with your findings from the investigation? I want the truth to be exposed and if you require some further information, please do not hesitate to contact me directly."

Hoyt to MonCrief, April 17, 2009

"Thank you for getting in touch with me. I am still looking into the ACORN story, while juggling a number of other issues raised by readers. Some of these inquiries do take more time than others. I was glad to hear from you because I was planning to get back to you this afternoon with some more questions.

"To help me understand what happened here, I'd like to know more about your initial dealings with Stephanie Strom and what you believe the story would have been had she met you in Washington and continued pursuing it.

"These are some of my specific questions:

"As I understand it, you contacted Ms. Strom after her July 9, 2008, article, 'Funds Misappropriated At 2 Nonprofit Groups.' This was the story that reported Dale Rathke's embezzlement of $1 million between 1999 and 2000. What information did you supply to her at that time? Did it appear in subsequent stories by her?

"In your interview with Warner Todd Huston, you said that Ms. Strom had 'the donor list' since last August and that she had received evidence from you of a meeting between the Obama camp and ACORN. What was this donor list? Was it a report to the Federal Election Commission by the Obama campaign, a list compiled within ACORN or something else? How would it have shown wrongdoing by ACORN or the Obama campaign? What was the evidence of the meeting? Did you and other whistleblowers know who was there and what was said? Was there independent evidence of what was said? To the best of your understanding, would the meeting have violated federal election law?

"If you and Ms. Strom had met in Washington in October, what would you have told her or supplied her? What did you see the story as being? I guess one way to address that is to think about what you would have written if you were the reporter, based on your knowledge of the situation.

"In her voicemail to you, she said the story that was running the next day would deal with the partisanship problems with Project Vote. That story was based on the attorney's internal investigation commissioned by ACORN and affiliates. The story quoted the groups' own lawyer as saying there were problems with the way ACORN and Project Vote failed to separate their activities. What did you think of the story? Did it deal adequately with the political involvement problems you were concerned about?

"Why didn't you testify before Congress when Ms. Heidelbaugh gave her statement quoting you to the House subcommittee?

"I don't mean to pepper you with questions, but I'm trying to understand the whole situation.

"Thanks in advance for any help you can give me."

MonCrief to Hoyt, April 17, 2009:

"I expected that you would have gotten the answers to nearly all of your questions from Stephanie and/or the Congressional testimony of Heather Heidelbaugh, including the memorandum by Cleta Mitchell attached to Heather's statement.

"Here's a link:

[PDF] 1 TESTIMONY OF HEATHER S. HEIDELBAUGH, ESQUIRE Mar 17, 2009 ... My name is Heather Heidelbaugh. I am a practicing attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I serve on the Executive Committee of the ... judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Heidelbaugh090319.pdf — Similar pages

"By now I think that you should have a statement from Stephanie addressing your questions. If so, please send it to me and I will review what she said and identify any discrepancies. If not, please obtain one.

"Stephanie should have provided you with all the email we exchanged.

"Surely Stephanie should have acknowledged to you that she told me that the story she was working on was killed because her editors feared that it might be 'a game changer' and policy was not to run 'a game changer' close to election day."

Hoyt to MonCrief, April 17, 2009:

"I have read Heather Heidelbaugh's testimony and want to get further information from her, just as I will get more from Stephanie Strom. I asked you that list of questions because I want to understand what happened from your perspective. I realize it's a long list, but I would very much appreciate it if you would address the questions. They'll help me get to the bottom of all this.

"If you would prefer, we could talk by phone on Monday. I'd be glad to give you a call if you'll send me a number by which to reach you.

"Thanks in advance,"

MonCrief to Hoyt, April 20, 2009

"The demands on my time currently are considerable, but if you send me statements by Stephanie and Heather to confirm or correct, I will try my best to do so.

"So far Heather and I are the only ones who have provided pertinent sworn statements.

"I had hoped that Stephanie would report the real story of ACORN, but as published her articles on ACORN after I contacted her were 'watered down.'

"I remained hopeful, but in early October of 2008 I contacted an independent Internet columnist named Michael Gaynor as a back up plan in case Stephanie's editors continued to edit in such as way that less than the whole story was reported.

"After Stephanie left me that voicemail on October 21, 2008 and then told me that her editors had refused to print "a game changer," I called Mr. Gaynor and he offered to try to help me get the whole story told if I agreed to let him publicly identify me. I had wanted to remain anonymous, but I reluctantly agreed.

"In an article posted on October 29, 2008, Mr. Gaynor reported the following statements by me:

1. Project Vote has violated its 501(c)(3) status by using government and private grants that ultimately go directly or indirectly to ACORN (based on direct knowledge).

2. ACORN, Project Vote and Citizens Services Inc. (CSI) are essentially the same organization with different tax designations that are used to facilitate the transfer of money between them (based on direct and indirect knowledge).

3. ACORN has promoted a culture of dishonesty motivated by reaching target Voter Registration goals and senior staff have portrayed an attitude that allows for some "bad" cards in order to reach these goals (based on direct and indirect knowledge).

4. Karyn Gillette, Project Vote Development Director, Jeff Robinson, senior Project Vote "money man" and Nathan Henderson James, Project Vote Research and Political Director are all employed by CSI and may have worked directly with anyone seeking the services of CSI and money paid to CSI would have obvious ACORN ties (based on direct and indirect knowledge and documents).

5. Zach Polett, former Executive Director of Project Vote and former director of ACORN Political Operations mentioned that Obama had worked for us and that he even supervised him during a ACORN Political staff retreat in November 2007 (based on direct knowledge). "Mr. Gaynor also posted this in the same article:

"'Anita reports revealing connections between ACORN and the Obama campaign based on personal knowledge.

"'In late 2007, Anita reports, Anita received a call from the Obama campaign asking if this was the same Project Vote that Obama worked for in the 90's. With the staff retreat fresh in mind, Anita answered yes and sent an email to Zach Polett, Karyn Gillette, Nathan Henderson James, and Kevin Whelan stating that the campaign wanted someone to call them back regarding some media questions that were being asked at the time.

"'In late 2007, Anita reports, Karyn Gillette approached Anita to tell her that she had direct contact with the Obama campaign and had obtained their donor lists. This meeting took place sometime in November of 2007 and may have even been a conference call between the campaign and Project Vote. Anita was given an excel spreadsheet to work with for cultivation of new donors. When Anita had trouble because of the duplicates, Karyn stated that she would contact her person at the campaign and see if they had another one.

"'Anita reports that Karyn Gillette also provided lists obtained from the Kerry and Clinton campaigns, as well as the 2004 DNC donor lists, and that these lists were shared with the Political directors of roughly 12 ACORN battleground states in order to raise money for a $28 million dollar (number as of 11/2007) voter registration drive (based on direct and indirect knowledge and documents).

"'Anita reports that research uncovered after the Radke embezzlement scandal showed that persons demanded a forensic audit and suggested a well-known, credible firm to do it, but Bertha Lewis told them that the auditors came back with a contract that was 'too expensive' and that's what Dale Radke told funders back when they were hoping Arthur Anderson would take over auditing (based on indirect knowledge and documents).

"'Anita reports that ACORN and Project Vote used CCI to transfer money between the organizations and may be guilty of violating RICO statues (based on indirect knowledge and documents).

"'Anita reports that Sidley Austin, Obama's old law firm, is representing ACORN pro-bono and Mesirow Financial, the firm hired to provide financial advice to ACORN, is headed by a major Obama donor, Richard Mesirow (based on indirect knowledge and documents).

"'Anita also notes that questions have been raised about the shredding or destruction of documents by ACORN's own lawyers (based on documents).

"Here's a link to the article setting forth those statements: www.webcommentary.com/php/ShowArticle.php?id=gaynorm&date=081029"

Since April 3, 2009, Mr. Hoyt has had two and a half weeks to investigate whether Times editors ordered Ms. Strom to "stand down" and stopped her from going to Washington, D.C. to meet with Ms. MonCrief and obtain documents to support an ACORN-Obama Campaign expose that might have been "a game changer." He has had the benefit of Ms. MonCrief's prompt reply on April 3, 2009 to his specific question as to where the phrase "a game changer" came from as well as my October 22, 2008 article, Heather Heidelbaugh's Congressional testimony and Bill O'Reilly's coverage of the story on "The O'Reilly Factor" on March 31 and April 1, 2009 (including the playing of the voicemail that Ms. Strom on October 21, 2008).

But Mr. Hoyt wrote nothing for publication on the subject, waited for Ms. MonCrief to follow up with him and then responded with a series of additional questions to Ms. MonCrief, including in essence a request to her to write for him the story Ms. Strom would have written for the world if she had been allowed to do so. (Ms. MonCrief is not a lawyer.)

Is Mr. Hoyt surreptitiously pursuing discovery for Times lawyers instead of seeking the answer to the question, "Did Times editors tell Ms. Strom to 'stand down' instead of to pursue a possible 'game changer' in order to help the presidential candidate they favored"?

In a June 1, 2008 column, Mr. Hoyt wrote: "The Times Op-Ed page, quite properly, is home to a lot of provocative opinions. But all are supposed to be grounded on the bedrock of fact. Op-Ed writers are entitled to emphasize facts that support their arguments and minimize others that don't. But they are not entitled to get the facts wrong or to so mangle them that they present a false picture."

Likewise, Times editors are not entitled to "kill" a news article because it may be "a game changer" in a presidential campaign, even if it might mean that the candidate favored by The Times would lose if the public learned "the facts." NOT reporting "the facts" is "present[ing] a false picture."

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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