Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Amendment

If you're one of the two or three people that pay attention to HCA on a regular basis you're aware of our occasional linking to stories from the journalism shop, Texas Watchdog. We're a fan of any organization who makes it their mission to expose potential ethics violations in politics and lead the fight for Government transparency. You would think that these issues would be championed by all bloggers and journalists, regardless of party affiliation.

Because of this, we were shocked to hear that TW is currently fighting off a subpoena issued against some of their staffers by Multi-Millionaire trial lawyer and mega-Democratic donor Steve Mostyn also known as the man behind the Back to Basics PAC that's been running Anti-Rick Perry ads across the State. Mostyn's charge? That Texas Watchdog is doing what he's doing, except for the Republicans and under the guise of journalism.

If you haven't read the Texas Watchdog feature that's causing all of the commotion you can find it here. Go read the entire thing. It's an interesting tale of curiously timed political donations and settlements that benefit donors. As near as I can tell, Mostyn is not challenging the facts in the article, only the fact that TW reported on it in the first place.

Apparently, in Mosyn's mind an article detrimental to him personally is politicking for the Republican Party and must be stopped. Now, it's possible that you, like me, noticed the flaw in this logic and you would not be wrong. Rep. Todd Hunter, the other subject of the piece, is a Republican representative from Corpus Christi. If that's politicking then TW is doing it wrong.

A more disturbing trend is the fact that this type of investigative journalism would draw a lawsuit at all, much less one that's going to cost TW thousands of dollars to defend. Whether or not you think TW is a "front" group for Republican interests (and you'd be hard-pressed to prove that charge considering their stories have skewered both parties almost equally) their bonafides as a legitimate journalism shop are beyond reproach. They've broken some large stories about Houston and surrounding area government and that there's an effort to shut them down speaks volumes about the moneyed interests in the State. Mostyn and his ilk (whatever their party affiliation) don't want the public taking a look at their dealings with politicians and the easiest way to shut this down is to throw out the red herring of partisanship.

It's important to mention the difference between partisanship and ideology. From an ideological standpoint, TW is certainly more conservative than other journalism shops in Texas. (ChronBlog, the Bill White Texas Tribune, etc.) None of this should matter. It should be equally disconcerting to both parties that there are moneyed interests in Texas trying to bully the media into silence. That's not a function of a healthy democracy, and it's not consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Let's be clear here, Mostyn is not the Congress of the United States of America, so I'm not suggesting he's violating the letter of the law when it comes to our most cherished Amendment (or any law for that matter). But I do believe his actions are running counter to the law's spirit, which is that the general public should be able to look under the hood at the working of all levels without fear of censorship or retribution from politicians out to protect their fiefdoms.

Obviously there's a long way to go.

For more on this please go read the blog post by Kevin Whited over at BlogHouston. And if you have any money to spare consider a donation to Texas Watchdog as a show of support. If nothing else, head over to the stories in question and offer up some words of support.

And, if you're a Democratic Party Blogger, consider this: Even though Mostyn is on the right "team" now, what happens when he takes up an issue that you're against? More importantly, what happens when Texas is left with journalism the likes of ChronBlog where pictures of drunks at bars are deemed of more value than honest watchdog journalism? Is "winning" so important that the collateral damage doesn't matter?


More on Mostyn here. (h/t: Kevin Whited)

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