Thursday, September 23, 2010


Interesting footnote in the Mostyn/Texas Watchdog situation....

Earlier today the Houston Press published the following story which was pulled for a time and then re-posted with a rather large addendum apologizing to Mostyn and clarifying his complaint.

(Steve Mostyn, Anti-Perry Attorney, Tries To Subpoena Reporters' Notes, Craig Malisow, Houston Press Hair Balls)
Mostyn's main allegation against Texas Watchdog, which was not articulated in the petition, is that it's violating federal tax code by incorporating as a 501(c)3 without following the code's provisions. Mostyn claims, for example, that the Patriot Group has created other front organizations to act solely as sources for Texas Watchdog stories. He specifically cites a group called Texans for Ethics and Accountability, which, strangely, had the same address that TW once did.

Trent Seibert* of Texas Watchdog addressed the address issue here.....
When Texas Watchdog was launched in 2008, we temporarily rented space from the Patriot Group, a political consulting firm whose clients lean conservative. The landlord-tenant arrangement came about because we had received generous start-up funding from the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance, who knew a partner at the Patriot Group and knew that he rented out space.
We decided, though, that the arrangement might give the appearance of a conflict, and we immediately took steps to find a new office. We moved to another suite in the same building about four months after our launch.

In the two years since then, we have broadened our donor base and have maintained complete editorial independence. Our offices today are in a midrise at Rusk and Main in downtown Houston.
Whether or not you buy that explanation probably has to do with what side of the political aisle you find yourself.

Fair enough, Mr. Seibert also goes on to outline Texas Watchdog stories that cast financial donors to the Patriot Group in a negative light. As I said earlier today if Texas Watchdog is engaging in some kind of political activism then they're doing it wrong.** That's not our beef here.

Our question is as follows: Which is more partisan?

1. An investigative news agency with a mission of open government and training citizen journalists whose start up funding was provided by a Nationally respected open-government organization?


2. An Internet news service whose editor once referred to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst as Texas' version of Snookie and whose founding grant was provided by one of the State's biggest Democratic donors?

You tell me?

To be clear, the editorial position of the HCA staff (OK, me) is that journalism with perspective is not a bad thing at all. As a matter of fact, I am willing in this case to consent to the argument that Texas Watchdog's reporting leans conservative. However, I reject the arguments that the Bill White Texas Tribune and MSM outlets such as ChronBlog (especially editorially) do NOT lean to the liberal side. For those still needing help: Ideological slant does not equate to partisanship.

Yet one of the above two outlets is facing a subpoena suggesting they are. Seemingly for no other reason than they are on the other "wrong" of the aisle***.

*Full disclosure time: I have spoken many times with Mr. Seibert and he has been known, on some occasions, to splurge for a drink (or three) at various blogger meet-ups. I've also spoken with him, from time to time, on blog posts that I've written. I've also spoken with other Texas Watchdog reporters as well as Craig Malisow of the Press. I like and respect all of them as good reporters.

**Not that we here at HCA would have any trouble imagining Texas Republicans doing it wrong. But TW's start-up funding came from the above mentioned National open-government organization.

***Hard to believe that there's a "side" to transparent government isn't there? Everyone claiming to love the First Amendment so much.

1 comment:

  1. The poor Houston Press apparently just wilted when a high-powered lawyer who likes to intimidate journos called them back, resulting in a disjointed point. To wit:

    Mostyn's main allegation against Texas Watchdog, which was not articulated in the petition, is that it's violating federal tax code by incorporating as a 501(c)3 without following the code's provisions.

    It's the main allegation... just nowhere to be found in a completely unrelated petition. Okee! And this is followed by ... no concrete evidence of 501(c)(3) violations. Just unrelated innuendo, which the Press put into print, uncritically. Throw out accusations, hope they get printed by publications that really no longer do news in a professional manner, hope that partybloggers on your "side" pick it up, and pretty soon the smear becomes reality, at least as far as Google and the web are concerned. But hey, smears are better than trying to (ab)use the courts to intimidate journos, we suppose.

    The good thing is, when it comes to determining/revoking 501(c)(3) status, the IRS doesn't bow to the whims of partybloggers or rich partisan activists. That argument will go nowhere, and we suspect Mostyn won't even pursue it. I'd guess it's just his effort to save face and change the subject after being exposed as a rich LibDem bully who tries to intimidate journos.


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