Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Brazil Truth

Rottenchester just posted a lengthly retort to my comments on his blog from last night, questioning how I could accused WHAM of media bias and providing a hypothetical if a Dem was investigated by the media for doing the same thing.

Yet, the proof of bias (see post above) is right on WHAM's website. Here's a link to the PDF on the channel's website with the expenditures. Notice something there? Right on the first page, the document is stamped January 31, 2008. Why is this relevant? Because Kuhl's office could NOT have provided the report to the reporter on the 2nd, since the report is not required to published until 60 days after the trip.

Here are excerpts from the Congressional Rules for "Official Travel" that apply to CODELS: "Additionally, the Speaker of the House may approve official foreign travel for a group rather than an individual. Group official foreign travel is called a 'congressional delegation' (CODEL). In the case of a CODEL, the committee chairman, ranking member, or senior employee must write the report for the entire group and submit the report to the Chair of the Committee on International Relations before the end of the session. The report should cover the per diem expenditures, transportation expenditures, and miscellaneous expenditures, as well as the reasons for the expenditures. Within 60 days of the beginning of the next regular session of Congress, the Chair of the Committee on International Relations must file a consolidated report of all committees' official foreign travel expenses with the Committee on House Administration. Changes may be made by submitting an amended report to the Clerk of the House (Emphasis added)." So as you can see the official foreign travel report should have been filed by "the committee chairman, ranking member, or senior employee" who "must write the report for the entire group" and it must be submitted before the end of the congressional session. Not in 30 days and certainly NOT by Congressman Kuhl! Even if Congressman Kuhl was traveling alone the rules state that "members must submit an expense report to the committee chairman within 60 days of the conclusion of the trip," not in 30 days. The 30 day rule applies only to officially connected travel, i.e., official travel paid by a private source, which this trip wasn't!


Rottenchester said...

Evan Dawson replied to your accusations of bias in the comments so I'll let him speak for himself there.

As for the thought experiment, the point was to try to get you and others to see that the press would probably dig into any junket-type trip in the same way. I don't think Kuhl is getting especially bad treatment. Dawson was careful to point out that the difficulties getting disclosure weren't partisan.

Finally, I think you need to distinguish between two things: bias and mistakes. Bias is a long-term tendency to see things through a partisan filter. Mistakes are just errors that happen in everyday journalism. There are quite a few mistakes made in the 29th's media. Maybe Dawson made a couple in his report. But that doesn't mean he's biased.

One of the long-time commenters on my blog, who's a Republican and I believe a Kuhl supporter, likened Kuhl's press release on this to something that would come from a "small town mayor". Randy (and you) might want to think about turning it down a notch. Most reporters correct mistakes. They defend themselves against charges of bias. It's just good practical politics for Kuhl to be a little more respectful of reporters than he was in his latest press release and blog post.

Evan Dawson said...


You're absolutely right about the rules. I can honestly say that when I made that first phone call regarding CODEL information, I had no idea what the rules were.

The problem, as I see it, is that the staff in the Legislative Resources Center gave me bad information. First, when I called in early December, they told me the rules stated that the expenses had to be filed within 15 days. When I called back, they told me it was actually 30 days.

And they were wrong on both counts, of course. My understanding now is that private source travel used to require 30-day filing, but the rules recently changed to require 15-day filing. I'm guessing that this is where the legislative resource staffers went wrong; regardless, it's a bad mistake to make.

Their numerous mistakes offer only more evidence of the difficulty in dealing with bureaucracy. Could any private company tolerate incompetence from its employees? Government will never run as efficiently as the private sector, but I maintain that it should be much simpler to obtain public info.