In case you missed it, last weekend the Wall Street Journal editorial page had another installment
in its series
of "pay to sue
" allegations against
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King (left, rocking leather
This one caught our eye because, in addition to accusing King of rewarding a large campaign contributor with a contract, the WSJ editorialists called out the New Mexico press corps. To wit:
Mr. King does not dispute receiving the money, but he's been peddling to the sympathetic New Mexico media that the contributions played no role in his decision to renew a contingency fee contract with [Houston law firm] Bailey Perrin...
And here's the WSJ opinionators on King's latest defense: That the lawyer in question, Kenneth Bailey, was no longer associated with his old firm at the time the donations were made, even though Federal Elections Commission records showed otherwise:
The New Mexico press corps might buy this claim of mistaken identity, but the bottom line is that Mr. Bailey and other plaintiffs attorneys donated big bucks to the campaigns of New Mexico's attorney general candidates.
Not only sycophantic, but gullible! Some press corps you got in New Mexico!
Snide though it may be, it's worth asking: Is the WSJ right?
First, it's important to understand that while the Wall Street Journal's news pages have a stellar reputation, the Wall Street Journal editorial pages are a whole 'nother story.
Considering the source, King was probably right when he suggested that the alleged "pay to sue" conspiracy appears to be a campaign by big business to marginalize and deter consumer lawsuits
Outside a small retro-capitalist bubble, WSJ editorialists are known for making agenda-driven, fact-intolerant
and downright crazy
arguments. They're stridently in favor of lost causes and happily obnoxious in tone. Imagine Amy Goodman with more money
And so it's significant that the "pay to sue" articles about King appeared on the editorial pages, not the news pages. They probably wouldn't have met the journalistic standards of the latter.
It's also significant that this isn't the first time the "pay to sue" authors have called out local reporters. In April, they backhandedly credited the Philadeliphia Inquirer for following up the allegations, saying its reporters had "roused from their slumbers."
This is a PR trick
that any schoolkid could recognize. It's called goading: Hey, hick reporters! Why aren't you writing about this? We did! Are you too SISSY?!
All that said, in this case the WSJ editorialists have what looks like a story on their hands: Major Democratic donor shops readymade anti-corporate lawsuits to Democratic state attorneys general.
Story though it may be, it's a tad overhyped
. In King's case, the legal contract started before he even took office, and King only renewed it, in the middle of litigation.
Granted, King's hair-splitting about the timing of the contributions--which were indeed large--is silly. But the New Mexico press hasn't been as lame as the WSJ editorialists suggest.
The Santa Fe New Mexican took the bait
and followed up
the WSJ pieces. Over at the New Mexico Independent, Heath Haussamen has kept close tabs
, and the editorials generated some TV coverage
, as well. The Albuquerque Journal--at least, the Journal-owned Mountain View Telegraph*--said King should give the law firm's donations back
. That's sympathetic how, exactly?
Really, we love to give the other local media hell. They do make it easy sometimes
. ("Ramrod straight
," anyone?) But this time, it ain't right. When the second-biggest newspaper in the country
prints an editorial about New Mexico, and New Mexico journalists chase the allegations it makes, Rupert Murdoch's gang
can't serioulsly say, "You kids aren't keeping up."
* Journal web archives are being a little wonky at the moment. I'll update when they're fixed.