By John Seiler | Watchdog.org
Democrats sure are touchy. Or was it just those I called regarding their tax returns?
As I mentioned in my previous article, I have been calling Democratic Party elected big shots about the insistence by some of them that Mitt Romney ought to release at least five years of his IRS 1040 tax returns. The Republican nominee for president has released his return for 2010 and an estimate of his 2011 return.
Just for fun, I also emailed a couple of left-wing journos to get their reaction. I identified myself as a reporter for the Franklin Center on Government and Public Integrity. Blogger Michael Tuck of the Daily Kos wrote back, “And for the record, knowing what I know about Ben Franklin and the rabid partisanship of the Franklin Center, if Ben were with us today, he’d slap you guys silly. Don’t bother me again.”
Given that the First American helped his fellow founders craft a government of exceedingly small size, I doubt it.
Meanwhile, as a new Columbia Journalism Review article on the Franklin Center notes, the Center has been attacked by Media Matters of America, a group tightly connected to the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party. So in Democratic circles, the Franklin Center, as the late Rodney Dangerfield would put it, don’t get no respect.
Media Matters wrote in its application to the IRS for tax-exempt status: “MMA has been established to identify occurrences of excessive bias in the American media, educate the public as to their existence, and work with members of the media to reduce them in order to ensure that the public receives news coverage and information that is not only accurate but free from domination by a particular world view.”
The key phrase is “work with members of the media to reduce them.” Let’s untangle the twisted syntax. Media Matters exists to “reduce…occurrences of excessive bias in the American media” – as defined by MMA. Its mission is censorship, as seen in its attacks on Rush Limbaugh, the American Legislative Exchange Council and others. In June, Media Matters attacked the Franklin Center’s “full throated” defense of ALEC.
What would Ben Franklin, the Prophet of Tolerance, say about all that?
In February, the Daily Caller reported on the close working connection between the Obama White House and the tax-exempt MMA: “Media Matters also began a weekly strategy call with the White House, which continues, joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. Jen Psaki, Obama’s deputy communications director, was a frequent participant before she left for the private sector in October 2011.
“Tuesday evening, meanwhile, a representative from Media Matters attends the Common Purpose Project meeting at the Capitol Hilton on 16th Street in Washington, where dozens of progressive organizations formulate strategy, often with a representative from the Obama White House.”
So Media Matters doesn’t like the Franklin Center. And Media Matters is closely connected to the Obama Administration and top liberal groups.
Anyway, I kept calling the Democratic National Committee for help, with no one returning my calls. And I called the offices of top Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about releasing their own tax returns. I identified myself as writing for “the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a news organization.”
I asked, “Has [name of senator or representative] called for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns? If so, has [senator or representative] released his [or her] tax returns, or will he [or she]?”
I made at least two phone calls to each press office. If a phone voice mail provided an email as a preferred way of communication, I used that as well. The results were not encouraging of the Democrats’ own transparency. You can bet the response would have been different if I had said I was from the New York Times.
Two senators were exemplary. The office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California referred me to her election campaign. I talked to Bill Carrick, senior advisor for Feinstein for Senate. He told me Feinstein had not called on Romney to release his returns and, “It’s not an issue of hers.” (In this case, I also asked questions about another article I was writing on another topic for the Orange County Register, which I identified.)
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois is the Senate majority whip. Communications Director Max Gleischman told me that Durbin had called for Romney to release his tax returns, and that the Durbin tax returns were released with his financial disclosure forms in recent years. Gleischman even provided me the location on the Internet. The link requires free registration with Legistorm.com. After that, click here for the 2012 form.
The members of Congress from whom I did not get an adequate response are listed below, with any comments added:
Majority Leader Harry Reid; phone contact and emails with staffer Kenya James did not provide the information on his taxes. Meanwhile, speaking before the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4, Reid reiterated his attack on Romney for not releasing his returns, “This is about leveling with the American people, and creating a level playing field for them.” But what about Reid leveling with the American people?
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Patty Murray of Washington; also chairwoman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Barbara Boxer of California, chairwoman of Select Committee on Ethics.
Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.
John Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Democrats’ 2004 nominee for president.
Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.
Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Mark Begich of Alaska.
Jon Tester of Montana.
U.S. House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Leader and former Speaker of the House.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, national chair for Recruiting and Candidate Services.
Jim Himes of Connecticut, chair of the Frontline Program for promoting Democratic House candidates.
Jared Polis of Colorado, also chair of the Red to Blue List of important House candidates.
Donna Edwards of Maryland, chair of the Red to Blue List of important House candidates. Spokesman Ben Gerdes wrote me that “everything should be available in the financial disclosure reports which you can peruse at your leisure.” But the document on Legistorm for 2011 includes only the mandatory financial statement filled out by all members of congress, not 1040 tax form. The same thing for 2010.
Jon Seiler is a staff reporter for the Watchdog affiliate CalWatchdog.