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Whatever You Say, Rush: Politico’s Hit Piece on Alan Grayson

Politico wrote the other day about "beat sweeteners," the fluffy little profiles journalists do to curry favor with sources. Not journalists of the Jane Mayer caliber, mind you — more at the level of a Ryan Lizza, whose swooning profile of Rahm Emanuel in the New Yorker comes just as he is writing a book on the Obama White House entirely dependent on access. But Politico’s own series on Hill Staffers is a classic examples of the art form — recall the one about New Dems Exectutive Director Adam Pase, which conveniently left out both his history of working as a lobbyist for predatory lenders or his activities trying to kill the cramdown bill on behalf of banks.

Demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice journalistic integrity for subsequent "access" is all a part of the ritual.

But there’s a flip side to the "beat sweetener," and that’s the hit piece — also done to curry favor with influentials (or elevate someone to a position of influence by demonstrating their ability to arrange for one). Just as the NRCC is wacking Democratic freshmen who aren’t sufficiently slavish to the corporatist Blue Dogs and the lobbyists who rule them, Politico does a hit piece on the outspoken Alan Grayson because he had the temerity to criticize Rush Limbaugh when everyone should obviously be kissing the hem of his gown:

Just two months into his first term, he’s already making a name for himself with a shoot-from-the-lip style and an ideological edge that some argue is ill-suited for the competitive, suburban Orlando seat that he represents.

On Wednesday, Grayson weighed in on the dispute between the Obama administration and Rush Limbaugh, calling the conservative talk show host “a sorry excuse for a human being.” In January, he referred to Limbaugh as a “has-been hypocrite loser” who “was more lucid when he was a drug addict.”

A certain flexibility with regard to accuracy is likewise requisite of the hit piece, as demonstrated by the not-so-veiled threats made against Grayson for his outspokenness:

It’s the kind of competitive district where Grayson’s talk of beating “swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks” might not resonate the way it would elsewhere.

“For someone in Congress, he’s really out there. He comes across as a total ideological flake,” said Florida Republican media consultant John Dowless. “He’s tacking hard left, and he’s trying to become the Robert Wexler of Congress, but Wexler’s in a district where you can do that and get away with it. Grayson’s not in that type of district.”


Already, several Republicans are considering a challenge, including Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, who handily won reelection in 2006.

“He’s a conservative Republican, but he’s earned the respect of a lot of people the way he does business on development issues,” said Dowless. “He would be a candidate popular among Republicans and among moderate Democrats as well.”

"Earned the respect of a lot of people" for "the way he does business on development issues?" That’s a curious way to describe Crotty. He serves on the board of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, which a Florida grand jury recently criticized for running "an organized shakedown’ of vendors for political contributions":

The grand jury accused the authority of a "culture of corruption" because Allan Keen, the Winter Park developer whom Crotty replaced as chairman, continually hit up agency contractors for contributions to candidates he supported.

$468,000 for 18 candidates, including almost $63,000 for Crotty, who says that number is greatly inflated. Keen’s activities, the report said, created the perception that vendors had to "pay to play" to keep their often-lucrative contracts.


It is impossible, Crotty said, to keep up with all fundraisers and how they are conducting themselves.

"I have thousands of contributors," Crotty said. "I don’t know who most of them are. I shouldn’t."

Kagro has the revised foreclosure numbers by Congressional district and Grayson’s district is among the hardest hit in the country. Grayson’s request to Chief Judge Belvin Perry resulted in a court order whereby banks have to enter into mandatory mediation with homeowners before they can foreclose. His brand of vigorous populism is very popular right now in a community struggling to keep its head above water.

But the Politico piece isn’t concerned with the current needs of the district, or how Grayson is meeting them — its perspective is one of pure DC calculus, where the fact that Crotty’s activities are under grand jury scrutiny is hardly a concern. Much more important are the opinions of a bunch of Republicans working in the service of Rush Limbaugh and his continued emasculation of their party.

Politico isn’t a neutral journalistic enterprise and their commitment to "journalism" is easily sacrificed to a goal of maintaining their own influence. It’s an arm of the establishment political class no better than Pravda, and both its motives and its actions are best analyzed in that light.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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