Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Smear Campaigns

I need to revisit the matter of the Fred Dicker column that appeared on Oct 17. This was the column about Chris Ward, the former head of the Port Authority.

Fred’s column was about an audit, which was supposed to have revealed “extravagant spending” by Ward and other misconduct.

I subsequently had a post in which an insider claimed that the Governor and/or his people acted improperly in feeding damaging information from the unreleased audit to Fred.

Fred then called me to complain that I’d given an unnamed source the ability to disparage both him and the Governor. Out of respect for Fred, I subsequently wrote another blog post that underscored the fact that the insider’s account had not been substantiated.

But then, in a fascinating twist, I received another insider’s account on the same matter. The individual wrote to me to say in no uncertain terms that there was no Port Authority audit. To substantiate this claim, the insider directed me to the Port Authority’s website, which showed that an RFP for an audit had just been issued and it hadn’t even been awarded yet.

As you can imagine, I was surprised by this new information. In fact, it struck me as a real bombshell. Think about it: If there was no audit, how could Fred write that there was? Why would he do so? I couldn’t imagine Fred making up the story. To my mind, the only possible explanation was that someone misled Fred.

I didn’t print the insider’s account because I had no way to verify if the audit had occurred or not.

But I did begin to ask around to get to the bottom of the situation. It’s a bad habit I have of trying to get to the bottom of things.

In the meantime, Chris Ward himself has now come forward to say exactly what the insider told me – that there was no audit.

So what is one to make of this situation?

Well, I think there may be serious ethical problems here.
Spitzer and his people released accurate records (albeit recreated) on use of state aircraft by a variety of public officials and it was called a “smear campaign.”

What is it called when bogus information is provided?

I think someone should investigate, but now I’m going to sound like a broken record:

There’s no functioning ethics panel in New York to investigate.
Now I’m not sure that’s worse than a gubernatorial controlled panel that could whitewash it, but it is a fact.

There’s no opposition party to register a concern. (The Republicans get along just swell with Cuomo. He’s got their back on redistricting?)

There isn’t even an articulate critic of the governor to step forward and demand that he explain the situation.

But if there was this could be the next troopergate. We could call it Dickergate.

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