On Thursday May 11th, the FBI executed a search warrant at the offices of a Republican fundraiser. If you hadn’t heard about it, don’t worry, that’s a larger reflection on the national media than it is on your ability to stay informed. Here is pretty much all of what we know about it from a local reporter with WBAL-TV in Baltimore.
The FBI raided a Republican campaign firm less than two days after the Republican president fired the Director of the FBI. This is a report that demands additional context. So, what kind of digging has the mainstream media done into this case? Not much.
The New York Times has two pieces on it, both repurposed from the Associated Press.
The AP’s headline is a lot more certain of the reason behind the raid than it should be. The only source who provides any information as to why the FBI swept this office is about as biased as it gets. Per the AP:
Kelley Rogers, president of Strategic Campaign Group, told reporters the investigation relates to the work the consultant did for former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP’s 2013 gubernatorial candidate.
Nowhere in the report does the AP introduce any other opinion on what the raid was about, nor do they attempt to tell the story from the FBI’s point of view. There isn’t even a simple sentence like “the AP reached out to the FBI who declined to comment.” They simply took what the president of Strategic Campaign Group said as gospel, and transposed it into their headline—which surely has had an impact on the relative national silence around this story. There isn’t even any mention of it on CNN’s website.
Searching the TV News Archive for “strategic campaign group” returns 14 results, with 13 of those coming from local TV stations in and around Annapolis. The only national profile is from Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is a bit odd. You would expect MSNBC to jump all over a “feds raid Republicans” story, but their website is completely bereft of any reference to it, save for one anecdote in a “Mini-Report.”
The Washington Post is one of the few newspapers who had their own reporters cover the story, and they reached out to the FBI who simply said that agents were “conducting law enforcement activity in Annapolis, off Main Street.” There’s no way that the FBI would divulge any details about an active investigation, but at least WaPo did their due diligence and wrote an accurate headline reflecting what we know for certain—unlike the AP, whose article has served as the entirety of most major newspapers’ coverage.
This is a story that should command everyone’s attention, regardless of the context surrounding it. Given that outlets connected to Strategic Campaign Group had been accused of being a poster child for the new age of political firms who send out “ZOMG WE NEED YOUR MONEY NOW OR THE WORLD WILL EXPLODE!!” e-mails, and then turn around and give those donations to consultants, at bare minimum, this is a vital saga related to campaign finance reform—something that may be the only major political issue that a large majority of Americans agree on.
Taking this report out of a vacuum and putting it back in the context it occurred within makes the story grow even larger. The president fired the director of the FBI, and less than 48 hours later, the FBI raided a campaign office of the party controlling the government. How has the media not raised more questions about this? In Friday’s briefing, they did not even ask Sean Spicer any questions about this ordeal, despite their questioning focusing heavily on the FBI.
Regardless of how you view James Comey’s firing, you should be concerned about this. If you think Comey deserved to be fired, this could look like the FBI exacting revenge. If you think that Comey was fired as part of a cover-up, then this could seem related to that entire ordeal. Toss in the fact that Strategic Campaign Group has a connection to Paul Manafort—whose bank records are being sought by the Department of Justice and the New York Attorney General—and it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at this raid. Frankly, it’s difficult to figure out what to think about this saga just because there has been so little coverage of it outside a handful of local reports.
The national media spent most of Thursday and Friday focused on the White House press briefings. This plays into the stereotype that they have helped create: the mainstream media does not care about anything that isn’t directly related to them. When the White House sends Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Sean Spicer out to lie, they are lying to the media’s faces, and so that dominates coverage in the time surrounding these briefings. This raid is a complex story in of itself (let alone the larger framework surrounding it), and instead of digging into it, the media has largely been comfortable leaning on two flawed AP articles that summarize local reports and rely entirely on one completely biased source for an explanation. This is a federal case, and the media is abdicating their responsibility by eschewing an important story in favor of covering the day-to-day political minutiae that most of America couldn’t care less about.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.