Hazing McCain

Robert Stacey McCain doesn’t particular care for my reporting.

Not THAT McCain…

McCain, who runs the blog “The Other McCain”, is one of the increasingly decreasing number of outspoken supporters of Ali A. Akbar, president of a group called the National Bloggers Club. I’ve written a handful of articles on the topic, and he took issue with one in particular – Romney Staffer Committing Charitable Fraud.

First of all, he credits other people for my work. Then he apparently feels it’s relevant to include 750 words on Brett Kimberlin, the boogiest of boogie-men to the conservative blogosphere – not to mention someone I’ve never knowingly worked with, talked to, seen or even known much about.

When he finally gets back to me, he proceeds to libel me by claiming I call Tea Partiers Nazis and tea-baggers. Repeatedly. When in fact the opposite is blatantly, demonstratively true. But the truth is irrelevant. The idea is to use enough buzz-words that people dismiss someone’s work without even seeing it.

A few days later, I get an email from McCain. “Just wanted to see if I had the right email address,” he says. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Then, today, I receive a  letter from McCain in which he tells me to stop investigating Akbar and National Bloggers Club. I read it, then responded, and thought nothing more of it.

Then McCain posted his entire email on his blog. He just threw it up, the whole thing, preceded by some babble paraphrasable as, “Normally I wouldn’t dignify this with a response, but I’m going to dignify this with a very undignified response.” I’ve seen people post emails before … just not usually their own. Hey everybody, look how clever and badass I am!

Well, he undignified me with a response, so I might as well do something akin to returning the favor. After McCain published his letter, I went back to my response, broke it into bits (without changing anything), and interspersed those bits amongst McCain’s email, in relevant locations.  In my humble opinion t actually worked out surprisingly well, considering I didn’t exactly write it for publication. But I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy.

RSM v ABZ… begin!

This kind of discount-store Media Matters knockoff “investigative” reporting?

Nobody. Fucking. Cares.

A minor piss-ant nobody like Schmalfeldt with nothing better to do with his useless life can afford to waste time “exposing” the evils of people nobody ever heard of, and so what? Becoming a second-banana wing man for Neal Rauhauser is actually a step up for a talentless loser like that.

You don’t seem to have a lot of respect for people who don’t share your worldview or opinions. Do you prefer to be derided and dismissed, or to be taken seriously? I’m not trying to be pedantic or condescending, this applies even more so to ppl like Schmalfeldt, or Brynaert, i’m not singling you out. I just wish we would be debating issues rather than calling each other pedophiles and delusional.

But still, I’d like to try and respond in order to address your points – albeit perhaps more tactfully and with respect for your opinions, because even though we disagree that doesn’t mean you’re a fucking idiot, it just means we’re coming from two different experience sets with two different perspectives.

You, on the other hand, seem to be an aspiring journalist of some ability and should not permit yourself to be dragged into this ridiculous wild goose chase of “exposing” what I assure you will ultimately prove to be a non-crime and which only seems scandalous to people who are naive about how political consultants operate.

Why did Nat’l Bloggers Club initially claim to be a 501(c)3 – status pending”? Doesn’t that imply that they were in a process? Like an application process? Whereas apparently they haven’t even applied for an EIN, let alone submitted a 501 application.

And again, the most time it takes to get an EIN is four weeks or so. You can get one on-line instantly. And there’s a searchable database.

Ali is an ambitious young GOP operative who, in attempting to find a niche, got involved in ALA, a start-up non-profit that didn’t work out. Period. Sometimes this stuff happens, and I’ve never known quite what to make of Erick Erickson’s denunciation of Eric Odom.

ALA was NOT a non-profit. It just wasn’t. I’d appreciate it if you’d explain to me why they are, other than incorporating under “American Liberty Alliance – a Non-Profit Corporation” or why they never even bothered to file a 990.

Orgs tha [sic] have filed a 990-N

Are eligible to receive tax-exempt contributions:

Automatically revoked:

I’m sure you can check Guidestar yourself.

There were a lot of people in 2009-2010 trying to find a way to hitch their wagons to the Tea Party “brand,” and there have been bitter recriminations among several them. Once the Big Dogs stepped in — AFP, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express — various other small operators got squeezed out. I figure that was what happened to Odom’s operation: He wanted to build an organization, got started, couldn’t find enough space within the political landscape, folded it up and moved on.

While I acknowledge they’re a “big dog”, TPE is even more crooked than ALA was. You know they used donor contributions to take luxury cruises? And drink/gamble in Vegas? Sal Russo worked on the goddamn Willie Horton ad. Master of mental manipulation.

Just my two cents.

Not a crime. Not a scandal. Happens all the time.

If somebody gets sued or arrested, it would be a minor story, or maybe one part of a bigger story about a general trend, but I doubt that anything like that will happen. Even if it did, however, this connect-the-dots stuff where you’ve compiled a bunch of disparate data points and then cast it as something sinister — the Tip of an Iceberg, a mini-Watergate that might be the Secret Key to exploding the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy — is idiotic nonsense and a waste of time.

Simply put, I disagree that there is nothing of greater significance to this story. We can agree to disagree about that. But even if that were true, I don’t really care. From my point of view these guys just rip off unsuspecting people and have for years and I don’t like that. Period. No conspiracy. And I imagine you can understand that.

Me, I’m just a freelance reporter trying to make a living, and nobody’s offered me big bucks to tell the Shocking! True! Story! of all that, so why should I even care about it? If there were any demand for that story, it would have already been covered by a major news organization long ago, and not posted on a left-wing blog more than two years after ALA went defunct.

Based on past experience with would-be investigative journalists, I’ll expect you to disregard what I’m telling you, at least in the near term. But if you are smart — as I think you are — and continue in the world of political journalism, you’ll eventually look back at this episode and say to yourself, “What the fuck was I thinking, huh?”

Thanks for the advice, and just as you will mostly disregard mine, I’ll mostly disregard yours. But hey … that just means we have something in common, I guess.

I’ve worked for newspapers. I’ve been a professional investigative journalist. I am told I basically stopped a toll road from being built through a state park. I wrote a story about a congressman getting caught by the police while getting a blowjob from a junkie hooker and how their statements to the police didn’t match up; all that and I’ve never once been accused of libel. I check my work. I check my facts.

You have succumbed to an Internet-era illusion, which involves the clustering of micro-readerships — sort of online cults — with obsessive interests that have no “reach” beyond that narrow niche. Within the larger world of politics, your story of Ali Akbar, Evil Right-Winger, isn’t relevant to anything, and even inside the smaller but still semi-mainstream world of Crooks & Liars, only a minor fraction of readers care anything about the shenanigans and hijinks of campaign staffers, consultants, bloggers, etc.

I haven’t been drawn into anything. And I’ve expressly stayed away from any of the Kimberlin or Stranahan quagmire. You see, I’ve been researching ALA and associated groups/people since 2009. Because I think it’s awful that they take money from unsuspecting people. I’ve never received a dime for my reporting on the Tea Party or ALA or Akbar. If you like (though I doubt you will) you can go to huffingtonpost.com/alex-brantzawadzki and actually read my coverage, which states it pretty starkly. Not to mentions, many, many, MANY people IN THE MOVEMENT distrust or even loathe the guy, ok? Akbar AND Odom.

Because yes, I actually have a bunch of contacts in the Tea Party because (GASP!) they appreciated the fact that unlike other journalists, I took them seriously and treated them with respect, and I made DAMN sure I never called them teabaggers or Nazis.

And you must acknowledge that in the early days of the movement, THEY THEMSELVES referred to themselves as Tea-Baggers. I didn’t even know who Ron Brynaert or liberal grouch or osborne or the Occupy/Breibart people were until approx 3 weeks ago.

Watergate, it ain’t, and so after all your breathless build-up — the long run — you published the thing and (short slide) the story flopped.

Nobody. Fucking. Cares.

Used to be, we had people called “editors,” and if some reporter came up with one of these nothingburger ideas for an “investigative” story, the top editor would take a look at it and maybe tell the desk editor to cut it down to 600 words and put it on Page Four. Or maybe the editor would spike it altogether and give the reporter an earful about wasting time chasing nothingburgers. But if a reporter made a habit of these time-wasting nothingburgers, pretty soon that reporter would be out of a job.

I have in fact had editors. And just so you know, I ran it by my old boss, who (gasp) writes and edits investigative reporting for a living, and he thought it was excellent.

Knew a guy like that once. George Archibald was once a fine investigative reporter, but he had some personal problems and stopped being productive and lost his job. Then he drank himself into disgrace and, attempting to avenge himself against those he blamed for his own failures, decided to accuse me of anti-Semitism — a damnable lie, easily disproven — and to accuse my bosses of various evils of which they were similarly innocent.

Don’t know what ever happened to George, but I’m still working as a journalist and some people seem to think I’m important enough to merit “exposing” as an arch-villain of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. It’s kind of flattering in a way, but I try not to believe the hype.

Have a nice life, Alex, and don’t ever say I didn’t try to help you.


Ditto (in re: the nice life and in re: trying to help)

Based on the sign-off, I don’t expect a reply.

Have a good weekend and/or life.


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About Alex Brant-Zawadzki

Righteously indignant. Nothing sounds obvious if you're deaf.
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One Response to Hazing McCain

  1. Well done. Well said.