Let’s do a quick recap before we get to the new business.
Nebraska Watchdog.org published a misleading and inaccurate story about State Senator Amanda McGill. The story was framed to make Amanda look like “a frequent flyer” who misused both campaign contributions and taxpayer money to “travel the world” without benefit to Nebraskans. After fact-checking, I proved Amanda was not a top spender of state funds for travel, that campaign finances don’t require itemized expenses and therefore we can’t know who ranks where in terms of campaign travel spending, and that Amanda did introduce and pass many bills based on her travels. I also pointed out the misleading tone and biased approach of a piece designed to be “fact-based” reporting and not editorial opinion. I am now actively working to get the story repealed and to have the writer apologize to Amanda.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Deena Winter from Nebraska Watchdog.org writes the story. That prompted my initial reaction, questioning the process, motive, and basic facts. I found Ms. Winter on Twitter and pressed her for specific numbers. She refused.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
I again pressed Ms. Winter for the evidence she had used to write her story. She provided one small sample, which I would later find was inaccurate. At this point, the “right-leaning political commentator” she quoted in her story, Chris Scott, began responding to me on twitter, claiming that he had the information. I asked him for it. He refused. He only reiterated the story’s theme, which was that Amanda spent “more.” At this point, I began reaching out to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Committee, the Nebraska Budget Office, and the Legislative Manager. I also began combing through hundreds of campaign finance expense reports.
That afternoon, I received the first wave of information from the sources I contacted at those offices. At that point, I wrote Joe Jordan, the Managing Editor for Nebraska Watchdog, and sent him this letter.
Friday, October 24, 2014
I received a curt response from Mr. Jordan. I followed up by asking him to respond to my specific factual questions. He never replied beyond the initial response below.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Mr. Scott began suggesting I was simply confused. At this point, Ms. Winter stopped replying to me.
Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26, 2014
I contacted a different person inside the Legislative Office. Meanwhile, I began sharing the story on various local sites.
Monday, October 27, 2014
I received a bombshell from the Legislative Office, revealing that Amanda was only in the top 5 in travel spending 1 time in 8 years and that the top spender was former State Senator Deb Fischer, who racked up more than twice as much as Amanda in just about half the time. I updated the story. At this point, I started a petition.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The petition passes 1500 signatures in under 24 hours. I began tweeting at both Mr. Jordan and Ms. Winter with no response.
Today I am contacting the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. As it is a conservative organization, I do not expect them to take these criticisms to heart, but they are ultimately responsible for the content that is published through the Watchdog sites, of which Nebraska Watchdog.org is one. In addition, I continue to try and get a response from Ms. Winter and Mr. Jordan. I have plans to present the petition in person to the office of Nebraska Watchdog if I do not receive a response in the next few days.
Everyone I tell about this situation has the same reaction: this is why I hate politics. It’s true, things like this are horribly demoralizing. How is the public supposed to stay educated on the truth behind candidate positions and experience if the very people who claim to provide that information warp it or misrepresent it? I make no apologies for starting this all because Amanda is a friend. She is a kind, smart, determined woman who has done nothing but serve this state in the most respectable way possible. To see a journalistic outlet shrug off their code of ethics to take a shot at a good person who just wants to continue to help her community is disgusting.
I know that Mr. Jordan and Ms. Winter are hoping I’ll just go away. That, or they’re hoping that the election will come and go and this will go away with it. Please help me make sure that doesn’t happen. You can sign the petition here. But I also ask you to join me in demanding on social media that DeenaNEWatchdog and josephfjordan address these concerns. You can also reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
I know it’s easy to shrug this off as “politics as usual” or to think this is not a big deal. But it only remains politics as usual because we let it, and it is a very big deal, in that Amanda has passed legislation that has protected the health of children and defended our liberties. We can’t afford to lose her, and certainly not because a false story is used to spread misinformation.