Journalists and Issa shouldn’t ‘collaborate’

JOURNALISTS AND ISSA SHOULDN’T ‘COLLABORATE’…. Following up on an earlier item, more than a few D.C. political reporters are feeling antsy this week after learning about what’s been going on in Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) office. Unbeknownst to the journalists, Issa’s top aide has been sharing their emails with the New York Times‘ Mark Leibovich, a journalist writing a book about how Washington works.

Much of this stems from revelations found by the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza, who learned about Kurt Bardella’s extensive efforts to help Leibovich while writing a recent profile on Issa. Lizza later told colleagues about Bardella sharing their emails, which ultimately led to this week’s kerfuffle.

But before we move on, Lizza had an interesting follow-up item, adding some additional context. Of particular interest was this quote from Bardella, Issa’s right-hand man before his dismissal yesterday:

[R]eporters e-mail me saying, “Hey, I’m writing this story on this thing. Do you think you guys might want to investigate it? If so, if you get some documents, can you give them to me?” I’m, like, “You guys are going to write that we’re the ones wanting to do all the investigating, but you guys are literally the ones trying to egg us on to do that!”

This is the part of the process that the public never gets to see, and it’s really not healthy. As Lizza explained:

[T]hat Bardella accused reporters of offering to collaborate with Issa as he launches what will inevitably be partisan investigations of the Obama Administration seemed jaw-dropping. This is exactly the dysfunctional investigator/reporter dynamic that in the [1990s] fed frenzies over every minor Clinton scandal.

In his short-lived career, Bardella was witness to the fact that it was all starting over in 2011, now that there was again a Republican House and a Democratic President. From what I know of what Bardella shared, the beat reporters who cover Issa and engaged in this kind of game with Bardella will be the ones most embarrassed by the e-mails that Leibovich possesses.

In the traditional model, reporters come across a story, pursue it, and publish the revelations for the public. Maybe, at that point, policymakers will see the story, find it troubling, and launch an formal investigation. What’s wrong with this? Nothing. It’s how the process is supposed to work.

What Issa’s aide described, however, is altogether different. That’s a dynamic in which reporters want to partner up with a Republican attack dog known for partisan witch-hunts.

As Joe Sudbay argued, it makes it seem as if “DC-based reporters were encouraging Issa’s office to conduct investigations of Obama so they could report on the investigation.”

If/when Leibovich publishes the materials he received from Bardella, the embarrassment for some reporters will be severe.