Today's Gazette ran a article about a candidate challenging the incumbent for the county coroner's office that didn't smell quite right. The story that is. But before I begin here, it should be noted that the Janesville Gazette has been actively publishing against the Democratic incumbent Jenifer Keach in both articles and editorials. They are bold about it and hey, it's their newspaper and everyone is entitled to their opinion, including them.
So, today's story was about the challenger, Terry Holder, getting caught somehow running for public office while also remaining employed with the U.S. government, a direct violation under the Hatch Act. Just to refresh, the Hatch Act is a United States federal law whose main provision is to prohibit federal, state and local government employees from running for partisan public office.
As it turns out, when the challenger filed her papers (on or before July 13) to run for political office, she was still employed at the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison. Ooops. The newspaper reported that she eventually resigned from her job at the VA, but that was a month later on August 12th.
To be fair, it's not a malicious crime and is something that a candidate could understandably overlook through all the excitement when initiating a run for public office. Still, it's not like somebody was being accused of ethical wrongdoing or violating laws that don't exist. There is no gray area, it is a clear and sturdy federal law.
The Gazette begins their article...
JG Excerpt:She had no idea. Okay. So the newspaper proceeds to lay out a series of events beginning with a complaint filed at the Rock County Clerks' Office. Simple enough for a newspaper. Just lay it all out, timeline and everything, right? But nothing is simple enough when you're trying to work out an advantage for someone - things become a little distorted.
When Terry Holder filed as a candidate for Rock County coroner, she had no idea she was violating federal law.
JG Excerpt:Whoa! There's quite a gap there going from the DA confirming the violation (to the Gazette?) - to Holder calling the OSC. So, how and when exactly did Holder find out she was in violation of the law since she was unaware of it? Remember the article begins, "...she had no idea she was violating the federal law."
The district attorneys office confirmed that Holder was violating the Hatch Act, and Holder called the US Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the law.
Given the newspaper's history and circumstances, the anti-incumbent-coroner-Gazette did everything they could to defend Holder in this news article and make her appear innocent through ignorance, yet turned it around as if she was smart enough on her own to contact the U.S. Office of Special Counsel about a law she had no idea she was in violation of.
That might not be totally accurate either because we just don't know. My main point here is less about the candidate, and more about the publishing tactics of the Gazette. Everyone deserves a fair shake. But questions abound. Is there a grace period for being in violation of the Hatch Act? Was her candidate petition valid on July 13th? I'm not smart enough to answer those questions.
But, who is the Gazette covering for? Did the newspaper tip her off about the complaint? Did someone at the Rock County clerks office or the DA tip her off (to call the OSC)? OR did the county or the OSC issue a formal letter of charges or the complaint against Holder? If so, why is that aspect left unreported in the Gazette? Would she be in violation if no one issued a complaint? Should anyone care anything about this? I think it is important because voters need to know the whole story if one is to be told at all.
Is the Gazette privy to information that they believe their readers can't handle or shouldn't know? Can we get an open records request on a newspaper?
Where would I be without the Gazette?