Connie Schultz is one of the most well known columnists working for Ohio’s largest newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She’s a Pulitzer winner, nationally syndicated and very liberal. She also happens to be married to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is also very liberal, being tied with a few others as America’s most far left Senator.
She has written frequent columns blasting the Tea Party movement. However, she had never attended one, only criticized from afar. So last weekend, she decided to attend a Tea Party Express event that was being held near her home in Avon, Ohio, to experience the Tea Party up close and personal. It might have been a better idea for her not to attend. In the conservative Ohio blog Third Base Politics, which I write for, we wrote an exclusive post about what happened at the event.
In her column today, she talks about her experience at a Tea Party event in Avon, here in Lorain County. Reports are that she spent most of her time interviewing attendees for her column. That’s what they pay her to do, right? In her column, she pays a lot of attention to who didn’t show up. However, she fails to mention one of the speakers who WAS there. That speaker would be Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
I wonder why she didn’t mention this. Why didn’t she mention that when Josh’s name was announced, that she rushed to the seats to sit in a row up front, and pulled out her video camera? Well, maybe SHE didn’t mention it, but SOMEBODY noticed it. See the photo and video.
Our reports also say that Connie didn’t record the other speakers at the event. But she certainly made sure she recorded Mandel. Why was Connie Schultz so interested in Josh Mandel? Oh, please forgive me. I forget to mention something else. Connie’s husband is up for re-election next year, and Josh Mandel is almost certain to be the Republican nominee.
So, it appears that while being paid by the Plain Dealer to write a column about the Tea Party event, she was also stalking her husbands opponent and doing work for his re-election campaign.
Be sure to follow the link and watch the video. 3BP had some tough questions for Schultz and the Plain Dealer:
Was Connie Schultz at the Tea Party event to provide video and do opposition research for Sherrod Brown’s reelection campaign?
Did Sherrod Brown break the law by accepting this opposition research as an illegal corporate contribution from The Plain Dealer?
Will The Plain Dealer publicly acknowledge this giant conflict of interest, punish her and publicly denounce her abuse of their money and journalistic integrity?
Who did Connie give the video to, the Plain Dealer or her husband, Sherrod Brown?
Was Connie there as a reporter for the Plain Dealer, or as a Democrat videographer?
Honestly, we didn’t expect Schultz or the Plain Dealer to acknowledge what happened. The very next day, however, we had to write a follow-up to our story. Schultz dedicated her entire next column to “acknowledging her mistakes.”
I didn’t mention all the speakers in my column, but there was one who showed up at the end of the event whom I should have named: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
For months, The Plain Dealer has identified Mandel as the likely 2012 Republican opponent of my husband, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel is raising money for a Senate race, but has not declared his candidacy. He frequently attacks my husband in public interviews and speeches, and the Tea Party event was no exception.
I did not mention him because I wanted to avoid the appearance of singling him out for criticism, or promoting my husband. In retrospect, that was a mistake.
You, the reader, should always be trusted to make up your own mind about whether my writing presents a conflict. That’s why transparency matters. I am in the unique position of being a newspaper columnist married to a U.S. senator. My opinions are my own, but I must be ever vigilant to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know Mandel showed up.
She then tries to explain what she was doing with the video camera.
I made a second mistake. A few minutes before Mandel walked onto the field to speak, police officers ejected a videographer for the Democratic Party, at organizers’ request. When I found out about this, and noticed that two other men with video cameras were allowed to stay, I pulled out my Canon PowerShot camera, set it to video and held it in plain sight as Mandel spoke.
Connie goes on to say she was “making a statement” of protest regarding the Democrat videographer who was kicked out, if such person existed at all. I don’t buy it. I think she was taking his place and intending to give the video to her husband’s campaign people.
Obviously, her mea culpa was a result of getting caught, and her employer being embarrassed by a local blog. But we do give her credit for owning up to it and mostly taking complete responsibility for crossing over the ethical line. She continues:
Taping the speech gave the appearance that I was covering Mandel for The Plain Dealer. That was not, and never will be, the case. It doesn’t matter that I did nothing with my video, or that someone else posted a video of Mandel’s speech on You Tube. I should have taken a deep breath and kept my camera in my bag.
This is my debut column for the Plain Dealer’s Metro section. Not what I had planned. But it’s the only way to proceed if I am to ask for your trust.
My error in judgment also caused unnecessary anguish for editors who trust me, and champion my work. I feel just sick about that.
What did the Senator have to say? WKYC’s Tom Beres caught up with him.
Her husband told Tom Beres his wife has great integrity.
“She was not doing campaign work. Somebody that wanted to tape the speech was thrown out, probably illegally, because it’s a public-funded venue. And she taped it. She didn’t give it to the campaign. She’s a citizen. She was there,” he said.
Brown acts oblivious to any possible charges of conflict of interest here. No, Senator, you’re wrong. In this case, she was not just “a citizen”. She was a journalist. A journalist engaging in political activity.
Finally, the Plain Dealer still doesn’t seem to be handling the situation very well. For a newspaper who was just caught in an embarrassing conflict of interest with their star columnist, going forward with less transparency about the situation seems like an odd choice to me.