It was in the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal did an article about it. It was on the cover of Newsday. The Associated Press distributed the news to outlets all over the country.
When a sitting U.S. Congressman is embroiled in an ethics investigation, it's big news. Especially when that Congressman represents this district. In fact, we can't recall it ever happening before hereabouts.
So where were the articles in The East Hampton Star, The Press, and the other so-called "newspapers of record?"
Tim Bishop is accused of soliciting a large campaign contribution in exchange for doing a favor for a constituent. That's a criminal offense. Surely, a newspaper like The Press, which had a front page article on a "fashion camp" could find room for news that was reported all over the country, no?
Several of the newspapers had articles about Bishop lobbying for Plum Island to stay open as a government research center. One newspaper had an article about the Congressman touting how wonderful Obamacare is. How can a reputable newspaper print an article about Bishop in the same week when the House Committee On Ethics (OCE) makes a startling announcement about him and NOT mention it in a story?
Here is the answer: it's the Bill McGintee Syndrome. Having been scooped by The Independent, the other newspapers decided to pretend this important story didn't exist, just like when we broke the story that McGintee, the disgraced former Town Supervisor of East Hampton, was being investigated by the DA. Their strategy worked for a while – until four guys packing heat marched into town hall with a subpoena.
In the Bishop matter, the House Ethics Committee has already been reviewing the OCE recommendations for 45 days. It has another 45 days to decide whether to move forward with full-scale investigations or end the reviews. If the Ethics Committee decides not to launch its own probe it must release the OCE report on Bishop. That should make for some interesting reading.
By the way, the standard of proof generally required under OCE Rules to refer a matter to the Committee on Ethics for further review is substantial reason to believe a violation may have occurred. That comes directly from the OCE handbook. That's what's known as news where we come from.
Maybe we shouldn't brag, but we here at The Independent can foresee the future. It's a gift we have. Since the Ethics Committee is the equivalent of a panel of foxes ruling on the fate of a fellow fox caught in a henhouse, it's fair to assume Bishop will get a slap on the wrist and nothing more. Then (here's where we predict the future) the local newspapers will feature huge front-page headlines declaring Bishop's innocence. It will become, magically, newsworthy.
This isn't about politics. It's about having an ethically challenged congressman doing favors for cronies and funneling campaign funds to family members.
What would have happened if Randy Altschuler, the Republican candidate, had defeated Bishop and then been accused of doing what Bishop did?
The front-page headlines would blare the news, and it would be the biggest story of the year.
And this, folks, is the reason why our local newspapers are a joke, a caricature of what newspapers are supposed to be. You can't manufacture news and you can't pick and choose what you report to the people. The news is the news – good or bad, Republican or Democrat, black or white, and the people need to read ALL of it.
Let's face it: a lot of the local publishers and editors pander to the rich and powerful or worse, fancy themselves as part of this elite, holier-than-thou club. And like Congressman Bishop, they kowtow to that element, and sell their souls in the process. It's sad.
When some smarmy, well-connected know-it-all sitting in an ivory tower decides what news you should be reading, we are all in trouble. And tragically, that happens around here all too often.