Return of Serve
by Geoff Kelly - posted 2:55 pm, July 25, 2008
In this post over at BuffaloPundit, Alan Bedenko and Chris Smith suggest that the Wendt Foundation’s trustees, Bruce Jackson, and his family present conflicts of interest that cast doubt on their motives in fighting the Seneca casino in downtown Buffalo.
Fist of all, Alan, thanks for reading and responding.
Rarely do I defend what AV columnists or what they write. I figure we have our own platform and it’s big enough; once we publish, it’s everyone else’s turn. But this time, happily, I have a few facts to add to the mix:
1. Rachel and Michael Jackson have never been paid a cent by the Wendt Foundation for their work on the casino lawsuit;
2. Bruce Jackson applied and got a grant from Wendt on behalf of the Market Arcade for a new digital projector for the cinema, not for himself; the Market Arcade is a public theater owned by the city of Buffalo and run by a volunteer board; the digital projector is used for screenings by a wide variety of Buffalo nonprofit community organizations;
3. AV has never failed to acknowledge Jackson’s former role as vice president of Citizens for a Better Buffalo in his casino articles, either in a tag at the end of the piece or in the body of the article; besides, no one has ever accused an AV writer of being unbiased;
4. Wendt’s trustees don’t track their stock portfolio any more than does the average person with money in a retirement account (quick, without looking—how much of your retirement account is invested in pharmaceuticals? what precisely does the bank where you keep deposits do with your cash?);
5. and even if they had, Wendt divested. Maybe the foundation’s investment manager divested in order to clear a possible forthcoming conflict of interest; maybe he or she sold because it was a good time to sell. I don’t have an answer to that, and neither do Alan and Chris.
What they do have is innuendo. They’ll reply that Jackson’s article traded in innuendo as well—a suggestion that someone, somewhere, whispered this line of attack against the Wendt Foundation, an attack that ignores the motives and the merits of the lawsuit that Wendt Foundation money is supporting and directs attention away from the implications of Judge Skretny’s ruling. Alan is stung by the innuendo that he was party to a conspiracy to discredit the foundation’s motives.
Fair enough. What Bruce asked is (so far) an open-ended question: Where did the line of attack on this institution, which has never before been accused of anything but generosity, originate? Who thought of it? Bruce and I both posed that question to Mike Beebe at the Buffalo News, who responded. Neither of us asked Alan how he’d been inspired to write about it. Maybe we should have, though I don’t think Bruce accused Alan of anything more than having written a post about it. Fact is, we were both more interested in how Beebe came to write his story.
I certainly believe Alan when he says he conspired with no one, that he heard this line of argument on the radio and TV, was interested, and so wrote a post about it. (I also assumed, being a regular reader and a fan, that he would swing back. I looked forward to seeing where his shot would land.)
But you don’t have to be one of the original whisperers of a damaging rumor to be a party to swiftboating; if you’re part of the echo chamber that amplifies and spreads the rumor, then you’re contributing to its apparent legitimacy. In the case of attacks on John Kerry that gave birth to the verb, no one would argue that a thousand bloggers and talk radio hosts met in a hotel room somewhere and devised a strategy. But someone met somewhere to discuss ways to use Kerry’s service record against him, devised a strategy, and unleashed it; and like-minded bloggers and talk radio hosts fell into the roles the plotters hoped they would take. The “objective,” “mainstream” media happily called the action from the press box, turning the blood sport into our national pastime for a good two months. The damage to Kerry’s reputation and campaign was immense.
Bruce believes (as do I) that some party is trying to damage the Wendt Foundation’s reputation in order to scare away the trustees from funding this lawsuit to its conclusion—and, for that matter, from taking stands in the future on potentially controversial issues that the trustees believe affect the welfare of this community. (That is their brief, essentially: to promote the community’s welfare.)
So Alan wrote about an argument that caught his attention; Jackson speculated about the argument’s originators and their motives; Alan and Chris swung back hard because they’re good sportsmen and are versed in the devilish art of opposition research; and I know, by responding, that I am sending a high, weak lob back to them, to do with what they’d like.
Your turn, fellas. While you decide, however, I am once again leaving the court.