On the front page of America’s papers of record today is the story of Norman Hsu, a bundler for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. On first read, it’s a heck of a story, tying together international mystery, financial scandal, and a mentally fragile man with an Election ’08 thread.
And yes, while Hsu did bring in a staggering $850,000 for Clinton’s campaign—along with smaller donations to other Democrats—no politician has been accused of acting on a quid-pro-quo. As scandals go, it’s fairly weak sauce.
But as a reader at the (recently CJR-profiled) Talking Points Memo points out, there’s another, far more newsworthy political corruption scandal unfolding at the same time—one you’d only know if you looked much deeper inside The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. And a little research proves the point.
In late May, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Ted Stevens, the Senate’s longest serving Republican, was being investigated after extensively remodeling his Alaska home—it seemed that Veco, a well-connected oil services company whose leaders have pled guilty to conspiracy and bribery, was involved in the work. While Stevens hasn’t yet been charged, a related court case has been unfolding, and exposing more information damning to Stevens.
What’s remarkable is that key moments in the two cases have three times arrived on the same day—and that on every one of those days, Hsu’s gotten more play and more ink.
For example, on September 15, Veco’s ex-CEO testified under oath that he’d supplied free labor, furniture, and materials for the renovation. The Post put that bombshell inside on page 3, and a day later The New York Times ran it on A-19. Meanwhile, Hsu—without a breaking news peg—flooded the front pages of both the Los Angeles and New York Times.
On Thursday, a Veco staffer told The AP that he and other employees had been paid by the company to do odd jobs at Stevens fundraisers. Of the three papers, only the Post reported that, on page 7. Meanwhile Hsu—who did little more that day than fly to California for his trial—was in all three papers.
And last night news broke that the FBI taped phone calls between Senator Stevens and Veco’s CEO. The New York Times didn’t mention this recording of a sitting senator at all. The Post and the Los Angeles Times put it on A-10 and A-13, respectively. Meanwhile, in California, Hsu’s indictment was unsealed—and it landed him on the front page of all three papers.