ICB just posted a piece that picks up a subject I tackled a few weeks back.
Seems VERY well supported.
May Rep. Patterson serve well.
The strange “investigative reporting” by reporters into Rep. Mark Patterson’s biography appeared right before the Christmas holidays. No doubt many people missed it, but it has bothered me for several reasons. Now Idaho is about to begin a new legislative session, I thought I would spend some time identifying the peculiarities of the whole story – which some have suggested to me were an attempt by Steve Berch, Dan Popkey and John Miller to undermine Patterson’s credibility at the Statehouse just as he began his service to the people of District 15.
The first oddity is that the story of discrepancies surrounding Patterson’s Facebook bio came from the man he defeated in the November general election, Democrat Steve Berch. It seemed very strange to me that veteran political reporters like John Miller and Dan Popkey would spend any time reading an attack press release from a candidate just rejected by the voters. Berch put out a lot of negative information about Patterson during the campaign, much of it nasty and scurrilous. The fact that Berch has suffered his second electoral defeat in as many tries is clearly not sitting well with him. I was surprised Popkey and Miller picked it up.
Then on December 17th AP Reporter John Miller launched what some are calling a “Hit” piece on Patterson. I’m not so sure I would call it a “Hit” piece but it seemed to be awfully hard hitting considering the accusations were minor and easily explained. How Miller missed it or refused to take the explanations is curious indeed.
The first issue was apparently a degree of sloppiness by a campaign staffer over claims that Patterson was a student at the University of Southern California (USC). He wasn’t. He was actually a student in a Master’s degree program at Southern California University (SCU) for Professional Studies.
In his story, Miller claims that he attempted to verify Patterson’s claims about being enrolled in SCU during the 1990’s. But he went to print with the story on the same day he attempted contact with officials at Southern California University.
During a recent phone conversation with Patterson’s campaign consultant, Lou Esposito said that he was present during Miller’s interview of Patterson.
“I was concerned at the time that John Miller just dismissed Mark’s offer to retrieve his academic records from his time as an MBA student at SCU,” Esposito said. “My fears of a hatchet job were realized when I saw the story. We have seen this happen too many times to conservatives and we have to stand up to this kind of bullying.”
Miller also made much of the fact that Project Vote Smart had republished Patterson’s Facebook biography, claiming that this “inaccurate impression” had somehow impacted the election but not explaining how. Patterson handily won with 53% of the vote.
While I don’t have any details on how many voters from District 15 visited this web site – I do know that very few traveled to see Patterson’s Facebook page. Traffic details from the Patterson Campaign show that just 102 individuals went to Patterson’s bio page from the middle of September to the middle of November. I’m guessing some of those visits were from Berch himself.
None of the information Miller questioned was included on Patterson’s campaign website or printed literature. They appear to be simple explainable mistakes.
The pitiful traffic numbers fully explain – without necessarily excusing – Patterson’s lack of personal attention to the whole Facebook aspect of the campaign effort.
But it doesn’t end there.
Miller also accused Patterson of lying about being a professional bicycle racer during the 1990s. But here again, the facts Patterson tried to provide to Miller seemed to land on deaf ears.
Miller contacted a group called USA Cycling to see what Patterson’s status was back then. They had records indicating he held a Category 4 license, now an amateur classification. The problem here is that Patterson primarily rode under the American Bicycle Racing Association umbrella, a different organization with different standards. Rep. Patterson explained to Miller that he was paid thousands of dollars to race while promoting various products. It is hard to understand why Miller wouldn’t acknowledge that a person earning his living by racing would be anything but an amateur. Yet Miller created a cloud of doubt in his story.
Much of the same phenomenon occurred over Miller’s accusation that Patterson was not an “engineer” in various oil fields around the world. The truth is Rep. Patterson spent years working on rigs in places like United Arab Emirates and Wyoming. His professional training required a substantial depth in practical engineering and chemistry. As most hands-on guys in the trades would understand, he was known as a “field engineer” because of his supervisory responsibility. It is also worth noting that Patterson’s training in the petrochemical industry led directly to his development of new lubricants, the heart of his current manufacturing company.
All of these details may seem trivial as they are contested after the damage has been done. But a man’s public reputation and integrity has been called into question by Miller. I don’t see malice in Miller’s story but I do find it startling slanted against Patterson. Popkey’s piece in the Idaho Statesman seems a bit more balanced.
Hopefully, with the turn of a new year, we can turn the page on this story. Idaho’s legislators need to focus on the incredibly important challenges we face this session. The campaign is over. Berch needs to get over his loss and journalists should avoid fanning the flames of a sore loser.