Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stealing Truth: The John Fund Back Story


If the media had followed the clear rules they had written for themselves, would we now be on the express down elevator to a meltdown of global proportions? Likely not. We would have problems, but we would have seen them more clearly. We needed the truth. We did not get it, for perhaps as many reasons as there are individuals in journalism.
The first problem was that journalists so blithely ignored the standards of their profession.
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has established a code of ethics. The tenets of this code are short, clear, concise, and well-founded. But there is no means of enforcement. If journalists would follow them, we could trust the media. Today most of us do not. If a journalist ignores their ethical obligations, either from sloth or a desire to profit, nothing can be done. If raiding the cookie jar can be carried out with impunity, then there will be no cookies. I know this, having raised several children.
The SPJ has existed since 1909, four years before the Federal Reserve Bank came into being. Their founders could have included Ida Tarbell, the journalist who caused the break up of Standard Oil, though the site does not mention her – an indomitable truth teller. Tarbell told the truth, but a handful of years later the dispersed Standard Oil was larger than ever and still carried out the same exploitive pattern of business.
The takeaway: having the truth does not automatically solve the problem. You need to use the truth to build the cultural tools that enact accountability. We need that accountability today as the world melts down around our ears. Those responsible for the economic collapse are getting bailouts. Those who will be forced to pay are losing everything.
It was not just banks or oil companies or the "military-industrial complex" of which Ike warned us, though the sense of immunity to accountability these corporate-cultural structures enjoy is another part of the problem. Many individuals made decisions they knew to be wrong. Along with those heading corporations, journalists were a pivotal part of this failure. They had ample opportunity to act ethically and make a decision that would have influenced the values by which all of us live, building the world through those uncounted separate choices. Unfortunately, they chose unwisely and unethically – and their bad choices drove out the good.
Large media (and non-media) corporations have swallowed up newspapers and other media outlets during the last few decades with alarming speed, with the goal being the use of these outlets as an extension of their control. Individual journalists did not have to cooperate – but they did, in large part. The lack of dispassionate, objective reporting in journalism morphed the profession towards use as a perpetual public relations service for those in power. The question became not "What is the truth?" but "What do you want the truth to be?" Power and profit became the unassailable be-all and end-all of corporate journalism.
Consider, for example, the case of John Fund.

Sex, Lies, and Journalism

As a member of the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal for 18 years, Fund was on a trajectory toward greater power in 1998, and that power provided him with a feeling of invincibility. Already accustomed to sexual access to many women who were attracted to him as a figure possessing power and money, he became accustomed to ignoring the consequences of behavior that was deceitful and ugly. He was also accustomed to lying politically. His personal and professional life matched. He knew no matter what he did he would be protected.
In October of 1998, he began a sexual relationship with the daughter of a long-time friend he had once dated. The woman's name was Morgan Pillsbury, my biological daughter. I had known Fund since 1980 when we met at a Libertarian Party Convention, where he came across as nerdy and bumbling but likable. The impression stuck. Over the years we kept in touch.
When I heard a rumor that Fund was involved with Morgan, I called him directly. He lied to me, telling me she lived nearby. He claimed that he had been feeding her cat for her while she had been away. I believed him. Having had experience with Morgan over many years, I knew she could be dishonest . She would need strong evidence to disprove Fund's claims to me. That is why the audio tape often referred to as the "Weaselsearch tape" was made. If you listen to the tape, it becomes immediately apparent that Fund did not want me to know the truth. He lied and pressured Morgan to lie about their relationship. There was no reason for this; if he had told me he was in a relationship with Morgan, I would have been surprised and appalled, but it had been many years since we had been more than friends. My time was occupied caring for my handicapped son and by my own health needs, not with his love life. And Morgan was no child. She was born July 5, 1967. John was born April 8, 1956.
If this had remained merely a case of a man lying about his love life, journalism would never have been an issue. But Fund wanted to continue the relationship with Morgan covertly so he could also have relations with other women. He did not want his professional life impacted.
Unfortunately for Fund, Morgan refused to be his dirty little secret. For much of the three years they were a couple, Fund used Morgan's computer for professional purposes, but also to receive personal e-mail. Why Fund would have overlooked the chain of evidence thus produced is perhaps explained by the fact that at that time he knew next to nothing about computers. During that time, Fund consistently lied about his relationship with Morgan and pursued other women. It was a strange relationship, and I do not pretend to entirely understand it. But at each point, I demanded proof from Morgan for just that reason. I talked to Fund over dinner, on the phone from the apartment the couple shared. I received e-mails from him and other proof that could not have been falsified, for instance this IM conversation on AOL between Matt Drudge and Morgan. Drudge had been IMing with Fund on Morgan's computer earlier. Fund went to bed, leaving the window up. And so Morgan continued the conversation.
Around January, 2002, Fund – despite claims to the contrary by himself and others – was fired from the Wall Street Journal, probably because of the scandal that exploded over his own behavior. Morgan told me he had battered her on multiple occasions, first in New Jersey and then after he stalked her back to Manhattan and insisted on moving in with her in her new apartment. I heard several of those incidents via phone – as did others.
She finally decided to file charges in both New Jersey and New York.
A letter from Fidelity Investments advised him to, "make a decision about what to do with the savings you have accumulated in your former employer's retirement plan." That employer was the Wall Street Journal. The letter is in Morgan's possession. Fund opened it in her living room and, as Morgan told me, left it laying on the floor.
The lies then escalated.
Morgan told me that Fund coerced a false confession from her to hide his acts. He used threats of violence to get the confession. Morgan sent this email to me and others immediately to refute what she had been forced to sign. Documentation exists to support the truth.
Fund solicited and received the cooperation of other journalists to spin what had taken place. One can only conclude that Fund was very willing to make it worth their while or misrepresent the facts. Evidence almost immediately surfaced that Fund was sexually involved with at least one journalist who then lied for him in print. Some journalists knew the truth. Others were clearly taken in by Fund's lies. All were guilty of a lack of due diligence. If they had followed the tenets set out for journalists today might be different for all of us.

Black Box Road to the Rove White House

Fund's relationship with the Bush White House and the purpose of the book he was then writing, Stealing Elections, were less obvious in 2002. Fund has since admitted he has been routinely briefed by the White House, before and after he was fired from the WSJ. His road to being a willing tool of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was long and, in many ways, meteoric.
Fund first worked as a political operative in 1979, according to Justin Raimondo. His services were secured to ensure the nomination of Ed Clark for the Libertarian Presidential Nomination for 1980 by Ed Crane. Far from having an interest in stopping voter or election fraud, Fund himself committed a curious specie of fraud by claiming to be a candidate by taking out papers that year but never turning them in while claiming to be running for office and getting 46% of the vote. Justin Raimondo characterized Fund as "an expert lying propagandist of the sleazier sort."
Never in all the years I knew him did I hear Fund express any interest in the issues of election or voter fraud. His political interests were more sensational; his personal interests run to Star Wars and Star Trek. If you really knew him, this sudden change in principal interests should have raised questions about his role with those associated with the administration. It did for me. The book he wrote is now considered by those in the clean elections movement to be a misdirective tool intended to muddy the water on the issue of voter fraud. It focuses in on purported fraud by individuals, ignoring the enormous issues of fraud now ascribed to such companies as Diebold and ES&S. Fund proposed centralizing control over elections as a solution – an idea completely in line with the big and well-connected "black box" mongers – and is nearly successful in undermining the issue by injecting his spin.
Bev Harris of Black Box Voting said of Fund's position, "It is amazing that this bogus solution is still being put forth. His solutions take us directly to ever more centralized control by a small group of insiders. What is needed is for the people to have local control and access to the results. Complete transparency."
Mark Crispin Miller was even more explicit, saying, "Despite his pose as an impartial expert on American elections, John Fund is in fact a dedicated party operative, who for many years has turned out rightist propaganda for the GOP. Specifically, he has abetted the Republicans' election theft by helping to promote the myth of widespread Democratic 'voter fraud'--a fiction that has been disproved by every reputable study, but one which Fund has pushed at every opportunity. And so whatever he may recommend to help 'reform' US elections should be rejected out of hand, as on this crucial subject he enjoys no credibility at all."
Vickie Karp and others involved in the clean elections movement also agree about Fund and his role as a propagandist and deceiver. All of the agree that Fund's "solutions," which provide cover for ever more centralization and displace real reform, are the opposite of transparency.
Inserting himself into that dialog would have been severely hampered had he been in jail for domestic violence. Yet Fund remains a high level political operative. Understanding how he accomplished his goals provides a clear understanding of the covert operation we know as the Bush Administration.

Fund's "Nuts and Sluts" Strategy

Fund solicited several articles attacking both Morgan and myself.
Eric Alterman, a New York based writer known for his partisan political writing, generally perceived as on the left, authored an article for the May 15, 2003 edition of The Nation, Who Framed John Fund? Morgan and I attempted to contact Alterman. On Mother's Day morning, June 11th, Morgan received an email from Alterman urgently requesting a response to a list of questions. Alterman received her response within three hours. He used none of the material supplied, did not call to follow up on her reply, and did not ask for the further documents that Morgan had offered. On June 25, 2003 a response from another liberal, Mark Crispin Miller, was published with another from Alterman in The Nation. The exchange is titled, 'Ugly Tactics Make for Ugly People.' Alterman sent Morgan a dismissive e-mail on July 4th.
According to Fred Brown, vice chair of the ethics committee for the Society for Professional Journalists, many journalists would pause before writing an article requested by someone in Fund's circumstances. A journalist who followed the tenets of ethics would also be careful to ensure that all principals had fully aired their cases. Alterman violated every tenet of the code as outlined by SPJ.
Fund was at that time working to have the charges against him in New York dropped. To accomplish that, he had been told he needed to destroy our credibility – Morgan's as the victim and my own as a witness. Along with soliciting journalists with whom he had relationships or could compensate in some way, he solicited libelous letters from at least two individuals, each with a motive for wanting either myself or Pillsbury silenced.
A perfunctory search of the journalists involved also leads to linkages between journalists to be pointed out. Alterman states in articles he has written that he is a friend of Katie Rosman, about whom you will read more below. A Google search of their names shows they often appear at the same events and cite each other. Alterman "adores gossip," by his own report, and admits to being an avid reader of Page Six, a gossip column run by Richard Johnson with associates such as Doug Dechert. Dechert was a regular attendee at the Fabiani Society, which meets the second Tuesday at the Princeton Club, a place where Fund also regularly showed up. The first time I was introduced to Dechert at one of these events, he asked me for $10,000 to be in Page Six. I did not know what Page Six was and would have declined even more rapidly if I had known. Selling print in this fashion is not news, it is not journalism, and it is not public relations, a profession having its own tenets for ethics. Discussing the matter with Fred Brown, we agreed that the term "Slime Journalism" worked to describe it (with apologies to slime, which is an important part of the ecosystem). Reading Alterman's enthusiastic reports on the operation leads one to believe he expects dishonesty and scandal as standard. Certainly that is how his reports read.
The Fabiani Society is jointly sponsored by two NeoCon think-tanks, the Cato Institute and the Manhattan Institute. The speakers usually represent the opinions marketed by those institutions. Many come only for the opportunity to network or the excellent canap├ęs and ample bar.
Fund sent this email to Morgan at the same time these articles would have been in the works, once again demonstrating his lack not only of professionalism but maturity.
An article solicited by Katie Rosman, then at Elle, in the autumn of 2003 presents a strategy also intended to silence us using another tack. We met with Katie Rosman at a coffee shop in Manhattan where she asked for an exclusive on the story. We agreed. Soon her contact with us became sporadic. The story was stalled for months, during a critical time period, and then quashed (see correspondence). Rosman received a job offer at the Wall Street Journal simultaneous to the article being dropped. Rosman is still working at the WSJ and is a friend of Eric Alterman's, according to Alterman.
Fund solicited a woman law professor, Gail Heriot (who was having a sexual relationship with Fund) to assist him. The site, John H. Fund, was originally registered at her address in San Diego, 4830 Hart Drive, San Diego, CA 92116. That has now been changed. Heriot put herself in the category of journalist when she wrote to Gene Gaudette, the editor of APJ, with a letter she sent across the Internet, effectively publishing it. Its content is libelous. (You can read that e-mail from Heriot to American Politics Journal and their demolishing response here).
Heriot had written an email to Fund on January 13, 2002 that reveals the source of her support for Fund: at that time Morgan and Fund were still living together she wrote, "So allow me to introduce myself. I am Gail Heriot, the woman whose hotel room you've found yourself in a few times over the last six weeks." See the full letter here.
Fund solicited other attacks. Wendy McElroy, who wrote "False Rape Charges Hurt Real Victims" for FOXnews.com (published July 22, 2003), also violated the tenets of journalism, evidently profiting thereby. Journalists are required to ensure the principals are heard. McElroy failed to call either Morgan or myself. Since I had known her personally since the 1970s, this was a shock. Instead of carrying out her ethical obligation to seek the facts she wrote the article exonerating Fund and was within weeks hired at FOX News, a media outlet long associated with Fund and his fellow NeoCons. McElroy has made her living for decades writing effective spin for niche groups that want to hear justifications for their positions. These include why women need pornography and why women are as likely to be batterers as men, among others.
Fund was offered support from a female journalist with whom he was evidently conducting an affair at Christian Broadcast Network. Her name was Christine Hall-Reis. Here is a semi-nude photo of her that she sent to Fund, which he downloaded to Morgan's computer and became her property. Fund and Morgan were living together at the time the photo was sent along with the accompanying email.
One can reach no other conclusion that each and every one of these articles was clearly solicited by Fund.
One also has to relish the irony of Fund using women with whom he was intimately involved to deploy a "nuts and sluts" smear campaign.
Fund also received help from individuals hoping to benefit from the opportunity presented who were not compensated. Two such individuals were Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo, now of Anti-War.com. Both individuals had known Fund and myself for many years. Both were members of a small but self-consciously radical group associated with the Libertarian Party and Murray Rothbard, a highly respected free market economist who died in the 90s. I made a call to Eric Garris in 2002 asking for help. Morgan was in hiding, in fear of her life. Fund was using every avenue to destroy my reputation and credibility. Eric refused to help. In 2006 Justin Raimondo wrote this article that appeared on Anti-War.com. I responded in 24 hours with this article.
Soon afterward I talked to Lew Rockwell, who employs Eric Garris as a webmaster. Eric had read my assertion that the hit piece on Fund was motivated by the realization neither he or Raimondo would never profit by covering for Fund. Lew told me he talked to Garris right after he read my article. Eric, he said, affirmed I was exactly right.
Among journalists on the right, the left and the libertarian realm, Fund had succeeded in persuading journalists to write in his defense.
In each instance they ignored the truth.
In all cases they hoped for some benefit for themselves.

John Fund: Above the Law?

The criminal case to be heard through the District Attorney was still hanging over Fund's head. He needed the charges to be quashed. Photographs of the injuries had been taken by the police. I had given testimony on what I had witnessed. Documents proving that Fund had systematically lied both to many women and to other journalists for years existed and were available, freely offered as proof. Instead of looking at all the evidence, the focus was placed solely on Morgan's veracity. Fund had solicited letters that perpetuated statements that were provably libelous and untrue. He had cooperation from the DA's office in Manhattan to ignore all of these forms of evidence.
When the DA replaced the first ADA assigned to the case, Eric Arnone, with Bonnie Saar, it was clear that the investigation would be neither fair nor thorough. Saar spent hours hammering Morgan with questions as if she were the perpetrator, ignoring the laws and practices usual with victims of domestic violence. Morgan was not even allowed to see her own case file, and that is another violation of existing law and practice. Through a back door into the DA's office, we learned that the letters were from my former husband, Craig Franklin, and one Eugene Volokh, a former boyfriend of Morgan. Both men had reasons for wanting to destroy either Morgan's or my own credibility, and those motives can be documented. In one case, the motive was to cover a felonious fraud amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.
But that is another story for another day.
Fund's motives were more obvious and also deeper. For years I had been questioning Fund's actions. Beginning with obvious issues, for instance how Hillsdale College used its large endowment, I asked questions. I moved on to research Fund's associates. As the Arkansas Project unfolded and the bizarre information I heard from Fund grew, I began to ask more questions as I observed the NeoCon strategies for winning. By 2000, the issue of election fraud was very present in my mind. During a conversation Fund, Morgan and I had at dinner in 2000, Fund told us that writing the book on elections was his "consolation prize" for not getting the job as Bush speechwriter. He might have been lying, but that is what he said. I was surprised, and said so. Fund shrugged. In what had already become a pattern of "Wingnut Welfare" for the NeoCon right's roster of propagandists, the book would be financed, published and promoted – that was what mattered.
Destroying my credibility along with Morgan's accomplished several goals, for Fund and others. Fund knew I was researching him. The conversation we had had regarding Hillsdale had told him I doubted his stated motives. His lack of action on these issues decreased the frequency of his calls to me from 1996 on. Over the years I continued to write about Fund and his connections, branching out from there into the impact on the economy, on our institutions, and on the future.
I had told Fund in 2001 that his highest purpose in life was as an example of what is wrong with journalism. Fund has illustrated in thorough detail what needs to change. Journalism is not spin provided to sell a political agenda. Journalism is a trust essential to ensuring our continued freedom. The public must have the facts, the truth, and the means to decide for themselves.
It is time to start in that direction.
This week a group of journalists will be filing a FOIA demand for the information long withheld by Morganthau's office in Manhattan. Ethics matter. Doing the right thing matters. The file on the case against John Fund for domestic violence may clarify issues. It may raise issues yet unknown. But it must be public. The victim is willing to have you see it. This case can tell us what went wrong with the courts, with the police, with journalism and how political figures and corporations distort and use each of these. This case leads you down the rabbit hole.
No matter who is impacted – just plain folks, social elite, poor or wealthy, black or white, gay or straight – the truth matters. The sign of a healthy society is a system that does right by everyone. A working media, courts that deliver justice, and communities of people who handle things for themselves give us the means to know we are secure.
Concern is growing and some are already taking action. On the Internet and elsewhere, people are looking for solutions. We need to find what works. The Madoff fraud has awakened many to the need for action.

There are many today, for instance Dan Rather, who understand what it means to go through the crucible of fire for truth, emerging on the other side. We need those who were willing to speak out and we need to listen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Always wanted to know if she was OK...never was able to find out