Is Media Matters Obama's Watergate? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Is Media Matters Obama’s Watergate?

Can you say Tony Ulasewicz?

OK. Let’s get down to cases. The case of Media Matters and all those deeply interesting stories over at Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller.

Let’s add some history. Context.

Let’s focus on one solitary, very bright thread in this series of stories about Media Matters, specifically the relationship between Media Matters and the Obama White House.

There is one very disturbing, very serious precedent that provides a direct link between the Obama White House and its Media Matters buddies — and the famous Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon presidency.

Let’s start with Anthony Ulasewicz. Or, “Tony” as the late New York City cop turned private investigator turned Watergate figure was known. And Tony’s friend in the NYPD’s “Bureau of Special Services,” Jack Caulfield.

In the 1968 presidential campaign, Nixon aide John Ehrlichman had hired Jack Caulfield as a campaign “tour director.” Caulfield at the time was a detective second grade in the NYPD, whose first contact with the Nixon staff came when he was assigned to candidate Nixon’s Park Avenue campaign headquarters. Remember that this was 1968. Presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated in June, Martin Luther King two months before that. In this atmosphere police protection became a big thing, and shortly Nixon, like all out-of-office presidential candidates ever since (if they meet certain requirements — as Rick Santorum has just done) had Secret Service protection. In the mix of this, inevitably Caulfield became friendly with the Nixon staff — John Ehrlichman specifically. Victory in hand, Ehrlichman became White House Counsel and Assistant to the President. Combining with his longtime friend H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, soon the new White House Chief of Staff, the duo formed the top staff tier of the Nixon White House.

Getting off on the wrong track almost immediately, Ehrlichman asked Caulfield to form a private security agency to provide “investigative support” for the White House. Caulfield, rejected for the government post of Chief Marshal of the United States (boss of all those U.S. Marshals), said he wanted to work in the White House instead. Done. He was duly installed in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House. His job? Yes indeed. Setting up a private intelligence system for Ehrlichman — and the new President.

But one guy doing this? Not good. So Caulfield arranged for White House Counsel and Assistant to the President John Ehrlichman to fly to New York — secretly. There, in a secret meeting in a VIP lounge at LaGuardia Airport, Ehrlichman met with Tony Ulasewicz.

The resulting arrangement?

Tony Ulasewicz would be paid $22,000 a year — later raised to $24,000 — plus $1,000 a month in expense money, all in private funds coming from Nixon political supporters and dispensed by the President’s personal lawyer Herbert Kalmbach. Kalmbach, notably, was not the White House lawyer. He didn’t work in the government. He was Nixon’s private attorney, the man who ladled out the cash to Tony. But he took his instructions directly from White House aides, one of them being: pay Tony Ulasewicz.

For what? What was Tony’s job?

To be specific, Mr. Ulasewicz was…. well, let’s let the late Theodore H. White describe Tony’s job. Mr. White won a Pulitzer Prize for his The Making of the President 1960, kicking off a series that covered presidential campaigns through the Reagan-Carter showdown in 1980.

But Teddy White also wrote another book during that 20-year period. That would be Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon. As it were, a blow-by-blow account of the un-making of a president. Mr. White discusses Tony’s role precisely:

His assignments, as he recalls — and he might get thirty or thirty-five assignments a year — concerned the sex, drinking and family problems of political opponents of the President, or contributors to the President’s rivals. All reports were verbal — to Caufield. Where they went, up from there, he did not know. 

Tony’s first assignment? What was Ted Kennedy doing that night at Chappaquiddick with Mary Jo Kopechne?

Noted Theodore White of this business:

Whether or not a White House counselor is entitled to command intelligence operations by agents on the official White House payroll is questionable, but probably legal. Whether a White House intelligence operation can, however, command intelligence, search and espionage paid for by private political funds is something else again.

Now. Let’s pull out the news quotes from these two graphs about Tony Ulasewicz and put them together: 

His assignments, as he recalls — and he might get thirty or thirty-five assignments a year — concerned the sex, drinking and family problems of political opponents of the President, or contributors to the President’s rivals. All reports were verbal — to Caulfield. Where they went, up from there, he did not know.… Whether a White House intelligence operation can, however, command intelligence, search and espionage paid for by private political funds is something else again.

What exactly, in the increasing flow of information from the Daily Caller about the Obama White House and Media Matters, sounds strikingly similar to the Watergate tale of Tony Ulasewicz?

That’s right. It’s this:

A group with the ability to shape news coverage is of incalculable value to the politicians it supports, so it’s no surprise that Media Matters has been in regular contact with political operatives in the Obama administration. According to visitor logs, on June 16, 2010,[Media Matter founder and head David] Brock and then-Media Matters president Eric Burns traveled to the White House for a meeting with Valerie Jarrett, arguably the president’s closest adviser. Recently departed Obama communications director Anita Dunn returned to the White House for the meeting as well.

It’s not clear what the four spoke about — no one in the meeting returned repeated calls for comment — but the apparent coordination continued. “Anita Dunn became a regular presence at the office,” says someone who worked there. Then-president of Media Matters, Eric Burns, “lunched with her, met with her and chatted with her frequently on any number of matters.”

Media Matters also began a weekly strategy call with the White House, which continues, joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. Jen Psaki, Obama’s deputy communications director, was a frequent participant before she left for the private sector in October 2011.

So. Media Matters, we learn, is having weekly strategy calls with the White House, they meet with Obama aide Jarrett and ex-aide Dunn, who returned to the White House for the meeting after she departed. Anita Dunn also “became a regular presence” in the Media Matters offices, the then-president of Media Matters “lunched with her, met with her and chatted with her frequently on any number of occasions.”

And what else? What raises the specter of Tony Ulasewicz?

This. From Media Matters’ Karl Frisch:

“We should hire private investigators to look into the personal lives of Fox News anchors, hosts, reporters, prominent contributors, senior network and corporate staff.”

Now. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is exactly the behavior that got Tony Ulasewicz parked in a chair in front of the Senate Watergate Committee, sitting under the hot klieg lights staring into television cameras on July 18, 1973. Being grilled by Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker and liberal Connecticut Republican Senator Lowell Weicker. Ulasewicz proved to be a hilarious witness, his breezy descriptions of delivering cash in paper sacks finally causing his interrogators to laugh. But in light of what we now know about Karl Frisch, David Brock, the relationship of Media Matters to White House aide Jarrett, ex-White House aide Dunn and the money paying for Media Matters’ operations, it’s worth a look back at some of Baker and Weicker’s grilling of Tony. Because in the end, what Tony was talking about helped send John Ehrlichman to jail — and force Richard Nixon to resign on threat of impeachment: 

SENATOR BAKER: Was it also your impression that Mr. Ehrlichman was the one who set and directed your assignment responsibilities and that Mr. Caulfield simply carried those instructions, or that Mr. Caulfield chose your assignments and responsibility?

A. I would say both, that Mr. Ehrlichman would give some assignments, and possibly other people in the White House, to Mr. Caulfield and probably to me.

Q. Both Ehrlichman and Caulfield gave you assignments from time to time. You are under the impression that Ehrlichman was the final authority in that respect and you went forward with these projects?

A. Yes sir, except Mr. Ehrlichman never gave me an assignment personally.

SENATOR WEICKER: Now I would like to get into the general nature of the other investigations, which you conducted. Is it a fact that some of these investigations were background checks on individuals intended to develop questionable facets of the personal lives of these individuals?

A. That is correct, sir.

Q. Now, when we are talking about questionable facets would these include sexual habits?

A. These were allegations and that might be included in the category, I guess.

Q. Drinking habits?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Personal social activities?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Is there any other type of activity which was investigated relative to any corporation or individual?

A. It would depend on the allegation. There wasn’t a complete investigation on any one person with all those titles involved. Sometimes it was an allegation of drinking and I might just keep my investigation to that particular category.

Q. Now, can we categorize in a general way those individuals or corporations that were investigated by you? Were political opponents of the President so investigated ?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Were other political figures, aside from potential political opponents of the President investigated?

A. Probably, yes, sir.

Q. And were individuals in this category, were they entirely background checks prior to employment or was it for some other reason?

A. Some would be prior to employment and some would be as a result of an allegation in a newspaper or something of that type.

Q. Did you ever file your investigations in a written form?

A. No, sir.

Q. Why not?

A. When I took the assignment it was set up that I would report directly and verbally. I was to keep no files.

Q. Did you at any time, did you at any time conduct any electronic surveillance on any individual, either in the form of the bug or the tap?

A. No, sir.

Q. How was it possible to get into matters of domestic problems, drinking habits, social activity, just from a matter of public record?

A. If it was a drinking allegation I would then develop that lead by going into that area in the most discreet manner that I would know how. A very high percentage of these allegations were false. But I would develop my leads by interviewing bartenders, patrons — if it were a hotel, hotel employees, waiters. Those kind of people are the most talkative.

Q. What other types of individuals did you investigate?

A. They might be members, might be members of a political family. It might be a son or nephew or something of that type, perhaps an allegation of some possible misconduct.

Q. Would it be fair to say that you dealt in dirt at the direction of the White House?

A. Allegations of it, yes sir.

Q. How would you categorize the information which you turned over to Mr. Caulfield? Was it of a national security nature?

A. No sir.

Q. Domestic security nature?

A. No sir.

Q. Dirt?

A. It would be of a political nature.

Q. Political dirt? All right, sir.

And with that, Tony Ulasewicz was done, in more ways than one. This is what Tony Ulasewicz actually did. This is, we now see, what Karl Frisch of Media Matters was bluntly suggesting.

Let’s stay with this.

In the immortal words of Woodward and Bernstein or the Hardy Boys (sorry, I forget which) — follow the money.

Who paid Tony Ulasewicz?

Right. The money came from Nixon supporters. It was made available to Ulasewicz through Nixon’s private — say again private — attorney, Herbert Kalmbach.

How to deal with the private status of Ulasewicz and the money doled out by Kalmbach? Money used to fund a private investigation?

Liberal Maryland Democrat Paul Sarbanes, then a Congressman on the House Judiciary Committee considering Articles of Impeachment against Nixon, put it this way to Teddy White: 

“But supposing you had one thousand people on Herb Kalmbach’s private payroll, what then? Supposing you got a thousand of them, and none of them are law-enforcement officials, none governed by the rules and regulations of the FBI or the CIA, a whole operation of irregulars. If Ulasewicz didn’t have the Ehrlichman connection, it would only be a private activity; but with the Ehrlichman connection, that activity has the cloak of authority.”

In other words, in the mind of liberal Congressman Sarbanes, if you could connect private investigator Tony Ulasewicz and his payments from Nixon contributors funneled by private attorney Kalmbach to the White House, then, again in Sarbanes’ words, “that activity has the cloak of authority.” (Note: Sarbanes’ performance connecting the White House to a “cloak of authority” given a private investigator was so well received by his fellow Democrats on the Committee that it was his language that became Article I of the three Articles of Impeachment. In Maryland, Sarbanes’ work on White House misdeeds won him election in 1976 to the Senate, where he became the state’s longest serving U.S. Senator, retiring voluntarily in 2006.)

How does this translate to today?

If in fact Karl Frisch’s memo was acted upon, and the book that is about to come out by Media Matters’ boss David Brock contains information gained from private investigators hired with money from Obama supporters with the knowledge and or direction of the Obama White House — to borrow from Sarbanes, Media Matters would be “a whole operation of irregulars” whose decided and repeated connection to the White House well opens the possibility, again in Sarbanes words, that: “…that activity has the cloak of authority.”

And in the case of Tony Ulasewicz, what he did and where he got his money to do what he did eventually led to the resignation of a president.

How did that resignation come about? What was it the Nixon White House did exactly that got it into so much trouble? That brought jail for its staffers, impeachment articles and resignation for the President?

The Nixon White House, in the vernacular of the day, “stonewalled.” Once they did all these things they made false statements to investigators, withheld evidence, counseled witnesses to lie, interfered with a Justice Department investigation… and that’s only a partial list of Article I of the three Articles of Impeachment drawn up by the House Judiciary Committee that, along with the release of Nixon’s tapes, forced his resignation.

WHAT’S DOMINATING the headlines today? Just as in early 1973, Something Else. Then it was the death of Lyndon Johnson, the peace accords in Vietnam and so on. Today, among other things, we are in the midst of a presidential campaign that generates hourly headlines about polls, Santorum this, Romney that, Gingrich over there.

But this time there’s a difference. A big one.

As The Daily Caller has exposed here and here, there have been direct ties between Media Matters and various mainstream media outlets. The Caller lists, among others, MSNBC, the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Huffington Post.

All of which turns these news outlets from journalists to potential partners in collusion, deliberately seeing to it that the Daily Caller series never sees the light of their TV cameras or printed copy. Unlike the daily, feverish coverage of scandal in the Nixon administration, which even then was late in coming save the Washington Post‘s Woodward and Bernstein, the allies of Media Matters have every reason — beginning with protecting their own hides — for not reporting this story.

Last but not least, there is one considerable irony. Let’s call it the tale of the tapes and the book.

The Nixon tapes ended the Nixon presidency with a bang and helped send John Ehrlichman to jail along with a slew of other White House aides.

Watergate became such a mammoth scandal for one reason, at bottom. The conspirators, from President Nixon on down, were incredibly inept at what they were doing. Most famously of all were those infamous tapes. What was seen as a great idea for providing an exact historical record of the Nixon presidency became, to Nixon’s horror, a blueprint for prosecutors and Congressional antagonists determined to impeach him.

John Ehrlichman, the White House Counsel and later Assistant to the President who had created a world of private investigations funded by Nixon contributors and was involved in much else besides the Ulasewicz business, was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges. Sentenced to two-and-a-half to eight years in prison, his sentence was commuted to one-to-four years and he served 18 months. He lost his license to practice law. As well as his marriage.

What may be the Media Matters equivalent of the Nixon tapes? 

The “great idea” over at Media Matters surfaced in this line in the Frisch memo that recommended hiring, in effect, a bunch of left-wing Tony Ulasewicz’s. Said the memo:

“[W]e should write a book under David’s name that savages Fox News and Fox News employees. The market for this is likely huge.”

Just this book is bursting onto the scene this week under David Brock’s name: The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine.

The instant question will now be: how much of the information in this book came from private investigators paid for by Obama supporters? What nuggets in this book are the result of the work of private investigators? And what role did the White House play in the preparation of this book? Here, by the way, is the link to the Media Matters “enemies list.” Look for the names on this list in the book, and the hunt will be on to determine the role of private investigators.

So to review, to sum up. What are the striking similarities between Nixon’s Watergate and what might be called, inevitably, Obama’s Media Mattersgate?

The use of private investigators to investigate the private lives of opponents: In the Nixon era, hiring a private investigator (Tony Ulasewicz) to investigate the private lives of opponents was the brainchild of John Ehrlichman. In the Obama era, hiring private investigators appears as a Media Matters recommendation in a memo by Karl Frisch.

The involvement of White House aides: This is what the House Judiciary Committee’s liberal Democrat Congressman Sarbanes was referring to when he said Ehrlichman and Caulfield’s involvement meant “that activity [the hiring of private investigators] has the cloak of authority.” In the Obama Administration this “cloak of authority” appears, based on the Daily Caller stories, to attach itself to at minimum two separate episodes. One, the June 16, 2010 meeting between Valerie Jarrett and Media Matters, attended by the recently departed White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. And two, what the Daily Caller describes as “a weekly strategy call” between the White House and Media Matters, the latter the group recommending the employment of private investigators to investigate political opponents of President Obama. Note: The question arises as to whether there were other meetings or discussions between Ms. Jarrett or other White House staffers and Media Matters or a third party go-between that were either on the phone, in e-mail, or — most importantly — did not occur at the White House. Was, for example, Ms. Dunn a go-between for the White House and Media Matters? Both during and after her White House tenure. Again, White House Counsel John Ehrlichman flew to New York for his secret meeting with Tony Ulasewicz in a VIP lounge at LaGuardia Airport. It did not occur in the White House.

The Nixon tapes and David Brock’s book: What finally ended the Nixon presidency was a unanimous Supreme Court decision forcing the Nixon White House to yield the secretly made tape recordings, whose existence was discovered in the middle of the Senate Watergate Hearings. Those tapes, specifically a tape of June 23, 1972, produced what became known as the “smoking gun”: there, in spite of repeated denials, was the voice of Richard Nixon, in Theodore White’s words, “directing the CIA to halt an FBI investigation which would be politically embarrassing to his re-election — an obstruction of justice.”

If Richard Nixon’s tapes did him in, so well may David Brock’s book do in not only Media Matters but, incredibly, the Obama White House itself. A congressional investigation would doubtless focus on any information in the book obtained through the use of private investigators. Investigators acting under Sarbanes’ rule of a White House “cloak of authority.” Investigators paid for by wealthy Obama contributors.

Follow the money: For the Nixon White House, the man to see was Nixon lawyer Herbert Kalmbach. It was he who, receiving authorization from John Ehrlichman, (that “cloak of authority”) paid Tony Ulasewicz. Who is the Media Matters equivalent of Herb Kalmbach? Mr. Kalmbach, by the way, went to jail and lost his law license temporarily, it being restored three years after Nixon’s resignation.

All of the above summoning to mind the classic question made famous by Senator Howard Baker during the Senate Watergate hearings. To wit:

“What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

This is a big story. A HUGE story. As with Watergate the information is already gushing in such a torrent that there is only one way to get to the bottom of it. Tucker Carlson and his Daily Caller crew may well be the Woodward and Bernstein of Media Mattersgate. While those in the media colluding with Media Matters will surely do their best to ignore the story, doubtless the conservative blogosphere, talk radio, and — deliciously — Fox News is wide awake and on the trail.

A full, complete and thorough congressional investigation — just as was done with the Senate Watergate Committee — is in order. Will Harry Reid do this? Of course not. So the ball bounces to the House. And what will they be looking for? As with Nixon in Watergate, these congressional investigators will be looking for one, very simple thing — a simple thing expressed in multiples of ways by multiples of people. That would be?

Abuse of power.

You can bet that a lot of people will be reading David Brock’s book just as Americans once avidly listened to Nixon’s tapes. Matching the names in this book to the names on that enemies list.


To find the smoking gun.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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