WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Democratic senator has been misleading constituents about WorldNetDaily.com’s press-pass case – thanks, her office says, to bum information it got from the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Senate Press Gallery.
In a form letter, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has explained to concerned WND readers from her state that the Standing Committee turned down the popular newssite for credentials because it failed to meet a threshold of “at least 50 percent original content.”
In fact, there is no such threshold – written or otherwise. And if there were, many of the 300 press gallery members who publish wire news reports would fall short of it.
“The rules state that the applicant’s publication must have at least 50 percent original content,” Cantwell says in her letter. “WND failed to meet this criterion.”
In a Jan. 29 ruling, the Standing Committee denied WND credentials based in large part on what it deemed a lack of “significant” original content. The committee could not and did not quantify “significant.” The decision, now on appeal, came a year after WND applied.
A spokeswoman for the freshman senator, who has forged a close alliance with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., says the Standing Committee gave her the erroneous information.
“It came from the Standing Committee,” said Cantwell spokewoman Jennifer Crider.
“We don’t understand the committee’s rules,” she added. “We defer to them.”
Standing Committee chairman William L. Roberts III admits the 50-percent criterion is wrong.
“That information does not appear to be entirely accurate,” Roberts said after seeing a copy of the letter.
But Roberts, a Bloomberg News reporter, neither confirmed nor denied the information came from his office. He offered no explanation as to how Cantwell got it.
Matt Winkler runs Bloomberg’s New York-based news operations.
“Most daily newspapers in this country do not have anywhere near 50 percent original content,” said WND founder and Editor Joseph Farah. “If that is what the committee told her, they never told us any such thing.”
WND was tipped off to the letter by Richard Stohr, a Seattle resident. Crider says Cantwell has received several inquiries about WND’s case from Washington state residents.
Since taking office, Cantwell has been the beneficiary of two Clinton fund-raisers. One was a party at Hillary Clinton’s new home here. The other, headlined in January by ex-President Clinton, raised more than $300,000 to help Cantwell pay off her campaign debt.
Clinton was said to have been repaying Cantwell for her loyalty in Congress. She lost her U.S. House seat in 1994 after voting for Clinton’s record tax hike, which passed the House by only one vote.
Also, Cantwell in March joined Hillary Clinton at the Boston Sheraton to help raise money for Sen. John Kerry’s re-election campaign.
WND counsel Richard Ackerman points to a research document generated by the Standing Committee that shows it tried to link WND to what former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton characterized as a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to investigate her husband, who was impeached by the House for lying under oath to a judge about a material witness – White House intern Monica Lewinsky – in a sexual-harassment lawsuit brought against him by another former employee.
Ackerman argues in a 31-page appeal brief filed last week with the Senate Rules Committee that the Standing Committee violated WND’s First Amendment rights by discriminating against it on political grounds.
Another member of the Standing Committee – Jack Torry of the Columbus Dispatch – earlier this month gave Ohio readers of WND more misinformation related to the issue of original content.
He said that the newssite, with 2.5 million readers, has essentially been put on probation until it can demonstrate that it can publish more original content.
In fact, the committee effectively dismissed its objection over WND content at a June 18 meeting in which it called its policy for reviewing Internet content “inadequate.”
Torry attended that meeting, says Standing Committee counsel N. Frank Wiggins.