Is it ethical for the reporter to ask the questions he did without informing the source of the focus of the story?
State fires lawyer after story on Rove
Staff lawyer was quoted in article on Bush adviser's tax deductions.
FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Saturday, September 10, 2005
A lawyer in the Texas secretary of state's office lost her job after she publicly cast doubt on presidential adviser Karl Rove's eligibility to vote in the state.
Scott Haywood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Roger Williams, confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman on Friday that lawyer Elizabeth Reyes no longer works in the elections division of Williams' agency.
Reyes told The Washington Post on Friday that she was fired Tuesday and told that she had violated the agency's press policy. A superior told her that the office was upset about the article in which her name appeared.
Williams has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Republicans, including President Bush, who relies heavily on Rove for political strategy.
Reyes, 30, has been licensed to practice law in Texas since 2003, according to the state bar's Web site. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law.
The Post reported Sept. 3 that Rove had been claiming homestead exemptions in Texas and Washington. A Washington tax office has since accepted blame for that mistake.
The newspaper also reported that Rove is registered to vote in Kerr County, where he owns property, but a couple of locals said they had never seen him.
Reyes told the Post in the Sept. 3 article that when someone registers to vote in a place where they don't actually live, the county prosecutor can come after them for voter fraud.
The newspaper quoted her as saying Rove's rental cottage in Kerr County "doesn't sound like a residence to me because it's not a fixed place of habitation. If it's just property that they own, ownership doesn't make that a residence."
She also told the newspaper that state law loosely defines a Texan, so someone would have to file a complaint and that "questions of residency are ultimately for the court to decide."
Haywood would not discuss with the American-Statesman the reasons why Reyes no longer works for Williams or when she stopped working there. But he pointed to his comments in a follow-up story that ran in the Post on Wednesday.
That story did not mention her departure, but it cited Haywood saying Reyes was not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency.
He also said her earlier explanation to the Post was wrong because, under Texas law, a residence is a "fixed place of habitation to which one intends to return after a temporary absence."
Reyes told the newspaper Friday that she didn't know she was talking to a reporter but that she was not prohibited from speaking to the media.
"The policy allows us to talk to members of the media," she said, according to the Post. "The policy says if it's a controversial issue or a special issue, it needs to be forwarded on to someone else. Just talking to the media doesn't violate it, as I read it. . . . Karl Rove didn't come up. It wasn't something you could classify as controversial."
She told the Post that she was not aware at the time that the conversations used in the first story were about Rove and that she had explained to the newspaper that a person's intention to return to Texas is a primary factor in becoming eligible for residency.
A Post editor told the newspaper that the Post reporter identified herself to Reyes in each of the two conversations they had and that although reporter Lori Montgomery did not name Rove in their conversations, she said in the second one she was asking about a presidential adviser who had moved from Texas to Washington.
In this case the focus of the story is of the essence. Political appointees in a presidential administration are sojourners. While Rove may spend most of his time in Washington, I have zero problem with him registering and voting in Texas. Where do you suppose Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi are registered to vote? Had the lawyer known the true reason for the reporter's inquiry, I have no doubt that her answer would be similar to this.
[This message was edited by BLeonard on 09-11-05 at .]
I agree and further believe that the reporter's story is factually wrong simply because of the manner chosen to collect the quotes from the source. Either the reporter should inform the source of the focus or the reporter should say in the story that the source was not speaking about Rove in specific. By failing to do that, the reporter creates the impression that the source has carefully researched Rove's circumstances and come up with a formal, governmental opinion. That is just as dishonest as some of Jason Blair's work.
Wonder how many folks trying to buy riverfront property on the Guadalupe would like to find a deal like this:
"The cottages and one-third-acre lot are appraised at $57,258." (Dallas Morning News, 9/17)
Karl, if you're out there and want to sell at that price, send me an e-mail off-line.
I'd like some of that discount river property also!
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