By Brad Friedman on 12/22/2004, 1:00pm PT  

Failing to meet even the usually lax journalistic standards of most Internet bloggers, "self-styled investigative journalist" Keith Olbermann --- who also seems to have his very own prime-time show on a fairly major cable news outlet --- offers a swell Christmas gift for Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL) and his monied friends at Yang Enterprises, Inc.!

We have mentioned before our appreciation for Keith Olbermann's willingness, virtually alone in the Mainstream Media, to cover a fair amount of the "Election 2004 Irregularity" issues.

We have also pointed out in the past some of Olbermann's horribly embarrasing failures as a journalist in the course of those much-appreciated duties. Amongst them, criticizing another journalist for "distancing himself...from the purported original source of the information".

Olbermann was condescending at the time to "self-styled investigative journalist" Wayne Madsen's reporting. And though we've had at least a few words ourself about Madsen's work, we bothered to contact Madsen to see learn if Olbermann had actually spoken to him, or even attempted to, before levelling the above --- rather-ironic-in-retrospect - criticism of his work.

He hadn't.

And yesterday, Olbermann did it again! This time in a report that mattered! In a blog item filed "from an undisclosed location" (scroll down to Item #4 at the link), Olbermann finally mentioned the Clint Curtis "Whistleblower Affidavit" story as first reported here over two weeks ago.

In those two weeks, Olbermann hasn't mentioned a word about the stunning case which has rocked the vote from Talahassee to Capitol Hill to all corners of the blogosphere. That is, until he decided to botch a report on it from top to bottom yesterday. A report which violates the journalistic standards of even the laziest of Internet bloggers. Or at least this lazy one!

Amongst the most egregious errors and/or failures in Olbermann's "reporting" here was his failure (and that of anybody on his staff) to actually contact Clint Curtis to get his reply to some rather scurrilous charges that Olbermann decided to pass on to readers, as offered up by Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) --- the now U.S. Congressman, then Florida Speaker of the House --- who is at the center of this controversy.

Curtis alleges that Feeney asked Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) to create a "vote-rigging software prototype" for him in a 2000 meeting at the company when Curtis was a software designer with the firm.

Feeney was, at the time, the corporate counsel and a registered lobbyist for YEI even while he was serving as a member of the Florida Legislature.

Olbermann (or rather, one of his producers) seems to have gotten comment from Feeney on the matter. No small feat, as Feeney's office has rebuffed most attempts by journalists to get comment over the last two weeks about this growing scandal.

Olbermann explains...

I've refrained from reporting any of this here because there are a lot of questions about the nature of the interactions between Mr. Curtis and Congressman Feeney. But at my request, a very reliable member of the NBC News Investigative Unit tracked down some of the headlines, and we also spoke to Congressman Feeney. Given that the story has hit the newspapers, even in a small way, it's now appropriate to report what we've learned.

Firstly, the attorney for the firm for whom Mr. Curtis worked at the time of the purported skullduggery request, Yang Enterprises of Oviedo, Florida, insists that the company has never sold any voting software. Its lawyer claims Curtis has previously threatened the firm and its top officers, in writing, and that they were sufficiently concerned to file a police report as a result. Though the term ?disgruntled employee? is too easily thrown around (I can attest to that), if somebody has put it in writing, it's a tough climb back to full credibility.

Wow...that's a lot of oversights and unsupported charges in a single paragraph! Even by way of a reliable member of the "NBC News Investigative Unit"!

The BRAD BLOG Investigative Unit has already reported several times on some of those charges by "the attorney for the firm for whom Mr. Curtis worked". But most disturbingly, apparently the NBC News Investigative Unit was perhaps too busy sipping eggnog this time of year to investigate the matter enough to learn that the unnamed "firm" mentioned was likely "Fowler & O'Quinn" --- previously known as "Fowler, Barice, FEENEY & O'Quinn".

As well, that unnamed "attorney" was likely Michael O'Quinn. Feeney's old law partner, and a longtime contributor, along with YEI owners, Dr. and Mrs. Yang, to Feeney's campaign. Including his 2004 campaign in which Feeney ran unopposed. See this BRAD BLOG Investigative Unit Report for several more details on the above. And this "Farewell Card" given to Curtis by the employees --- including the CEO --- of YEI at a "Farewell Party" thrown by the company in his honor! Suggesting that Curtis may not have been as "disgruntled" as O'Quinn enjoys painting him!

But we credit Olbermann for advancing the story a bit in reporting that YEI's unnamed lawyer is issuing all-new, unsupported and unevidenced charges that "Curtis has previously threatned the firm and its top officers, in writing."

"In writing?!"

Excellent! Olbermann may have gotten us somewhere! Hard evidence to reveal that Clint Curtis may, in fact, have been up to no good by having sent written "threats" to the company!

Since the threats were said to be in writing, surely they asked the unnamed lawyer to supply that "writing" before reporting such an explosive charge to millions of eager fans on Mr. Bloggerman's Internet site, right?

Well...apparently, they didn't. Or at least Olbermann supplied no such "writing" along with his report from the unnamed lawyer.

Is it just us? Or shouldn't he have done so before reporting repeating such a charge by an unnamed source for millions to consume? Or even such a charge from a named source for that matter!

Futher, Olbermann then writes, "they were sufficiently concerned to file a police report as a result"!

Aha! More hard evidence! And an easily verifiable police report nonetheless! Was such a report really filed? If so, when? And what did it say? I'm sure it included that very troubling threat --- in writing!

Did Olbermann verify such a report was filed at the police precinct in question? We'll assume not, since Olbermann gives no indication that they even tried, or any of the information we ask about above.

Did Olbermann find out if any police ever actually contacted Curtis concerning this written threat? Of course not! Because Olbermann never bothered to contact Curtis!

But we did.

According to Curtis --- who a member of The BRAD BLOG Investigative Unit was able to contact within minutes of reading Olbermann's report in order to inquire about this charge --- the answer from Curtis is "No."

"The police never contacted me about anything," Curtis told us. "If a police report was filed, wouldn't they have contacted me? If it happened, you should be able to get a copy of that police report."

We agree. And to that end, attempts have been made over the last two days to confirm that such a report was filed with the Oviedo Police. (pictured at left, giving a "Certificate of Appreciation" to YEI CEO Mrs. Li Woan Yang to recognize YEI's "generous contribution and continuing support to the members of the Oviedo Police Department.")

We are still attempting to get word from the Oveido Police Department's Public Information Officer and will report on what they may have to the event we are able to get any further information from them in this matter.

So in lieu of official word from the police for now (we imagine an NBC Investigative Unit might have been able to get their attention faster than us), what could Olbermann's unnamed attorney, and apparent-former law partner to Tom Feeney have been referring to in regards to such "written threats"?

Once again, our actual discussions with Curtis were revealing:

"I don't know what they're talking about...Maybe it had to do with some emails I had sent to [YEI executive secretary] Mike Cohen encouraging him to 'come over to the good side' before people started getting in trouble."

Curtis explained that he had spoken with the Florida Attorney General's office about the charges that he and another employee at the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) had filed against YEI for over-billing, employing illegal-aliens and more back in 2001.

"If that's what they're talking about, it wasn't much of a threat," Curtis told us. "From what the Attorney General's office was saying to me at the time, I felt as if they were looking to pin the whole thing on Mike. He was saying Mike knows this and Mike knows that."

Curtis apparently then tried to help his friend and former colleague Mike --- who was apparently one of several in the room when Feeney discussed the "vote-rigging software" at YEI --- telling him "you might want to come clean when you can."

The Attorney General's office, Curtis explained, was "asking alot of questions about how much does Mike Cohen know rather than what did the Yangs know...Basically it was a felony that [Mike] knew Henry [Nee, the alleged illegal-alien] was working there...and he didn't tell the FBI about it at the time, and --- you know, this was Top Secret Clearance stuff --- and I figured they might be wanting to pin it on him, and I wanted to let him know."

Nee plead guilty this past October to charges related to shipping missile components to China. See this BRAD BLOG Investigative Unit report for more details...Including actual evidence and court papers!

Back to Olbermann...

For his part, Congressman Feeney answered seven questions from one of our producers and in six of them made gentle hints about reporters getting legal counsel before they ran with the story (this was before the Florida paper ran what it did? one wonders what things are like in their office this week).

(One doesn't have to wonder, Keith. Pick up the phone and find out. It's not really that hard. We did it! And, according to Seminole Chronicle editor and reporter, Alex Babcock, things are going very well, thanks for asking! He reports that he's had an overwhelming influx of positive email, and almost zero negative email...You know what that's like, I'm sure.)

In short, Feeney says he doesn't remember meeting Mr. Curtis; that his only connection to Yang Enterprises was as an attorney prior to 2002; that because Mr. Curtis had ?slandered and defamed a lot of people? he would not reply to specific questions, only general ones; and that as to the story on the whole, ?I'm very amused by it. I wish I had some of the power that he suggests.?

"Mr. Curtis slandered and defamed a lot of people"? Superb! Does the Congressman or "a lot of those people" plan to file charges against Curtis?! That could be quite a story if so! And since Feeney himself is an attorney (his firm, "Fowler, Barice, Feeney & O'Quinn", now "Fowler & O'Quinn" has represented YEI for about ten years), and he now sits on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, this could be quite a scandal!

And what "specifically" or "generally" did Feeney have to say beyond his bemusement at being charged specifically in a sworn affidavit [PDF] and in video-taped sworn testimony before members of that U.S. House Judiciary committee with the felony charge of conspiring to commit vote fraud?

And, how long and extensive was Feeney's "connection" with YEI "prior to 2002"? Was it more or less extensive than the near $7000 that Dr. and Mrs. Yang personally contributed to Feeney's campaign in 2003 and 2004 when Feeney was running unopposed for the 24th Congressional District in Florida?

While we're at it...Did that "connection to Yang Enterprises prior (or after) 2002"...

  • Include receiving an office in the YEI building for Feeney's use as campaign headquarters? An office which is still in use by the Feeney campaign today? (pictured at right)
  • Or Mrs. Yang ordering YEI employees to leave work for a day so that they could go be sent to demonstrate outside of Feeney's political opponent's campaign headquarters?
  • Or helping YEI to win state contracts in Florida when he was both their registered lobbyist and also Speaker of the Florida House?
  • Or helping them win NASA contracts in Florida, since Feeney now sits on the House Sub-Committee on Space and Aeronautics which oversees NASA with whom YEI has contracts? Contracts also alleged to have been worked on by an alleged illegal-alien who was attempting to ship Hellfire anti-tank missile chips to the Peoples Republic of China?
  • Of course, we don't know Feeney's answers to those questions because our member of The BRAD BLOG Investigative Unit hasn't gotten him to sit down for any questions.

    We're glad a member of NBC's Investigative Unit was able to. But we wish they'd bothered to ask real questions of the embattled congressman, worried less about alienating powerful sources, and then offered readers more CONTEXT for the Congressman's answers before passing them on to readers without bothering to fact-check, apparently, a damn one of them!

    For the record --- before filing this story! --- we spoke this afternoon to an MSNBC Countdown producer who preferred we keep his name off the record on this matter. That producer told The BRAD BLOG that "this was Keith Olbermann's writing. He didn't work with me or anyone else on this."

    The producer further stated that while "an NBC News unit" was looking into Clinton's charges, "Nothing that we have found so far meets the standards we would need to report further on this."

    Keith Olbermann was on vacation.

    In a side-note, if any other "reporters" or investigative units are interested in following up with either YEI or their attorneys at "Fowler & O'Quinn", please note that we have been informed the people available to speak on the topic at both organizations have announced they are "on vacation" until Saturday, January 1, 2005. Indeed we have been told that the Yangs have left (or are leaving) the country.

    On the other hand, Curtis, in another sign of his remarkably indefatigable spirit, told us yesterday in response to all of this..."Good! I'm glad he covered what Feeney said! Now he'll want to have us on the show to tell our side of the story...right?"

    Um...apparently Mr. Curtis hasn't yet learned how "Investigative Units" in America in 2004 actually work. The guy with the power, money and influence has already spoken. General Electric's MSNBC has done their job. Time for the holidays and Christmas spirit and vacations to undisclosed locations!

    Meanwhile, Clint Curtis is standing by the phone, prepared to speak to any and all media folks who are willing to ask him serious questions. And they needn't be limited to seven.

    The BRAD BLOG is willing to help such organizations contact Mr. Curtis. We can be emailed here. Mr. Olbermann, as he knows, already has our private telephone number. We too are standing by the phones and happy to help.

    Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's Countdown