Fifteen years ago this January, Matt Drudge launched the New Media revolution when he scooped Newsweek Magazine and exposed the affair between then-President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The scandal itself and the cover-up that followed became the biggest news item of the decade, but it was how the story broke that changed the media landscape forever.
Newsweek simply refused to publish the story, and a New Media pioneer made them pay.
Drudge’s headline, posted late in the evening of January 17th, 1998 read:
“NEWSWEEK KILLS STORY ON WHITE HOUSE INTERN X X X X X BLOCKBUSTER REPORT: 23-YEAR OLD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN, SEX RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT”
From the article: “At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!”
Historic stuff. One man and his computer (presumably slogging along at dial-up modem speed), scooping the world — specifically, one of the most widely-read news magazines on the planet. Since then, New Media has taken over the world, but it started by holding Newsweek accountable for failing to adequately cover a President they supported.
Today, Newsweek is far from unbiased, but a decade-and-a-half after they killed the Zipper-gate scoop, they have promoted a report that could devastate another President they largely support:
With millions of online campaign donations ricocheting through cyberspace, one might think the Federal Election Commission would have erected serious walls to guard federal elections from foreign or fraudulent Internet contributions. But that’s far from true. In fact, campaigns are largely expected to police these matters themselves…
In addition, people around the world are being asked for donations by the campaigns themselves, simply because they signed up for information on campaign websites. The problem: candidate webpages don’t ask visitors from foreign IP addresses to enter a military ID or passport number. Instead, the websites use auto-responder email systems that simply gather up email addresses and automatically spit out solicitations…
The name Robert W. Roche appears 11 times in the White House visitors log during the Obama administration. Roche also sits on the Obama administration’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, and is a co-chair of Technology for Obama, a fundraising effort. (In an email exchange, Roche declined to discuss his website, or his support for the Obama reelection effort, referring the inquiries to the Obama campaign team. The Obama campaign, in turn, says it has no control over Roche’s website; it also says only 2 percent of the donations associated with Obama.com come from overseas.)…
But it isn’t just foreign donations that are a concern. So are fraudulent donations. In the age of digital contributions, fraudsters can deploy so-called robo-donations, computer programs that use false names to spew hundreds of donations a day in small increments, in order to evade reporting requirements. According to an October 2008 Washington Post article, Mary Biskup of Missouri appeared to give more than $170,000 in small donations to the 2008 Obama campaign. Yet Biskup said she never gave any money to the campaign. Some other contributor gave the donations using her name, without her knowledge. (The Obama campaign explained to the Post that it caught the donations and returned them.)
This makes it all the more surprising that the Obama campaign does not use a standard security tool, the card verification value (CVV) system–the three- or four-digit number often imprinted on the back of a credit card, whose purpose is to verify that the person executing the purchase (or, in this case, donation) physically possesses the card. The Romney campaign, by contrast, does use the CVV–as has almost every other candidate who has run for president in recent years, from Hillary Clinton in 2008 to Ron Paul this year. (The Obama campaign says it doesn’t use the CVV because it can be an inhibiting factor for some small donors.) Interestingly, the Obama campaign’s online store requires the CVV to purchase items like hats or hoodies (the campaign points out that its merchandise vendor requires the tool).
Did Newsweek want to put out such a report — one that could lead to an investigation that could turn up widespread illegal activity by a Democratic administration — one month from an election? Or did they publish it simply because they are all too aware that the New Media would have had a field day if they killed the story? We don’t know, but it doesn’t matter so long as they are no longer suppressing legitimate, blockbuster stories for political purposes.
It would be premature to say that the New Media revolution has come full circle, but it’s clear that, at a minimum, the old media can’t get away with what they used to. This report on Obama.com, published at Newsweek, is a testament to that.
Alexander Marlow is the Managing Editor of Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @alexmarlow.