David Brock: NY Times Has an 'anti-Clinton institutional bias'

Yesterday Politico published an open letter sent by David Brock of Media Matters to the New York Times. Brock was responding to an article published last week by the Times noting management problems at the Clinton Foundation. Here’s what Brock writes on the topic:

On management: The report also questioned the capabilities of senior
Foundation employees and the effectiveness of the organization’s
domestic and global initiatives. A 2011 review of the Foundation by the
law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett undermines this speculation of
mismanagement — the review states that “[i]nterviewees uniformly
praised the effectiveness of the Foundation and its affiliates, noting
the enormous amount they have accomplished over a ten-year period.” As
Clinton noted, the Foundation has responded in accordance with the
firm’s recommendations over the last two years, strengthening the
leadership and structure of the organization.

Brock’s message is an amplification of what former President Clinton wrote in response to the Times’ piece; however, Brock’s take–in a move typical of his organization’s style–acknowledges only one side of the story.

The quote Brock uses comes from a three page statements of the results of the 2011 corporate review of the Clinton Foundation. In context, it is one bullet point which essentially conveys that the 38 people who were interviewed at the Clinton Foundation all praised their employer. While this might be of some value it’s hardly proof of anything other than employee loyalty.

What Brock barely mentions is the two pages of bullet point recommendations the review firm offered the Foundation. Here’s a sample:

  • Involve the Board in strategic planning, including pre-approving major new program initiatives and material changes to existing programs. Have the Board periodically evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs and initiatives.
  • Hold regular staff meetings as well as management training for all managers. 
  • In general, hold regular training sessions regarding Foundation policies. Set the tone at the top and encourage a culture where policies are understood and compliance is the norm. 
  • Ensure that staff is aware of reporting lines and that managers at all levels are aware of their responsibility to enforce policies. Establish clear pathways to obtain clarification when needed in applying policies to specific situations.
  • Continue to educate staff as to Foundation expense policies and expense reimbursement procedures.
  • Have CFO or designee review expense reports to ensure that they comply with Foundation policies.

It’s doesn’t require a wild leap to suggest that these recommendations for the Clinton Foundation were made in reaction to actual problem uncovered during the corporate review. Simply assuming these aren’t generic recommendations allows us to work backwards and paint a picture of a disjointed organization, one which:

  • Launches new program initiatives without planning or approval from the Board.
  • Doesn’t hold regular staff meetings or management training.
  • Doesn’t set a tone at the top or encourage compliance with policies.
  • Has managers who aren’t sure who they report to or who is responsible for enforcing policies.
  • Has issues with expense policies and reimbursement procedures.
  • Needs someone to review expenses more often.

Even if the employees were enthusiastic during interviews, this is an organization with problems, many of which seem to come down to institutional disorganization. But Brock chides the Times for stubbornly refusing to discredit its own story suggesting exactly that. He then suggests that an “anti-Clinton institutional bias” may have set in at the paper.

This is Media Matters doing what it always does and always has done: Work the refs to gain advantage for it’s side without really giving people the full story. Here’s hoping the Times does not fall for Brock’s disingenuous nonsense.