There was a tough call in the investigation of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. It was made by the Chicago Tribune, the now-bankrupt newspaper which has new friends today just because of the enemies it has (By the way, yesterday was a good reminder of why we still need newspaper reporters turning over rocks and making enemies on a daily basis).
The Tribune had the “goods” on Blagojevich’s alleged corruption but didn’t print the story because the feds said it would jeopardize their investigation into Blagojevich. The investigators hadn’t yet placed the bugs in Blagojevich’s home and office, according to reports.
“In the course of doing our work, we talked to the U.S. Attorney to get comment as we would with any story and at that point they indicated if we publish at that moment, it could jeopardize an unfolding investigation,” editor Gerould Kern said. “It’s always a difficult decision.” (See video)
It’s obvious that on this story, the Tribune didn’t need much more than a comment from prosecutors for the story they had, but probably extracted a promise from prosecutors for either additional information, or an early tip-off when the governor was going to go down. There had to be a quid pro quo of some sort (Aside: Read the complaint against the Illinois governor).
Fast forward to a story this morning in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about allegations that a backer of Norm Coleman funneled cash to the senator through a business in Texas. The story was headlined:
The headline makes clear that the story is based on a single source and while the assertion may be true, there’s no indication there’s any second confirmation, a pretty standard protocol in basing a story on an anonymous source.
It’s not like the Pioneer Press didn’t try as evidenced by two responses it got:
The Coleman campaign issued a statement last night:
“We are not aware of any investigation that is under way, nor have we been contacted by any agency with respect to this matter. As we have said repeatedly, we welcome any investigation of these lawsuits by the appropriate authorities to get to the bottom of these baseless, sleazy and politically inspired allegations.”
And a spokeswoman for businessman Nasser Kazeminy had a similar response when asked if Kazeminy had been contacted by investigators.” We have no information along those lines. What you’re telling me is news to me,” Amy Rotenberg told the Pioneer Press in a statement that invites hours of parsing.
As for the FBI, the Pioneer Press got the same answer you’d get if you called to ask if the FBI was investigating you. “We do not confirm or deny the existence of any investigations.”
Conclusion: The Pioneer Press doesn’t have enough yet to make the feds nervous about jeopardizing an investigation that may or may not be taking place.