By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Dornan also offered a wild, implausible series of miniconspiracies (for example, unnamed people driving Santa Ana streets on election night stuffing ballot boxes, or sneaky apartment-building managers surreptitiously voting for all residents) that didn't total very many votes. Desperate to find a large block of votes he could challenge as illegal, Dornan eventually pointed an accusatory finger at Hermandad, which had registered more voters than his election deficit. And that is when Warren and the Times stepped in--with both feet. (The Register has remained relatively calm, exhibiting a healthy skepticism of Dornan's musings.) Although an expensive official re-count didn't help Dornan's cause, the Times' Dec. 27 report about a handful of noncitizen voters made headlines across the country and gave new life to Dornan's conspiracy theories. With the Times article published, the ex-congressman said on ABC's Politically Incorrect that he could sit back and watch others prove his charges.
Fans of investigative journalism expect mainstream newspapers to report all the major relevant facts, even ones that diminish a hot story's sensationalism. But ever since Dornan cried foul in November, the Times has positioned itself as an advocate of the ex-congressman's self-serving claims rather than a neutral arbiter of fact. (The Weekly previously reported that the Times attempted to manufacture a nonexistent personal link between Sanchez and Lopez by trying to entice them to pose arm-in-arm before the paper made its allegations. There is no evidence tying Sanchez to events at Hermandad.) And therein lies the dilemma. Since the paper can only save face if the public believes there was an election-stealing conspiracy, can it accurately report the story? It can't, and it hasn't.
The Times has offered no less than seven different versions of its investigation into Hermandad. On Dec. 27, it reported, "Nineteen people interviewed by the Times acknowledge that they voted [my emphasis] though they had not completed the naturalization process." As if there is no distinction between the terms "registering" and "voting" (one has a direct impact on an election's outcome; the other doesn't), it wrote on Dec. 28 that "19 noncitizens registered [my emphasis]." On the 29th, the number who registered was suddenly "at least" 19. By Feb. 1, the paper was backtracking on all its numbers. On that date, the Times tried to cleverly re-characterize its Dec. 27 story, falsely claiming its original account was that "nearly 20 . . . either registered or voted [my emphasis] before being sworn in" as citizens. Twenty-nine paragraphs later, it contradicted itself once more, writing that it had found 19 who registered. In the next sentence, the Times uncorked the granddaddy of all corrections by revealing the number was never 19.
"In fact, the number is 18," it offered without explanation. Then it conceded that the Dec. 27 article "also did not make clear that three of the 18" became citizens before the election. So what was the number? Nineteen? Eighteen? Fifteen? By Feb. 12, the paper had safely reduced the number to "more than a dozen." Nothing like precision. Startlingly, the Times waited 48 days to publicly admit its error--and then buried it in the 30th paragraph of a story.
One of the Times' biggest sins has been insinuating that the number of noncitizen voters was staggering--certainly enough to overturn the Dornan-Sanchez results. (One memorably absurd headline in early February was "Known number of suspect O.C. votes multiplies"--my emphasis.) To boost the number from 19 to 220 and later to 407, Warren and crew grabbed data from incongruent lists--voters registered by Hermandad in the 46th District, voters registered by Hermandad countywide, immigrants who registered but were citizens by Election Day--and continually switched or expanded the definition of fraud without adequately informing readers.
No matter how many ways Dornan and the Times manipulate the voter records, they will never legitimately come close to the number of votes needed to overturn the election, 984. Consider this indisputable fact: even if every vote associated with Hermandad and the 46th Congressional District contest were tossed out--519 votes--Dornan would still lose by 465 votes. Poof. So much for Dornan. So much for the Times' scandal. And with all due respect, the U.S. House subcommittee investigating this election at the ex-congressman's insistence can save their time and a lot of taxpayer funds if they ignore hyperbolic media reports and focus on simple math and common sense.
Newt Gingrich should love Hermandad Mexicana Nacional. When the House speaker talks of community-based charitable institutions replacing government in aiding society's poorest, he's talking about groups like Hermandad. In Santa Ana, a block away from the county government that has all but abandoned them, more than 330 immigrants a day walk through Hermandad's doors seeking assistance. The group--which also has offices in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.--is the largest private provider of services to Latino immigrants in the country. In spite of the racist rhetoric from some Republican quarters, an overwhelming majority of these immigrants are hard-working people desperately trying to succeed in this country. They work the long, hard jobs nobody else will perform; live in or near abject poverty; and endure the insults of a suspicious white majority. Despite immigrants' plight, on any given day, Hermandad's offices resembled a family reunion more than a sterile government bureaucracy. That changed when the Times started pounding the organization in December. What was once a warm, lighthearted atmosphere has become noticeably tenser. It's not uncommon to see reporters and news camera crews camped in the parking lot, hovering as if they are at a crime scene. The absurdity of the situation was evident when one reporter asked Lopez if he had any connections to Russian communists. Employees have been subjected to dozens of telephoned and written death threats, typified by: