By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington bills itself as a government watchdog, a good-government group tasked with keeping an eye on the scoundrels in Congress.
Too bad CREW doesn’t actually do what it claims it does.
While Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Walsh, now Montana’s lieutenant governor, faces ethical problems over an Army report said he used a leadership position in the National Guard for personal gain, CREW remains eerily quiet on the matter.
It hasn’t always been that way.
During the 2012 U.S. Senate rumble between Democratic incumbent Jon Tester and challenger Denny Rehberg, then a Republican congressman, CREW ambushed Rehberg’s campaign just weeks before the election, dusting off old news about a boat accident on Flathead Lake.
The effort eventually revealed no ethical problems on Rehberg’s part, despite CREW’s attempts to smear the congressman during the tight election.
Return to 2014, and CREW keeps its mouth closed as Walsh endures criticism over the 2010 Army report chronicling his misdeeds. The document revealed that Walsh urged Montana National Guard members to join a private lobbying group that urges Congress to spend more on equipment and training for guard units.
The Army did not discipline Walsh, who disagreed with the report, after the document’s release.
Still, CREW might have issues with Walsh on ethical grounds. The group frequently bashes members of Congress for engaging in shady or even illegal activities that might benefit them personally.
Yet, not a peep can be heard from CREW in Billings, Helena or Butte. Stephen Santulli, CREW’s communication manager, did not reply to a Watchdog.org email on the topic.
That CREW is sitting on its thumbs in regards to Walsh’s ethical issues comes as no surprise to Justin Wilson, a senior analyst with the Center for Consumer Freedom. Wilson’s group runs CrewExposed.com, a website dedicated to documenting CREW’s partisan leanings.
“They are absolutely in the bag as a Democratic attack dog,” Wilson told Watchdog.org this week. “They are absolutely not nonpartisan.”
Wilson and his team spent a good deal of time researching CREW’s method and attacks, which often resulted in ambushes on key Republican figures. When his critics tried to argue that Republicans might be more corrupt than Democrats, Wilson researched that, too. He found Federal Election Commission data showing the agency takes as much action against Democrats as Republicans.
“That seems to be their modus operandi,” Wilson said.
CREW occasionally attacks Democrats, like it did last year when the group included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, both Democrats, on its list of worst governors in America.
While those two made the final cut, so did 16 other governors — all Republicans. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott and Texas’ Rick Perry all won top billing as America’s worst governors from CREW.
Wilson said featuring a few Democrats on its list of bad politicos is just good politics. As a 501(c)3 federal nonprofit, CREW cannot take overly partisan stances. To fend off critics, the group finds some token — and unimportant — Democrats to knock.
“They take on leading Republicans,” Wilson said, “but throw in the dregs of the Democratic Party.”
Wilson said he wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if CREW doesn’t utter one word or fire off one media release about Walsh.
“When it’s Republicans, they are writing the complaints,” he said. “When it’s Democrats, they are last to the dance.”
Contact Dustin Hurst at Dustin@Watchdog.org