Matt Drudge, whose headline-heavy site couldn't be bothered earlier this week to feature a headline about Tom DeLay getting indicted, on Friday morning was prominently touting the Review-Journal story about indictments of church pastors for misusing federal grant funds that Harry Reid helped them get. The rest of the right-wing media infrastructure should be falling into line shortly, and trying to whip this up into a big deal.
What with DeLay, Iraq, Abramoff, gas prices, Safavian, Rove, Frist, Katrina, Brownie and general Republican corruption and incompetence, we can see why the Bush apologists would like to change the subject. But this Reid/grant/church thing ain't got legs .
Even Drudge's readers would know that if, instead of linking to the R-J's story, Drudge had linked to the more comprehensive story Benjamin Grove ran in the soon-to-vanish Las Vegas Sun Thursday. Explains Benjamin.
Reid, D-Nev., a member of the money-doling Appropriations Committee, routinely earmarks money for Nevada programs and projects. In 2001, Reid carved out a $900,000 grant as part of a fiscal year 2002 Justice Department spending bill for two programs that help prisoners transition back to society -- one in Reno and one in Southern Nevada to be operated by the Alliance Collegiums Association of Nevada.
The two groups divided the money, with $423,000 going to the alliance. The group received the money in 2002 and the alliance was supposed to use the grant to open and manage halfway houses for former convicts.
But on Tuesday, the man identified as the president of the alliance, the Rev. Willie Davis, along with his wife, Emma, were indicted for spending $330,000 of the money on themselves. Davis is the pastor at one of Nevada's oldest black Baptist church, Second Baptist Church. Also indicted was another pastor, the Rev. McTheron Jones.
Like many groups in Nevada, the alliance had submitted a program proposal to Reid, spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said. Reid, deeming it a worthy cause, secured the federal money for it, she said.
But after that, the money went to the Justice Department, which is responsible for dispensing and administering the grant, Hafen said.
So while Reid secured the money and is friends with Davis, the Justice Department -- not Reid -- was responsible for making sure the money was spent appropriately, Hafen said.
"The granting agency makes sure that the grantee is in compliance with federal regulations," Hafen said.
Hmm. Sounds like if the Republicans want to make a big deal out of this, they better start by investigating Bush's Justice Department. If it turns out that Reid was in cahoots with former AG John Ashcroft in some scandalous behavior, hey, we'll happily pile on.
Drudge/R-J readers are also deprived of the knowledge that the grant was made under the aegis of Bush's faith-based initiatives program, as the Sun reported in a story earlier in the week. Come to think of it, the right-wingers are right. This is a huge scandal, which just goes to show that tax dollars shouldn't be flowing to churches in the first place, and the entire faith-based program should be scuttled immediately.
By the by, the R-J ran a correction Friday in which it is learned that the paper had "mischaracterized the actions" of Tessa Hafen, Reid's spokestress. In the original story, Hafen's remarks were prefaced with the phrase "Moving to distance Reid from a possible scandal." It turns out that Hafen "gave information about the grants in respone to questions."
Oh well. At least the R-J got to put the words "Reid" and "scandal" in close proximity to each other. Now the right-wing echo chamber will do the rest.