In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to washingtonpost.com contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.
An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.
When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.
Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. Washingtonpost.com will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.
We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.
We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area.
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com
It’s nice to see some journalistic integrity being expressed here. Thanks, Jim Brady!
It would appear that Senator Russ Feingoldâ€™s efforts to have President Bush censured for authorizing warrantless surveillance on American citizens is about as welcome among his colleagues as a gift basket of rotten fruit from Jack Abramoff. Most members of the majority partyâ€”that would be the Republicans for those of you who have been slumbering these past 5 yearsâ€”have responded with disdain or self-righteous anger. Most members of Feingoldâ€™s partyâ€”that would be Democraps, of courseâ€”have responded with Jello-like enthusiasm. And lukewarm Jello at that. Well, at least Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, seems supportive, as reported in an Associated Press article by Frederic J. Frommer:
“This feels like some attempt at accountability,” Stewart told Feingold, D-Wis., at the end of the senator’s appearance on the Comedy Central show Wednesday night. “And that’s what I really like about it.”
“And so I appreciate that, and I thank you for it,” Stewart added. “And I hope that your colleagues let you still eat at the lunch table.”
Stewart poked fun at the tepid response that Feingold’s proposal has generated on Capitol Hill. So far, only two senators, both Democrats, have signed on as co-sponsors.
“A lot of your Democratic colleagues are reacting as though you’re Jack Abramoff and you have a casino you want to talk to them about,” Stewart joked, referring to the disgraced lobbyist.
Feingold, who has accused his Democratic colleagues of “cowering,” said it was important for the party to show some backbone.
“How many times are we going let George Bush and (Vice President) Dick Cheney say, ‘You guys don’t support the troops. You’re not patriotic,’ and let them push us around?” asked Feingold, whose appearance was via satellite from Milwaukee. “We have to stand up to them.”
Stewart played a clip from a recent news conference of House Majority Leader John Boehner, in which the Ohio Republican said of Feingold, “Sometimes you begin to wonder if he’s more interested in the safety and security of the terrorists as opposed to the American people.”
After the audience groaned, Stewart asked, “How long have you been working with the terrorists, and are they nicer than they seem?”
“Oh no, they’re a bad bunch,” Feingold said, laughing.
Feingold conceded that a member of his own family questioned the proposal.
“My daughter called me up and said, ‘Dad, what are you doing? This thing hasn’t been done since the 1830s,’ so it takes some explaining,” Feingold said.
“That’s what I like about you, senator,” Stewart said. “You’re kicking it old-school.”
For a more serious take on the reactions to Feingoldâ€™s censure move, I refer you to an editorial by John Nichols in The Nation entitled â€œCensuring Censure.â€? If you want to take action, I refer you to the following MoveOn.org petition page: http://political.moveon.org/censure/. A new century calls for a new censure.
I can’t pretend to know who Ben Domenech is — I just read his new blog, Red America, at Washingtonpost.com today for the first time. But, given the number of strikes against him right now, including new allegations of plagiarism from his college newspaper days, and the fact that he is already apologizing on his WaPo blog for calling Coretta Scott King a Communist, I’m willing to bet that the editors at The Washington Post are seriously considering David Brock’s request in the letter below.
James M. Brady, Executive editor, Washingtonpost.com
Leonard Downie, Executive editor, The Washington Post
Boisfeuillet Jones Jr., Publisher and chief executive officer, The Washington Post
Donald E. Graham, CEO and Chairman of the Board, The Washington Post Co., Chairman, The Washington Post
Caroline Little, CEO & Publisher, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Dear Messrs. Brady, Downie, Jones, and Graham, and Ms. Little:
I write today to request that you terminate Ben Domenechâ€™s employment and affiliation with the Washington Post.
We appreciate the value in news outlets such as yours offering readers a wide range of opinion and insight, so we do not take this action lightly.
We did not call for Domenechâ€™s firing when the Post revealed that it had hired a conservative blogger, even though the Post does not employ any liberal counterpart to Domenech.
We did not call for Domenechâ€™s firing when it became clear that he has scant journalism experience but is, rather, a partisan Republican political operative with no place in a news organization.
We did not call for Domenechâ€™s firing when his first post consisted of little more than sneering insults of his readers, describing progressives as â€œshriekingâ€? and â€œunhingedâ€? — exactly the sort of personal insults Brady has previously declared unfit for use by readers describing Post employees in the comments section of the Postâ€™s blogs. The double standard inherent in the Post publishing Domenechâ€™s vitriolic attacks on readers, while repeatedly denouncing readersâ€™ criticism of Post employees, troubles us, but did not cause us to urge Domenechâ€™s dismissal.
But, with each hour bringing new evidence of Domenechâ€™s racially charged rhetoric and homophobic bigotry, the time has come for the Post to end its ill-conceived relationship with Domenech. Examples of Domenechâ€™s views include:
In a February 7, 2006, post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be â€œpissedâ€? that President Bush attended â€œthe funeral of a Communistâ€? — referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King. As you know, labeling the King family â€œcommunistsâ€? was a favorite tool of the racists who opposed them.
In another RedState post, Domenech compared â€œthe Judiciaryâ€? unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.
In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that “[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime” and that “[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership” because black leaders “are overwhelmingly in support” of abortion rights.
In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, â€œneeds a woman to give him some stability.â€?
Domenech has also been caught at least once apparently fabricating a quote. A June 20, 2002, Spinsanity.org entry demonstrated that Domenech made up a quote he attributed to Tim Russert in order to defend President Bush.
In a post on RedState.com, Domenech once agreed with a commenter who called Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin â€œan embarrassment to the saner heads at the paper.â€?
It is time for â€œsaner headsâ€? to prevail. Will The Washington Post honor its history as one of Americaâ€™s most respected news organizations — or will it stand with Ben Domenech, tacitly endorsing his assault on Coretta Scott King, his offensive suggestion that a gay man â€œneeds a woman,â€? and his fabrication of a quote?
America is watching.
President & CEO
Media Matters for America
This week, in The Washington Post, Thomas B. Edsall reports on how â€œmillions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bushâ€™s agenda on abortion and other social issues. Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies.â€? Edsall goes on to cite numerous examples of organizations and programs that have received funding from the Bush administration.
Not surprisingly, a goodly (or is it godly?) amount of these grants have subsidized initiatives in abstinence education that seek to encourage adolescents and young adults to eschew sexual activity (i.e., Just Say No To Sex). Often, such initiativesâ€”coming as they do from faith-based organizationsâ€”appear to lack the thoroughness (and thus the effectiveness) of more traditional, per se, programs in sexuality education. Research strongly suggests that abstinence-only programs are problematic in many ways. The Journal of Adolescent Health recently published a â€œposition paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicineâ€? that confronts this very issue. An excerpt from its summary follows:
Providing â€œabstinence onlyâ€? or â€œabstinence until marriageâ€? messages as a sole option for teenagers is flawed from scientific and medical ethics viewpoints. Efforts to promote abstinence should be based on sound science. Although federal support of abstinence-only programs has grown rapidly since 1996, the evaluations of such programs find little evidence of efficacy in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse. Conversely, efforts to promote abstinence, when offered as part of comprehensive reproductive health promotion programs that provide information about contraceptive options and protection from STIs have successfully delayed initiation of sexual intercourse. Moreover, abstinence-only programs are ethically problematic, being inherently coercive and often providing misinformation and withholding information needed to make informed choices. In many communities, abstinence-only education (AOE) has been replacing comprehensive sexuality education. In some communities, AOE has become the basis for suppression of free speech in schools. Abstinence-only education programs provide incomplete and/or misleading information about contraceptives, or none at all, and are often insensitive to sexually active teenagers. Federally funded abstinence-until-marriage programs discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, as federal law limits the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples.
Schools and health care providers should encourage abstinence as an important option for teenagers. â€œAbstinence-onlyâ€? as a basis for health policy and programs should be abandoned.
So the $157 million dollar question is: How exactly are these funds being spent? On programs based on sound science or based on religious/moral beliefs? And are the grantees and the Bush administration adhering to regulations governing the separation of church and state? There is plenty of reason to be skeptical and concerned. Perhaps the President and his conservative followers would do well to put aside their Puritan queasiness about sexuality and instead focus on more substantive issues, such as abstaining from war, domestic spying, and political corruption and patronage. That sort of abstinence would certainly make my heart grow fonder.
Guillaume de Ramel is running as a Democrat for Secretary of State in Rhode Island. He holds a Masters Degree in Real Estate Development from Columbia University and has experience as an equity analyst, a small business owner, and an investment advisor. He is pictured above with his wife, Molly, and his son, Charlie.
The Mollis/Democratic City and Town Chairs Endorsement Scandal
KM: You responded to the Democratic City and Town Chairs endorsing Ralph Mollis with a letter which questioned the legitimacy of the endorsement. Is there anything more you want to say about this issue?
DE RAMEL: What happened with the Democratic City and Town Chairs Associationâ€™s ‘endorsement’ was the exact opposite of what I stand for. Forget about the fact that the president of the City and Town Chairâ€™s Association also happens to be my opponentâ€™s campaign manager and first cousin! Frankly, however, what troubles me most was the manner in which the vote was conducted â€“ something obviously enormously important to me as a candidate for Secretary of State. I believe in free and fair — not fixed — elections.
Rhode Island’s Secretary of State is charged with safeguarding numerous components of our voting system. Of utmost importance is preserving the public’s confidence in our elections. If the Mollis campaign is interested in tainting an endorsement process this early in the election what does he have in store for Rhode Islanders? What does that say for someone who wants to be elected as our Chief Elections officer; to me, this is troubling.
Unfortunately what we saw that evening was an ‘endorsement’ that was — at the very least — hastily called (the majority of the Chairs couldn’t even vote with only 11 of the 39 able to cast a vote), conflicted and fundamentally flawed.
I realize that my opponent being an entrenched 20 year incumbent should receive all the endorsements, yet I am proud to have received so far the endorsements of the Democratic City and Town Committees in the communities of Warwick, Woonsocket, North Kingstown, Barrington, Charlestown, Exeter and more expected. One of my biggest complaints throughout this process has been certain committees have not even afforded me the opportunity of introducing myself and appearing before their members, but hastily made an â€˜endorsementâ€™ for my opponent. These included, North Providence (home of my opponent), Coventry, Scituate, Foster and who knows how many others will play this charade.
If a simple endorsement cannot be conducted with integrity, how can we be certain that our elections will not be susceptible to this molestation if Mr. Mollis is elected?
National Secretary of State’s Conference
KM: On your website, you mention that you attended the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in February. Did you learn about any initiatives happening in other parts of the country that might be helpful to consider in Rhode Island?
DE RAMEL: I learned a tremendous amount from conversation with other Secretaries of State. One initiative that really struck me is a program that was started by California and recently adopted by Vermont’s Secretary Markowitz called “Safe At Home” Address Confidentiality Program. It is simple, inexpensive and has a proven track record of actually saving lives.
In short, the program helps protect the anonymity of victims of domestic violence who have relocated, or are about to relocate, by making the Secretary of State’s office their public address. One intended example is in registering to vote. One needs to provide a home address. If you are a victim of domestic violence who’s relocated to a new home the last thing you want to do is make your home address public information. The unintended consequence of not keeping this information confidential is that these victims end up not registering to vote. By adopting this program we can help these victims by giving them not only some level of security but also an opportunity to participate in some of our most basic rights.
All in all I had the exciting opportunity to meet Secretaries of State from all across the country and hear their ideas firsthand, what worked and what did not, and understand what might be best for Rhode Island. Part of being an effective leader is opening your eyes and ears to all and then deciding what is best for the people you serve.
Seminars included: The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) implementation and challenges, voting challenges in the wake of Katrina, voting online, protecting citizens privacy, demonstrations of new voting technology and many others.
Unaffiliated Voters in Rhode Island
KM: Some people believe that Rhode Island’s large population of unaffiliated voters who can vote in either party’s primary is an asset to the state’s system. Others think that unaffiliated voters should not be allowed to vote in party primaries. What is your position on this issue? Would you support legislation to restrict unaffiliated voters from voting in party primaries?
DE RAMEL: Just to be clear, voters currently must affiliate — albeit momentarily — in order to vote in a Rhode Island primary. I understand that there are several states testing the constitutionality of allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in a primary, but none of these court cases to my knowledge have been resolved. I will be following these cases closely.
Separately, as much as I would love to steer more voters to the Democratic Party I firmly believe that it is one of the Secretary’s primary responsibilities to increase civic participation — not complicate or encumber it in any way. Already, our state’s voter participation in primaries could benefit from improved voter turnout — further burdening or restricting voters from participating would certainly not improve those figures.
I do not want to see legislation passed that will restrict voters in any way shape or form. Voter participation is of utmost importance — period.
Campaign Finance Reform
KM: Do you believe Rhode Island does enough to regulate campaign financing, or do we need campaign finance reform?
DE RAMEL: The Rhode Island Board of Elections (BOE) is charged with overseeing campaign finances and I have deep concerns with the way the board operates; more specifically, that our campaign finance laws are actually enforced. The first reform we need is the way the Board of Elections deals with alleged campaign finance violations.
The Board of Elections is broken and desperately needs to be fixed. As I stated in my announcement speech, the first legislation package I will send to the General Assembly is one to fix and reform the Board (i.e, 14-year terms, poll worker training, job qualifications for senior staff).
One can imagine that it is no easy task chasing down every alleged campaign violation. That said, I believe we need a legislated trigger mechanism for any alleged violation over $10,000, and after so many days at the BOE, the violation should be automatically transferred to the Department of Attorney General in order to continue towards conclusion.
One case that stands out in my mind is the allegation that the Republican National Party diverted $400,000 dollars to the local Republican Party in order to fund TV ads supportive of Don Carcieri’s race for Governor. All this, despite state law specifically prohibiting parties from contributing more than $25,000 to any one candidate. Three years later — this case still remains unresolved! The trigger mechanism I propose would preempt these issues — swiftly and efficiently — instead of letting them languish from one election to the next.
We also need to proactively look at realistic public financing programs that help all candidates compete. As a new statewide candidate I understand how difficult it is to compete without a â€˜political machineâ€™ behind you. Running against an opponent entrenched in the political system with all the powers of incumbency, such as a staff, automatic contributors, and all the other trappings that come with incumbency is daunting. I support 100% the concept of public financing of campaigns, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to make it fairer for all. As Secretary of State I will commit myself to finding a solution that levels the playing field for all who want to seek public office.
KM: With the situation of Roger Williams Medical Center, we are seeing a corporation whose board did not regulate and prevent top executives from frivolously spending money that should have been dedicated to the mission of patient care. Is there some way that the oversight functions of the Secretary of State’s office could work to recognize problems like the situation with Roger Williams?
DE RAMEL: In Rhode Island the Department of Business Regulation is responsible for regulating business statutes. In many states, such as Massachusetts, the Secretary of State has that authority, but not in Rhode Island. But if legislation is required to make the Secretary of State’s Corporation’s Division more effective on this issue, I would be happy to work with the General Assembly to have such legislation enacted. That said, I know that Lt. Governor Fogarty and Senator Roberts have introduced legislation that is intended to help deal with problems that occurred in the Roger Williams scandal.
Overall, my thoughts regarding the Roger Williams Hospital scandal is that those executives embroiled in the scandal ought to be ashamed of the way they have conducted themselves. My campaign Honorary Co-Chair Nuala Pell served on the hospital’s board and from the beginning was an outspoken critic of the practices and procedures that took place. She was all too often the lone dissenting voice on the board — unfortunately her warnings where not heeded. I believe we need more quality and ethically sound people like Mrs. Pell serving on these corporate boards and in public office.
This scandal as well as others that may be looming in the not too distant future are what is wrong with our society today. In Rhode Island currently we are facing a climate of corruption that is on the rise and this only hurts our state as a whole. The behavior of the former senator from North Providence John Celona was disgraceful and it only hurts the overall majority of hardworking, honest elected officials that serve us in the State House.
If elected Secretary of State I will look at ways of using the Corporations Division of the Office to help crack down on instances like this and others. In my philosophy of government, selfish corruption for ones own personal gain has absolutely no place and never will.
KM: One of the hot topics in voting in Rhode Island right now is the Voter Initiative Movement which would allow citizens to petition to get questions onto the voting ballot. As Secretary of State, you will be in charge of ballot questions and getting information to the public about the ballot questions. Do you think it is appropriate for a Secretary of State to take a position on Voter Initiative? If not, why not? If so, what is your position on Voter Initiative?
DE RAMEL: On its face, Voter Initiative sounds great, but my principle concern with it is the fact that we do not have the necessary finance laws that can limit, much less bar, big, well funded interests from advancing referendum questions that suit their own interests — not the State’s. Without adequate safeguards, our state would effectively be ‘For Sale’ to any well-financed interested parties looking to change our laws (casinos, LNG, etc). I am not a proponent of gambling or LNG in Narragansett Bay but what would stop a casino or gas giant from coming in with millions of dollars to influence a referendum to get their way. To them, that money is nothing, but here, in little Rhode Island, that kind of money goes a long way in our mass media outlets.
The prospect for limiting contributions looks bleak. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that there can be no limits on political contribution for initiatives, that corporate contributions are allowed, and that it is permissible to pay signature gatherers to get a question on the ballot. States can only require that initiative proponents disclose their contributions and how the money was spent. This, unfortunately, does not leave us enough protection against well-funded interests from buying their way into our state.
Voter Registration Drives
KM: What will you do to improve voter registration, particularly in populations with low voter registration and turnout?
Too often we hear politicians talking about increasing voter turnout — that’s important, but I would like additional focus paid to increasing civic participation. That means getting more people to run for public office, lobby issues important to them or even participate in campaigns.
One solution is to start what I call the ‘Office of New Americans’ charged with improving civic participation amongst our newly naturalized citizens. Rhode Island is fortunate to have an incredible melting pot of various groups and cultures.
As a matter of fact this week I am meeting with FairVote/Center for Voting and Democracy, executive director, Robert Richie, and members of our General Assembly about legislation reducing the minimum voting registration age from 18 to 16. As a credit against community service requirements, students above the age of 16 could register to vote. Alternatively, we could make voter registration a graduation requirement. The net result, of course, is to get these young adults looped into the system before we lose them. Whatever can be done to improve voter registration needs to be done.
KM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am a new face, new name in Rhode Island politics and am working to bring new ideas to the office of Secretary of State. I have wanted to run for this seat for a long time. Unlike my opponent, I did not go ‘office shopping’ before I concluded that this is where I could make the greatest impact in this State.
Choosing an office to run for should not be â€˜spin the bottleâ€™ and seeing where bottle lands; instead it takes someone who is dedicated and committed to the office that they seek. You need to have a passion and genuine interest in doing the work that goes along with the office — which I truly do. I am not looking for a job; I want to do the job.
I have passion and commitment for all the functions of the Secretary of Stateâ€™s duties, otherwise I would not be running for the office. All too often in politics, politicians run because they want a promotion or a bigger title; I am not looking for a job or a title, I am simply looking to serve the public — I want to do the job plain and simple. I ask all of you for your consideration and support as this election moves forward.
It’s been great talking about these issues with you. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I encourage anyone to visit my website, www.deramel2006.com.
KM: My pleasure. Thank you for being so thorough and thoughtful in your answers. It means a great deal to voters like me when a candidate is willing to reach out and use new media such as blogs in order to share his vision for a better Rhode Island.
This post is meant to honor those who have served and lost their lives most recently in the war in Iraq. Since March 1, 2006, these casualties have been listed.
Our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the fallen.
Joshua Yeoman, age 26, from Flushing, Michigan
Matthew A. Snyder, age 20, from Finksburg, Maryland
Kevin Jessen, age 28, from Paragould, Arkansas
Adam O. Zanutto, age 26, from Caliente, California
Ricky Salas, Jr., age 22, from Roswell, New Mexico
John D. Fry, age 28, from Lorena, Texas
Bunny Long, age 22, from Modesto, California
Amy Duerksen, age 19, from Temple, Texas
Kristen K. Marino (Figueroa), age 20, from Honolulu, Hawaii
Bryan A. Lewis, age 32, from Bunkie, Louisiana
Corey A. Dan, age 22, from Norway, Maine
Marco A. Silva, age 27, from Alva, Florida
Angelo A. Zawaydeh, age 29, from San Bruno, California
Carlos Gonzalez, Jr, age 22, from Mount Hope, New York
Okay, I admit it: I’m a Boggle junkie. I own the computer version and play it often. I like to think this is a more useful thing to do with my brain than, say, watching TV. Plus I get to learn lots of words like dottle (the plug of tobacco ash left in the bowl of a pipe after it has been smoked) and cresol (Any of three isomeric phenols, CH3C6H4OH, used in resins and as a disinfectant) and plafond (a decorated ceiling) and rotl (a unit of weight used in countries bordering on the Mediterranean).
Now, there is a new outlet for people like me. It’s called Babble. It’s an online version of Boggle with a bigger board, a requirement for words to have four letters or more, and a 24 hour time limit, instead of the inhumanely restrictive 3 minute time limit for a regular Boggle game. You get to compete against all the other Boggle junkies out there on the world wide web. It should be a humbling experience.
So when frustration with the molasses pace of political change is getting me down, you know where you’ll find me.