The Justice Integrity Project’s research trip to Ohio and Chicago last week developed promising new angles on federal abuses, especially regarding high-level political corruption investigations involving famed figures. Names include Obama, Emanuel, Jarrett, Hastert, Kirk, Blagojevich.
The trip was a joint effort with the investigative reporter and author Wayne Madsen, who generously shared sources and undertook joint radio interviews in Ohio and Illinois about our preliminary findings. The editor of the Wayne Madsen Report, an online subscription news service, is shown in a file photo.
Madsen is a former Naval intelligence officer and NSA analyst whose often-controversial muckraking was vindicated by a federal indictment in May of former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the then-Illinois “Family Values” congressman shown on a C-SPAN appearance.
In October 2006, Madsen had reported in a four-part 2006 series that Hastert was a gay pedophile subject to blackmail by powerful interests who knew his secret, as chronicled by: Here’s how the “breaking” story of Dennis Hastert’s taste for young wrestlers actually broke nine years ago.
Much of our research dealt with similar still-hidden sexual, financial, and political scandals that, so long as they are hidden, can help sway political races and public policy in law enforcement, civil rights, the justice system, 9/11, and foreign policy.
Our take is that the recent ascendancy of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders stems partly because of voter resentment over the results of corruption, even if the specifics are rarely reported or understood.
Details will follow in future columns here and this fall in my revised and updated book, Presidential Puppetry 2016: The Candidate Charade Continues, which derives in part from Madsen’s The Manufacturing of a President, one of his dozen books.
Unfortunately, the trip revealed also widespread disillusionment with the mainstream media from sources in finance, politics, law, policing, and other governmental operations. Several sources criticized local reporters as cowardly, incurious about new evidence, and otherwise unwilling to research complicated or controversial issues.
For such reasons, the trip represented an evocative if not bittersweet homecoming for this Washington-based editor, who was born on Chicago’s South Side and whose first big story was coverage of the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention in the city during the reign of “The Boss,” former Mayor Richard Daley. My late mother, Margaret Kreig, had been a crusading freelance magazine writer and author, and my first journalism compensation came from tiny stringer’s checks from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Daily News.
That was enough to foster the notion journalism can be a high calling of fearless souls despite the demonstrably low tactics and methods of some of its most famous practitioners even in Hollywood portrayals.
Ben Hecht, who began his Chicago newspaper career as a “picture-snatcher” stealing family photos of crime victims a century ago, co-authored the iconic and comedic love-letter to journalism in The Front Page.
The photo at left is from the play’s 1931 adaptation to film by director Howard Hughes, the tycoon. In this scene, the tyrannical editor Adolph Menjou at center portrays “Walter Burns” (modeled on the real-life Chicagoan Walter Howey, who worked for William Randolph Hearst, “The Chief”). Burns is shown protecting a scoop by ordering the kidnap from the Cook County police headquarters of his reporter’s prospective mother-in-law, as the reporter at left timidly offers her an apology.
The scene and many like it glamorized headline-hungry journalists who puffed up a murder case against a hapless defendant whom officials wanted to smear and then hang promptly to boost their popularity before elections.
That’s part of the tradition. So are the countless and usually prosaic daily efforts of journalists working with civic-minded sources to put important information before the public.
A stellar example last week was the inspiring obituary of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) researcher Dr. Frances Kelsey. She is shown at right receiving from President Kennedy in 1962 the president’s top annual award for distinguished service by a civilian federal employee.
Kelsey had fought against marketing of the dangerous morning-sickness drug Thalidomide, which caused severe birth defects, as reported by the Washington Post in Heroine of thalidomide tragedy kept the drug off U.S. market.
Kelsey had also been a source and friend to my mother, a former medical editor of Parent’s Magazine whose globe-trotting investigative work took her to the Amazon jungle in a search for plants that heal and to Congress to expose mob-produced counterfeit medicine in a major hearing in 1967 by the Government Operations Committee.
Below left is a surveillance of photo of my mother, who was working undercover at the time for the FDA to obtain evidence for convictions and as well as exclusive material for her 1967 book Black Market Medicine. She was pretending to be a madam seeking illegal prescription drugs for “my girls.” The context is drawn from our 2011 column here, Learning from Heroes Who Fought the Mafia.”