How I Caught a Conservative Journalist with His Pants Down — and How I Confronted Him

Guest Submission by LJ Regine

The other day, I was reading my December copy of Forbes magazine when I came across this article by Mr. William Frezza. Those of us who follow Sarah Palin know she’s championed the idea of ending crony capitalism, most notably at her speech in Indianola, Iowa on September 3rd. To my delight, I came across this phrase in Mr. Frezza’s article:

“Congressmen routinely arrive in Washington with modest means and leave as millionaires.”

Immediately, I thought of Palin’s op-ed from November 18th in The Wall Street Journal (How Congress Occupied Wall Street) where she said:

“How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?”

Excitedly, I waited for the author to acknowledge it was Palin who wrote that or to mention her in his article for bringing the idea of crony capitalism into our national debate. Unfortunately, she remained uncredited, and I remained confused. I did a quick Google search to verify that it was, in fact, Governor Palin who uttered that phrase first and then came to find an earlier version of it in her speech in Iowa. When I determined my facts were correct, I fired off this email to the comments section of the Forbes online article:

From: LJ Regine [mailto:ljregine@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 10:16 AM
To: readers
Subject: RE: BF “Crony Capitalism”

Upon reading Mr. Frezza’s “Crony Capitalism” article in the December 19th edition of Forbes, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between his piece and comments and articles made recently by former Alaska Gov Sarah Palin. Almost copying directly from her Wall Street Journal op ed “How Congress Occupied Wall Street,” Palin writes “How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?” In Mr. Frezza’s article he wonders “Congressmen routinely arrive in Washington with modest means and leave as millionaires.” Furthermore, Frezza’s article follows the sentiments espoused by Palin in her September 3rd speech in Indianola, Iowa where she laid out her plan to get America back on track. I’m not saying Mr. Frezza is plagiarizing or in any way stealing ideas from Mrs. Palin, however it seems to me, that it is intellectually dishonest to write an article without quoting where your source material came from. The only reason we are now having a national debate about the ideas of ‘crony capitalism’ is because of the attention Mrs. Palin has brought to it. No other GOP Candidates for President have mentioned it before her. It’s time the media give Mrs. Palin credit for starting the debate, where credit is rightfully due.

Good for me, I thought. I set the record straight. I didn’t hear anything back, until this morning when I received the following message chain in my inbox. I rearranged the snark in chronological order for it to make sense to you:

From: Post, Tom [mailto:*******]
Sent: Wed 12/21/2011 7:50 AM
To: John Tamny
Subject: FW: Bill Frezza “Crony Capitalism”

Hi, john.

This came over the transom yesterday.

It’s a weak argument, but you might reach out to the writer and invite him to comment on frezza’s story online – and, of course, let bill know about it.

Happy holidays,

tom

(He then quoted my original email)

From: John Tamny [mailto:j]
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 9:20 AM
To: Post, Tom
Subject: RE: Bill Frezza “Crony Capitalism”

Tom –

Thanks for sending my way. Bill will get a kick out of this, particularly as his original draft was written well before Palin’s. I’ll forward to him.

Have a great day.

John

And then, the cherry on the cake. The writer himself commented:

On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 11:49 AM, William A. Frezza wrote:

John,

Thanks for passing this along. Here I was happy and grateful that Sarah Palin, or whoever wrote the WSJ piece for her, copped material from my Forbes.com column, the original version of which was published online on November 15 before I was asked to edit it for the December 19 print edition:

Crony Capitalism: The Inevitable Outcome Of Overreaching Government
http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrezza/2011/11/15/crony-capitalism-the-inevitable-outcome-of-overreaching-government/

As well as my RealClearMarkets piece that ran on December 12th. :

Exactly What Is Crony Capitalism, Anyway?http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2011/12/12/exactly_what_is_crony_capitalism_anyway_99412.html

Only to be accused of plagiarism. I was unaware, though quite happy to learn, that Ms. Palin was giving speeches on that subject. Let me also point out that when you Google up “Crony Capitalism” you get 1,710,000 hits.

Best regards,

Bill

Not so fast, Mr. Freeza. How could you be so blissfully unaware of Governor Palin’s recent comments on crony capitalism? What on earth possessed you to begin discussing such a topical issue? I checked my facts and wrote back again:

——— Forwarded message ———-
From: LJ Regine
Date: Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 12:32 PM
Subject: Re: Bill Frezza “Crony Capitalism”
To: “William A. Frezza”
Cc: John Tamny , “Post, Tom”

Hey there,
Thank you so much for including me on the e-mail chain. In your November 15th article, which you edited for the December 19th version, you did not include the “”How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?” quote, or your version of it. When Googled, the only reference I could find for that quote, or anything similar, was Ms. Palin’s article, published on November 19th. I’m so happy you were inspired, that upon rewriting your article for publication on December 19th, you pulled that quote from hers and rearranged it to fit your needs. Google’s a really wonderful tool, isn’t it? Again, I would have you reference this article as the original time modest means and millionaires were mentioned. And again, that’s excluding the point that on September 3rd, Sarah Palin gave a speech in Indianola, Iowa where she said ” Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. ” If you read your article as well as Ms. Palin’s speech dated September 3rd, her various editorials and Facebook notes, you’ll notice a lot of similar themes, phrases and thoughts–which you are claiming originate on November 15th of this year.
I never said that Sarah Palin invented the idea of Crony Captalism however, all I noted was that she was the first of any major potential contenders for the GOP nomination to mention it in public thus it gaining popularity and notoriety. If you do a Google search, as I did here, of various news stories before September 2nd 2011, you’ll notice that one of her articles from April of 2010 is referenced, but all other references are from 2002, 2008 or even back to 1998. it hasn’t become a popular phrase since, oh September 3rd, when Palin mentioned it. Also, if you backdate news articles on Google from January 1st 2011 to September 2nd, there are a mere 140 mentions in the news, yet from September 3rd until now there are 710. So, like I said, it’s intellectually dishonest to use phrases written by other people and pass them off as your own, and then go on to claim that you were “unaware” of the actual reason the idea is even relevant. Again, Ms. Palin started the debate. You followed.
Thanks for responding,

And, again, he wrote back…

LJ Regine
From: “William A. Frezza”
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2011 13:08:05 -0500
To: LJ Regine
Cc: John Tamny; Post, Tom
Subject: RE: Bill Frezza “Crony Capitalism”

LJ,

Thanks for the note. Just to set the record straight …

First, I’m thrilled that Sarah Palin is pounding away on this topic. I hope she keeps it up. More media celebrities need to be discussing this issue.

Second, I don’t normally follow Sarah Palin or her speeches. I was not aware she was championing this issue until I read her excellent Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal. (my comments: Uh, in your first e-mail you claimed you had no idea she was even discussing this at all??) The copy for my Forbes column that ran in the December 19th newsstand issue was submitted to my editor on November 18.

Third, the first piece I wrote on the destructiveness of crony capitalism appeared in InternetWeek on January 5, 1998. The full text appears below. It’s a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.

http://business.highbeam.com/138350/article-1G1-20123738/open-information-only-cure-crony-capitalismon

Finally, peace be with you. Have a happy and safe holiday. Let’s hope the new year brings new leadership to Washington.

Bill

And my last email says it all. This is the second time Mr. Frezza was trying to insult Palin’s intelligence. And I admittedly made a mistake on a date but corrected it, which made my original point even stronger:

From: “LJ Regine”
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2011 18:19:07 +0000
To: William A. Frezza
ReplyTo: ljregine@gmail.com
Cc: John Tamny; Post, Tom
Subject: Re: Bill Frezza “Crony Capitalism”

Thank you for responding and I’ll also continue to set the record straight. The same day you submitted is when her article appeared. Bazaar, right? I had incorrectly quoted it as Nov 19th–it was actually the 18th–you can double check that on the WSJ website. My mistake! Again, so glad her words inspired yours. Great that back in 1998 your idea wasn’t in vogue but now due to Ms. Palin, media celebrity, your ideas are getting a second wind. I guess it doesn’t matter how we become relevant, only why. Good to know Ms. Palin inspires you as she does me. Happy New Year to you too.

So, just to summarize: He submitted his article to his editor the same day Governor Palin’s came out, including what amounts to the same sentences in both articles. How could he claim that he’s never read or seen any of Palin’s writings about crony capitalism when he basically used a direct quote? I love that he tried to insult her, while at the same time highlighting his bad and laughable journalistic error. Then, he goes on to call her piece “excellent.” Sounds like he was caught with his pants down.

I’ll reiterate. Sarah Palin is not the first person to discuss the idea of crony capitalism. However, her contributions on the subject have shifted the dialogue so that we are focusing on what more big, bad government is doing only to benefit itself — which gave a platform and renewed interest in Mr. Frezza’s own ideas. I don’t understand why the media, especially media saying similar things as Governor Palin, continues to portray her as intellectually weak, vapid and lacking substance when she is the only reason we are having this discussion in the first place. Instead of admitting he borrowed the phrase and praising the Governor for her contributions (without insulting her “media celebrity”), he chose to be a typical, beltway Washington insider.

He claims to be wanting solutions in his articles, but it sounds to me like he’s just part of the problem. America is full of patriots who have ideas. We should be embracing them, giving credit where it’s due and trying to get everyone on the same page. Sarah Palin is the only potential candidate who had the gravitas to raise this issue when no one else would. Shame on you, Mr. Frezza. No wonder Governor Palin decided not to run in the race. With supposed conservative friends like these, who needs enemies?

LJ Regine is currently the Queens and Manhattan Coordinator for Organize4Palin in New York State. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.



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