Have you heard what Democrats working for Sen. Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tried to do here in my home state of Maryland to bring down Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele?
Steele, a rising star in the party, is considering a Senate bid. Two of Schumer’s staffers, including a former researcher for David Brock’s Media Matters, obtained Steele’s credit report by using his Social Security number, which they got from public documents. Under federal law, it is illegal to knowingly and willfully obtain a credit report under false pretenses.
There has been no outcry from privacy advocates, the ACLU, the champions of clean campaigns, or any major MSM editorial board. Needless to say, if it had been Republicans involved in this outrageous scheme and the target had been a liberal minority politician, it would be a front-page NYTimes scandal. The Times (surprise, surprise) has yet to cover the story, but other local NY papers are hammering the Schumer angle. From Newsday:
Two opposition researchers working for Sen. Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee obtained copies of a confidential credit report on Maryland’s Republican lieutenant governor, prompting calls for their prosecution.
In July, committee research director Katie Barge and Lauren Weiner, a junior staffer, used Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele’s Social Security number to get his credit report, according to a Democratic official familiar with the case.
The committee, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate, has been compiling research on Steele, Maryland’s highest-ranking African-American official, a GOP contender for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Democrat Paul Sarbanes in 2006.
Barge, a Democratic operative who led the research unit for a liberal media watchdog group run by journalist David Brock before joining the committee in February, reported her actions to the committee’s executive director, J.B. Poersch Jr., within hours. Poersch relayed the information to the U.S. attorney’s office and suspended the pair with pay until Aug. 31, the official said.
Barge and Weiner resigned earlier this month after an internal investigation. Calls to the FBI, which is probing the case, weren’t returned last night.
“The lieutenant governor is the victim of identity theft and would like these people prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Steele’s chief of staff Paul Ellington said. “They posed as him to get his credit report. We’re not going to say they were going to buy a car with the information they got, but a crime was committed.”
Fraudulently obtaining a person’s credit report is punishable by a maximum of 2 years in prison, according to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Phil Singer, a spokesman for the campaign committee, said Schumer, who took over the committee in November 2004 and was chairman when the two staffers were hired, had no knowledge of the actions. “Chuck’s only involvement was to report this matter to the authorities immediately after first learning about it,” Singer said.
“The DSCC immediately ensured that Mr. Steele’s credit report was not used or disseminated to anyone,” added Singer, who called the matter an “isolated incident.”
From the NYPost’s Deborah Orin:
Records obtained by The Post show the two continued to be paid by the Democratic committee at least through Aug. 31.
The U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed that it was alerted by the committee but declined to say whether it is or could become a target of the probe.
Republicans tartly noted that Schumer is a leading critic of identity theft and breaches of sensitive personal data like credit reports.
Democrats are trying to frame the slimy move as the work of young, inexperienced junior staffers. But it seems clear to me that these two dumpster divers knew exactly what they were doing. And those plying the “isolated incident” line doth protest too much. Republicans here in Maryland have nailed the desperate Democrats’ attempt to smear Steele dead-on:
“If they’re trashing you, they fear you,” Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) said. “You don’t go to this sort of extreme if you’re not fearful.”
More at Captain’s Quarters, where one commenter bluntly explains the crimes involved:
To obtain a report legally, a signature authorization is required and information is required to obtain the report.
The access of the report is a crime. The distribution of the report is a crime. The acceptance and READING of the report is a crime.
If someone gave the people accessing the report personal information required to obtain the report, they also committed a crime.
Using any of the data on the report against someone is distribution and may even have other criminal elements attached if consideration was requested.
The people screaming about Plame should be outraged. Everyone upset over identitiy theft should be outraged. Every American should be outraged at this misuse of personal data.
Not holding my breath for the outraged NYTimes editorial…
The MSM needs to get Schumer on the record right now about what he knew and when he knew it; why he hired these women; why he didn’t fire them when this became known to him months ago, and whther he knew they were fishing for stuff using Steele’s social security number.
The media might also want to run down the list of Schumer hires. Political organizations have their own unique cultures. If the head of the DSCC’s research department thought nothing of commiting a felony to gain an edge, it is hardly unlikely that there are similar zealots around.
And Senator Norm Coleman has the permanent subcommittee on investigations in The Homeland Security and Governmental Operations Committee. Time for a hearing on opposition research abuses at the DSCC?
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