Paulose to the Slaughter

In what may have been a first for a Minnesota public official soliciting media attendance at a press conference in a public building, US Attorney Rachel Paulose’s staff announced prior to the start of her Monday press conference that Ms. Paulose would NOT be taking questions off the topic of her indictment of 25 people in a prostitution ring.

Say what? No other questions? Did we just move to Uzbekistan? Not even George W. Bush has been so clueless as to dare admonish the press corps to avoid questions he might find uncomfortable. (Of course until his approval ratings cratered the boys and girls on the White House bus were thoroughly self-admonishing.)

Obviously Paulose, stepping out of her double secret probationary sanctum for the first time since it was confirmed that yes indeed her predecessor, Tom Heffelfinger, was on a list of US Attorneys considered for firing, and only two days before her friend, the equally fresh-faced and unworldly Monica Goodling, was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee didn’t want her photo op ruined. She collared some pimps and she was orchestrating credit for herself. Control was being exerted to prevent some no doubt Democrat-voting media twit from jostling her tiara with a biased question about, you know, how in the hell did she get her job?

And if it weren’t for KARE-11’s Scott Goldberg, followed by MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki and KSTP’s Dana Benson, she might have pulled it off.

Goldberg ran back the clock on his tape of the press conference and clocked 27 minutes before the gathered media shifted from dutiful inquiries into the prostitution bust and he jabbed at what he refers to as “the elephant in the room”, namely the details of Ms. Paulose’s
ascension and her connection to the gross politicization of the nation’s US Attorney system by stunningly inexperienced, fresh-faced ideologues operating on orders from … ? (Read Goldberg’s account of the experience on his blog. And do note the role and retrograde constitutional thinking of attorney and Powerline blogger, Scott Johnson.)

Goldberg writes:

“I apologize for breaking decorum,” I said. “But Monica Goodling is testifying Wednesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Is there anything you’re willing to share? Any thoughts you have about her testimony — whether your name will come up, and if so, whether we’ll learn anything about your appointment to this office?”

She declined to answer, which, certainly, is her right.

Just like it was a reporter’s duty to ask.”

Not to go all grand and macro on you, but in a well-functioning democracy with a courageous press, public officials don’t get away with red-lining embarrassing questions. Hollywood stars pull that stuff, and get away with it until they jump Oprah’s couch. But US Attorneys are not supposed to be accorded pampered, protected Hollywood star treatment by the press, even if they are so delusional they think they deserve it.

The elephant in the room should have been the local press’s first question to Paulose.

In fairness to Goldberg, before poking Paulose’s elephant he asked her what was up with her making a point of noting that the perps running the prostitution ring were illegal aliens? Last time he checked it was a crime to run a flock of hookers whether you had a green card or not. (As it was explained to me, this question threw Ms. Paulose off-script enough that she at first denied making a point of their immigration status … until it was pointed out to her that it was right there in the info packet her people handed out to the press.)

I asked Goldberg if Paulose and her team hung around for a few minutes after the official event wrapped and, you know, maybe did a little informal press mingling, something that is fairly natural with law enforcement types.

“Not really. In fact the way the room was set up there was a door right behind here. She entered from there and left through it pretty much as soon as she was finished.” Dick Cheney would be proud.

Goldberg did a few of these pressers with Tom Heffelfinger, all of which he describes as, “more in line with what you’d expect.” With Heffelfinger there was also none of the over-the-top security with the press being met for Paulose’s news conference at street level and escorted both up to the audience with her and then back down and out again when it was all over. (I gotta check this out, but I thought the Federal Court House was a PUBLIC building, not some princess’s private castle.)

There was, says Goldberg, “an overall weirdness” to the event.

“What’s the difference in working with Heffelfinger and Paulose? Well, for starters, one was accessible and the other isn’t,” he says. “Heffelfinger’s relations with the press were fairly cordial. But then he was seasoned. He was a professional.”

KSTP’s Bob McNaney, who with the Strib’s Nick Coleman, has been the glowing exception to the generally lax rule of coverage of Ms. Paulose couldn’t break off from another assignment to attend the prostitution
ring ceremony. And he regrets that.

“Its like throwing blood in the water man,” he said a few days later. “Blood in the water and the sharks are circling.”

McNaney and KSTP’s attorneys filed an FOIA request for all of Paulose’s e-mails and were initially denied. But they have persisted.