Thread on attempts to influence #media coverage or intimidate journalists by using non-state actors w/close ties to government officials.
We will begin with a review of @ddkochel's furious attempts to throw #Iowa reporters off the scent of a big political story in July 2019. 1/
.@IAGovernor forced out #Iowa DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven in June 2019, giving no explanation for her decision. He kept quiet for weeks, then began hinting at reasons for his ouster. Naturally, political reporters closely followed the story. Background: 2/…
In text to @AP's @DavePitt, Foxhoven said, "I can confirm that I was concerned about the legality of using DHS funds to pay the salaries of the governor’s staff"…
@ddkochel soon swung into action. 3/
Although @ddkochel has no formal role with @IAGovernor's office, he has been a top political strategist for the governor and a mentor to her chief of staff @saraecraig.
Kochel went on a Twitter tear on July 24, 2019, insisting there was nothing to Foxhoven's claims. 4/
First, @ddkochel misrepresented what Foxhoven was saying, as if he had claimed salary-sharing agreements were illegal.
No one was saying that. Foxhoven was worried about using Medicaid funds to cover salary of @IAGovernor staffer no longer doing much little work for DHS. 5/
I linked to many of Kochel's tweets in this post.…
Here are some examples. He called Foxhoven's story a "total fabrication." 6/
Kochel wrongly claimed that Foxhoven had said all salary-sharing agreements were illegal, then said I and others had been "duped by a disgruntled director" 7/
Kochel tried to discourage some young reporters from taking this story seriously, telling @sgrubermiller that Foxhoven was "on his fourth or fifth version of this" and "flat out of credibility."
In fact Foxhoven had not changed his story. He had simply filled in some details. 8/
Kochel also tried to pit experienced reporters @davepitt and @tonyleys against each other as both reported new developments in the Foxhoven story.
Central to his narrative was the claim that the former DHS director never raised concerns w/ @IAGovernor's staff. 9/
As I and others pondered why Foxhoven worried about signing a new salary-sharing agreement,…
@ddkochel insisted that Foxhoven was lying and I "fell for it hook, line and sinker." 10/
Kochel insisted that the salary-sharing agreement Foxhoven didn't want to sign in 2019 was "exactly" like ones he had signed before. He derided Foxhoven's "farcical narrative" and my supposedly "ridiculous framing." 11/
As these events were unfolding, @IAGovernor's office denied parts of Foxhoven's story but mostly let @ddkochel do the heavy lifting on twitter.
Governor's communications director @PatJGarrett tweeted approvingly about Kochel's tirade. 12/
A little more than a week after all of this, Jerry Foxhoven revealed many more details about events preceding his ouster.…
In late August 2019 he told same story under penalty of perjury by filing a wrongful termination claim.…
Not likely that an experienced attorney like Foxhoven would perjure himself by making up this whole story. And of course, he'd never claimed all salary-sharing agreements were illegal. Just that it might be improper for DHS to keep paying this particular @IAGovernor staffer. 14/
Moving into the present: on Sunday I broke the news that @IAGovernor had approved using federal #COVID19 relief funds to pay part of salary/benefits for 21 of her staffers from mid-March through June.
Expenditures hadn't been disclosed anywhere. 15/…
Before publishing I sought comment from @IAGovernor's communications director @PatJGarrett four times over a 2-week period. No reply, not even "no comment."
My post looked closely at federal guidance on CARES Act funds & considered whether this was a lawful use. 16/
I still haven't received any comment from @IAGovernor's office on this story. However hours after I published, @ddkochel declared my investigative work to be "yellow journalism out of the partisan noise machine" and a "shameful partisan attack." 17/
This was a transparent bid by @ddkochel to discourage other Iowa reporters from looking into @IAGovernor's previously undisclosed use of CARES Act funds. In effect, he was warning that anyone who pursued this story would be furthering "yellow journalism" and partisan attacks. 18/
Today a relatively new sock puppet account, @jlynnmugs, attacked my reporting in ways reminiscent of @ddkochel's attacks on Foxhoven.
I don't know who @jlynnmugs is but he seems to have some (perhaps informal) connection to @IAGovernor's office. He emulates Kochel's style. 19/
While not claiming to speak directly for @IAGovernor's office, @jlynnmugs waged a spirited defense of Reynolds actions. He cited a document I had quoted from and published in full in my original post, claiming I had misled readers about it. 20/
.@jlynnmugs used name-calling and ridicule, accusing me of lying and absolving @IAGovernor's spokesperson of any responsibility to answer Qs/explain governor's decision.
He wrongly claimed the federal guidance disproved my reporting. There were many more examples. 21/
Tonight @jlynnmugs repeatedly shared news reports about CARES Act funds being used to cover public health workers' salaries in New York state.
Of course I'd never claimed #COVID19 relief funds can't be used for any staff salaries. 22/
Federal guidance said CARES Act funds can be used to cover payroll expenses if those were “necessary expenditures incurred due to” the pandemic AND "not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020." 23/…
Budget for FY2020 included a line item for @IAGovernor's office. I wrote, "No doubt the 21 employees in question spent time dealing with matters related to COVID-19. But all were already on staff and would have been paid for their full-time work with or without a pandemic." 24/
.@jlynnmugs is still trying to discredit me, suggesting (wrongly) that I am "changing my story" and should "publicly apologize."
None of this is really directed at me. This is a message to other #Iowa #media that they shouldn't take my reporting seriously. 25/
.@jlynnmugs is still tweeting out facts about New York state. These all look like actual "necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency."
Can we say the same about work of the governor's chief of staff, public relations manager, comms director? 26/
Federal guidance says, "though the Fund was not intended to be used to cover government payroll expenses generally, the Fund was intended to provide assistance to address increased expenses, such as the expense of hiring new personnel"
@IAGovernor didn't hire new personnel. 27/
Federal guidance talks about redeploying staff to "substantially different" tasks not part of their regular duties. I question whether that applies to all of the 21 @IAGovernor staffers whose salaries were partly covered by CARES Act funds (again, w/no public disclosure). 28/
Getting back to point of this thread: @IAGovernor's office is silent while an outside ally misrepresents my writing and calls me a liar. I don't know why a sock puppet is doing this instead of @ddkochel, but I stand by my reporting, just like Foxhoven stood by his story. 29/29

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