Keeping Democrats Accountable

Posted: Apr 29, 2007 12:00 AM

Longtime congressional staffers Michael Brady and Michael Giuliani are fed up with reporters who cover Congress. Frustrated by their failure to investigate stories and tired of the liberal bias, Brady and Giuliani have vowed to make it right -- by becoming investigative journalists themselves.

The pair doesn’t have the resources -- not to mention the money -- of traditional Capitol Hill correspondents. But their desire to tell the untold truth about members of Congress fuels their new enterprise.

And something else drives Brady and Giuliani: a desire to see Democrats deal with the same scrutiny that faced Republicans in 2006.

Their week-old Web site, Majority Accountability Project, combines journalism and political activism -- a mixture that’s put many liberal blogs on the map. Brady and Giuliani said they saw a void in the center-right blogosphere. Many conservative bloggers consider themselves pundits, but shun the term “journalist” and don’t regard themselves as activists.

The Majority Accountability Project tries to emulate liberals’ success in using Internet messaging techniques to punish wrongdoing by their political opponents. Liberal Web sites have long aired damaging information about Republican office-holders. Eventually, the mainstream media picks up this information and uses it to bolster stories about GOP corruption. In 2006, this process so tarnished the Republican brand, it led to a GOP slaughter on Election Day.

“Last year,” Brady said, “dozens of organizations, blogs and Internet-based groups were engaged in comprehensive research on the Republican House majority -- poring over legislation, travel vouchers, FEC statements, and financial disclosures -- disseminating that information and, quite often, driving a great deal of the mainstream media coverage.”

Brady and Giuliani’s project will serve not only as an investigative channel for scoops on House Democrats, but also as a starting point for political activists in congressional districts across America. The Republican Party apparatus failed to engage many of those activists in 2006, leading to a huge disparity in online fundraising and a pathetically weak pushback on messaging.

With years of experience on Capitol Hill and the know-how to run a campaign, Brady and Giuliani are confident they can reverse this trend. Their credentials appear to justify the confidence. Both have served as chiefs of staff to members of Congress and have served stints at the GOP’s House and Senate campaign committees.

After only a week’s worth of work, Brady and Giuliani have already produced several solid stories that Washington’s established reporters never had interest in pursuing. For example, the Majority Accountability Projects has unearthed the scoop about soon-to-be ex-Rep. Marty Meehan’s exorbitant salary at the University of Massachusetts, freshmen Democrats’ embrace of an embattled lobbyist, Democrats’ financial support for defeated candidate Christine Jennings, and the National Democratic Club’s exception to D.C.’s smoking ban.

Their goal in breaking these stories isn’t just to generate bad publicity for congressional Democrats. Brady and Giuliani hope Capitol Hill reporters will begin to pay attention, leading to more stories. They also hope that state and local bloggers will circulate the information back home in their districts.

Congressional sources developed over their careers on Capitol Hill supply some of their scoops. And Brady and Giuliani also know where to look for information -- including some places that young reporters might not know exist.

But to keep their Web site humming with a steady supply of information, the duo realize they must have access to the same information available to the Capitol Hill press corp. Thus, Brady and Giuliani intend to apply for congressional press credentials -- a notoriously difficult process for anyone who falls outside the traditional definition of a reporter.

Yes, the Majority Accountability Project is a for-profit enterprise that will accept advertising -- prerequisites for securing credentials. But the duo’s part journalist/part activist function will certainly test the system. If victorious, they will likely clear a path for scores more citizen journalists.

While the Majority Accountability Project is only in its infancy, the Web site holds great potential as a pioneer in the online world. While most liberals will probably hate it, and some conservatives will complain about its support for Republicans, its model is one that others could emulate. As long as Brady and Giuliani stick to the facts and report the truth, they’ll be blazing a trail for news hounds on the Internet.