WaPo Complicit in Corruption of DC Council’s Corporate ‘Concierge’

WaPo Complicit in Corruption of DC Council’s Corporate ‘Concierge’

Published at FAIR.org

When the FBI came knocking on DC Councilmember Jack Evans’ door in June, it set off an earthquake in local politics and business.

Over his 28 years on the DC Council, Evans has served as “concierge” for the elite, steering gobs of public money to stadiums, arenas and luxury condos. Along the way, it wasn’t just developers and banks that profited; so did Evans.

Evidence of Evans’ corruption abounded for many years, just not in the pages of the influential Washington Post, which has long protected the councilmember. But with a growing federal investigation of Evans, the Post finally ended its silence; over the past months, the paper has consistently reported on Evans’ misconduct. Since then, Evans—until recently DC’s third-most powerful official—has been reprimanded, fined and stripped of his committee chair positions.

The Post frequently credits its own reporting for the quickening pace of events, which is fair, and underscores the paper’s complicity in keeping Evans in office all these years. Once the Post ended its silence, Evans’ career began to unravel.

But first it had to begin.

 

Mr. Evans Goes to Washington

Jack Evans grew up in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, where his mom was a teacher and his dad a florist. After attending college and law school in his home state, Evans took a job at the Securities and Exchange Commission in DC in 1978.

The DC that Evans arrived in was 70 percent black and known as “Chocolate City.” (Today the city is less than half black.) Evans quickly enmeshed himself in local Democratic politics, even though it was an imperfect fit; a party leader said she “roared with laughter because he was so white. Like a Norwegian.”

But by the time the Ward 2 Council seat opened in 1991, Evans had established himself as an elected advisory neighborhood commissioner in Dupont Circle, and was looking to move up.

“We’re not going to accept money from large-scale developers who have dominated the political scene,” a 37-year-old Evans said as he campaigned for the seat he would barely win, but easily hold onto for the next 28 years.

Once on the Council, it wasn’t long before Evans was singing a different tune. “He started out as a resident [activist],” an Evans constituent told the Post in 1998 (8/26/98). “But he’s no longer that. He’s out in the big leagues, [playing] to the big interests that contribute the big money.”

Fueled by mayoral ambitions, Evans went after that big money. But no war chest was big enough to hide the fact that Evans was a white guy advocating for the rich, and his mayoral bids in 1998 and 2014 were flops.

While the top job in a progressive black city was out of his reach, Evans remained secure in his Council seat, representing Downtown and wealthy Georgetown. So secure that he could focus on earning money on the side.

 

First Hustle: Baker Hostetler

Even before his first mayoral run, Evans had turned himself into a walking conflict of interest by taking a second job at the lobbying firm Baker Hostetler, which paid him $50,000 a year for at least six years.

Despite earning full-time salaries (now $140,000 a year), DC councilmembers can hold outside employment. While the Post blessed this practice for pols like Evans with “discrete clients,” this moonlighting still raised ethical concerns. Evans acknowledged this himself:

Whenever rules allow public officials to earn outside income there will always be questions.… When legal or consulting services are provided, that is even more the case.

After his first failed mayoral bid, Evans grew his outside income—and his involvement in conflicted dealmaking.

 

Second Hustle: Central Benefits

In 1999, Evans became a vice president at Central Benefits Mutual Insurance Co., which was planning a rapid expansion and looking to raise capital by converting to a stock company. But state law in Ohio, where Central Benefits was based, made this conversion difficult. So the company, which was a client of Baker Hostetler, looked to incorporate in DC, where a 1996 law—which Evans supported—aided such conversions. After domiciling in DC, Central Benefits hired Evans, paying him around $500,000 over the course of a decade, even though his duties were “really not much,” Evans said.

The Post appears to have reported on this potential conflict of interest only once (11/21/11).

 

Third Hustle: Patton Boggs

In 2001, Evans joined the lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs, which paid him a second salary of $190,000 a year for nearly 14 years, for an estimated total of around $2.5 million. The firm was a good fit for Evans, as it wasn’t known for ethical purity.

When a magazine called the firm’s longtime leader Tommy Boggs “an icon of Washington’s mercenary culture,” Boggs (who passed away in 2014) proudly displayed the article in his office. “We pick our clients”—who included former Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier—“by taking the first one who comes in the door,” said Boggs (Economist, 2/27/93).

Boggs’ father, Hale Boggs, was a Democratic congressman from Louisiana who rose to House majority leader before dying in a 1972 plane crash. His widow, Lindy Boggs, then served nine terms in her late husband’s seat. (Hale and Lindy’s daughter, Cokie Roberts, has for decades been a top political commentator for NPR and ABC News.)

Their son’s firm, which boasted of being the best at “anything where government is involved,” thrived on access. Under Tommy Boggs, the firm became a pioneer at exploiting the “revolving door” by hiring ex-officials to influence their former colleagues.

The hiring of Evans offered a new twist, as Patton Boggs placed on its payroll a sitting legislator; one who is “up on the government, the players and how deals get cut,” as the Post (2/28/14) would later write. Unsurprisingly, ethics questions arose.

In 2004, Evans voted to award a tax break to CareFirst without disclosing that the healthcare company was a client of his firm’s. Evans was listed as having personally lobbied Congress on CareFirst’s behalf, which Patton Boggs chalked up to “a simple mistake” in their filing, former Washington Times journalist Jim McElhatton (10/23/07) reported.

The Post never followed up on the story, but what if it had? “You do have to wonder,” said McElhatton, “what if the Post had gotten on the story a decade ago, would Jack have even thought of” engaging in further conflicted dealmaking down the road? “I don’t think so.”

In 2007, Evans sought to give away a library and firehouse in his ward to developer buddy Anthony Lanier. In exchange for developing these highly valuable Downtown parcels, Lanier’s EastBanc agreed to construct a new library and firehouse, and to build housing on top of them (market rate above the quiet library, affordable units and a squash club above the noisy fire department).

But public anger forced the Council to undo the sole-source deal, and it would take a full decade before Evans saw the project to completion. “If you’re persistent, you’ll either out-wait or out-live everybody and get the project done,” Evans said at the 2014 groundbreaking. Between 2016 and 2018, Lanier’s companies, EastBanc and Squash on Fire, paid Evans’ personal consulting firm $100,000. It’s unknown what services Evans provided in exchange for these payments.

In 2009, Evans shepherded to completion a deal involving $272 million in public funding to assist Marriott in building a nearly 1,200-room hotel alongside the DC Convention Center. A major financing partner in the deal, investment giant ING, was a client of Patton Boggs at the time, yet Evans said “there was no conflict of interest.” Since ING’s agreement was with the developer, Evans claimed it “had nothing to do with the city.” But thanks to Evans, the city provided over a quarter billion in public goodies, benefiting all parties in the deal, including ING. The Post wrote about this only once, in a story that appeared online but never in print.

In 2010, Evans offered $25 million in public subsidies to Northrop Grumman if the defense contractor moved to DC. Evans then went farther, fanning the flames of a jurisdictional bidding war by saying, “Whatever someone else puts down, we’re going to match it and we’re going to beat it.” Evans didn’t disclose that Northrop Grumman was a client of the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, which was in a “strategic alliance” with Patton Boggs and would soon be bought by the firm. Ultimately, Northrop Grumman ended up in northern Virginia, likely with a sweeter incentive package thanks to Evans. The Post, which has praised Evans for his work “both on the dais and behind the scenes,” hasn’t reported on this conflict of interest.

Also in 2010, Evans championed a sole-source disposition of seven acres of air rights over Downtown’s exposed I-395 underpass, to Property Group Partners and its named partners. The 2.2 million square foot, $1.3 billion development is still underway today. One of the partners in the project is the Jarvis Company, headed by Bill Jarvis, a lobbyist who was campaign chair for Evans’ 1998 mayoral bid. Jarvis, the nephew of former DC councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis, has lobbied Evans in the past, and most recently was involved in a controversial $215 million sports gambling contract that Evans introduced and voted for in July. In 2016, Jarvis helped Evans set up his private consulting firm, serving as its registered agent and more.

In 2011, at EagleBank’s request, Evans sought to shift DC money out of big banks and into three regional banks, including EagleBank, where Patton Boggs partner Doug Boggs, son of Tommy Boggs, was on the board. “I had no idea he was on the board,” claimed Evans, who would go on to be paid $100,000 a year in 2016 and 2017 by EagleBank, which also provided Evans with mortgage loans on his Florida house.

Throughout his years at Patton Boggs, the Post kept Evans’ conflicted dealmaking mostly out of the paper. When it couldn’t, the coverage was fleeting, not sustained. During these years, the paper repeatedly endorsed Evans’ re-election to the Council, writing that “voters would be making a big mistake in not returning Mr. Evans to office” (9/3/08), since he was “an important leader on some of the thorniest issues facing the District” (10/23/08). Despite the fact that Evans had no opponent in the 2012 Democratic primary, the Post (3/17/12) endorsed him anyway, declaring:

His experience, more than two decades on the council, and sound judgment, particularly on fiscal matters, are needed on an increasingly dysfunctional council.

In January 2015, shortly after Patton Boggs was bought (becoming Squire Patton Boggs), the firm parted ways with Evans. This would prove to be a turning point for the councilmember.

 

In the Red

Even before losing his $190,000 second salary, Evans’ financial situation was precarious. In addition to having college-age triplets, Evans had a second home in Florida, and appears to have been spending $15,000 a year on club memberships alone. He was also in the process of divorcing his second wife, to whom he owed $850,000. (Evans’ first wife died of cancer in 2003.)

The $850,000 debt was from a 2011 loan from Evans’ wife to remodel their Georgetown home, which Evans owned. Their loan agreement gave her the first lien on Evans’ home, and prohibited him from taking out further loans against the house without first paying her back. Despite being required by law to disclose this to lenders, Evans appears not to have done sowhen securing additional loans against his home in 2012 and 2013.

Over 20-plus years, Evans leveraged his Georgetown home to secure “more than $6 million in various types of loans…most of which he has paid off along the way,” reported District Dig (5/8/19), an investigative website that has led the way in exposing Evans’ corruption. “What surfaces is a portrait of a man who has overseen the city’s finances for years, while losing a grip on his own.”

 

Fourth Hustle: Manatt

Evans’ financial desperation appears to have led to recklessness. In October 2015, Evans created an ethical landmine for himself by taking a $60,000-a-year job at Manatt Phelps, a “firm that is home to top lobbyists who regularly sweat city officials,” noted City Paper (5/19/18).

Two weeks after joining Manatt, Evans was the first signatory on a Council letter calling on the DC Public Service Commission to approve nuclear giant Exelon’s $6.8 billion takeover of DC utility provider Pepco. Unbeknownst to commissioners—who had rejected the deal in August 2015, but would reverse course and approve it in March 2016 after receiving the Council letter—both Exelon and Pepco were clients of Manatt.

(I wrote about this conflict of interest three years ago at HuffPost. The Washington Post finally reported on it in March 2019, only days before federal authorities subpoenaed documents involving the deal.)

Before that, in June 2015, while he was in employment negotiations with Manatt, Evans cast the deciding vote to kill a study on the feasibility of a city-owned utility replacing Pepco, which Manatt furiously lobbied against.

And before that, in his January 2015 employment pitch to Manatt, sent from his chief of staff’s official email address, Evans listed Exelon as one of the “potential clients” he could bring to the firm. Within the year, Evans would join Manatt’s DC office, now led by a new managing partner: Doug Boggs.

After two years at Manatt, Evans quietly left the firm, with questions of conflicted dealmaking swirling around him. A Washington Business Journal headline (12/5/17) from this period read: “Council Member Pitches $2M Tax Break for Dupont Circle Hotel. And He Won’t Say Why.”

 

Final Hustle: A Firm of His Own

Next, Evans took his reckless dealmaking to another level.

Before leaving Manatt, Evans set up NSE Consulting, his own firm registered to his home address. In 2016, the year it was created, NSE started taking money directly from clients.

No longer shielded by a big firm, Evans was exposed as never before. But he seems to have focused only on the money, which was coming in faster now that he’d cut out the middleman.

Both 2016 and 2017 were banner years for Evans, who saw his annual outside income roar back to around $275,000. This resurgence—which helped push Evans’ total outside earnings while on the Council to around $4 million—came at great risk.

The same companies cutting five- and six-figure checks to Evans’ personal firm often had business before the Council or Metro—where Evans was chair until June, when the other shoe dropped.

 

Metro Investigates

Although hampered by a lack of cooperation (the DC Council’s general counsel refused to provide all requested documents), and limited just to Evans’ conduct as a Metro board member, a six-week investigation by Metro offers a glimpse into how Evans wove his web of conflicted interests. (“Metro” is the common name for WMATA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.)

One of those interests was Colonial Parking, which was paying Evans’ NSE Consulting $50,000 a year. In 2016 Colonial was eyeing a “potentially quite lucrative” contract to handle all of Metro’s parking, which generated almost $50 million in 2015 revenue, according to the Metro investigation. Standing in the way of the potential 50-year contract was the incumbent vendor, Laz Parking. So Colonial Parking turned to its secret weapon, the Metro chair it was quietly paying.

Using information fed to him by his friend Rusty Lindner, CEO of Colonial Parking’s parent company, Evans urged Metro’s inspector general to initiate three investigations of Laz for fraud and corruption. This was part “of a pattern of conduct by Evans designed to oust Laz as WMATA’s parking vendor” and benefit Colonial, the investigation found.

Colonial denies wrongdoing, as does Evans, who kept a straight face when telling his Council colleagues, “This was the kind of normal service I did and would do for anyone.”

The Post editorial page, meanwhile, lied to protect Evans. Regarding Colonial, the Post (6/20/19) wrote, “Mr. Evans’ client wasn’t doing business or seeking to do business with Metro.” But Metro’s summary of its investigation’s findings—released three days earlier, and reported on in the Post’s own news pages (6/17/19)—plainly stated the opposite:

By repeatedly and proactively taking action that would benefit Colonial and Lindner, at or during the same time that Mr. Evans was being paid $50,000 per year, Mr. Evans improperly used his position at WMATA for his own personal financial gain and/or for the private financial gain of his close friend Linder and Colonial.

In addition to Colonial, the Metro investigation flagged Evans’ undisclosed contracts with Digi Media, which is a sordid tale, as well as EagleBank, which was paying Evans $100,000 a year at the same time Metro was increasing its deposits at the bank from $4 million to around $24 million. (This echoes Evans’ 2011 push to shift taxpayer money into EagleBank, which was also his personal lender.)

Metro’s investigation was conducted by the law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel on behalf of Metro’s ethics committee. The resulting 20-page report was meant for internal purposes only, but the Post published it on June 20. Then all hell broke loose.

Within hours Evans announced his resignation from Metro’s board, where he’d served for the past 4½ years,  the last 3½ years as chair. Evans had already quietly agreed not to run for another term as Metro chair in exchange for the ethics committee closing its investigation of him—an arrangement he lied about. And in an effort to conceal the ethics committee’s finding of wrongdoing, Evans even threatened the jobs of Metro staffers.

The morning after the Post published the Metro report, FBI agents raided Evans’ home. Later that day, Councilmember Mary Cheh said in response to the Metro report, “This is straight-up corruption. I don’t know how else to view it.” Evans’ longtime ally, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson, announced that the Council would launch its own investigation.

 

Not ‘Super Broad’

The DC Council investigation, which is being conducted over the summer by the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, won’t be “super broad,” Mendelson explained at a June press conference.

The Council investigation will only review Evans’ conduct going back to January 1, 2014. If Mendelson was picking a date that gives him cover without exposing Evans to further scrutiny, this would be it.

Evans’ post–January 2014 misconduct is already the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, as well as the Metro report. If the Council never lifts a finger, this period will be investigated.

Meanwhile, Evans’ pre-2014 corruption continues to go unexamined, and Mendelson seems to want to keep it that way.

Mendelson is curtailing the investigation of his ally, but the public deserves to know who plied Evans with money, and whose bidding the councilman has been doing. As the Post wrote in a searing editorial, “Those who grease the palms of public officials have as much to answer for as the greasy-palmed officials themselves.”

Of course, the editorial wasn’t about Evans, but a black mayor 40 miles up the road in Baltimore. With Evans and his patrons—who carried out their corruption in the Post’s own backyard—the Post looked away, even as evidence of corruption abounded.

 

Mr. Gentrification

Until the Council stripped him of his role as chair in July, Jack Evans sat atop DC’s powerful finance and revenue committee for two decades, during which time DC pushed out more of its low-income residents than any major US city.

As finance chair, Evans could have used the powerful tools at his disposal to put the brakes on gentrification. Instead, he pushed cuts to social programs, while freeing up billions in tax dollars for luxury hotels, sports arenas, stadiums and the like.

“He was at the forefront of driving [these mega deals] to completion, often at the dismay of some sections of the city that did not want to see that kind of economic development,” said former DC Chamber of Commerce head Barbara Lang, who praised Evans for being the business community’s “lone champion” on the Council.

If Evans had been a true believer, willing to spread the gentrification gospel on a government salary alone, he could have gone on indefinitely, with the Post (9/3/08) praising how DC has “flourished under Mr. Evans’ able leadership.” But Evans was not content to serve the rich; he wanted to join their club, so he sold them his public office.

This wasn’t hard to see, except in the pages of the Post, which has been pushing African Americans out of DC for far longer than Evans.

 

The Federal City Council

In 1973, Congress granted DC the right to elect its mayor and Council and govern itself. This “may have been the last major victory of the civil rights movement,” Michael Fauntroy wrote in Home Rule or House Rule?. This increased democratization—called “home rule”—had the overwhelming support of DC’s black majority, but it set some whites on edge.

Testifying on behalf of a citizens group in nearly all-white upper Northwest DC, resident Alfred Trask told Congress in 1973:

We just don’t want to be governed by the majority in the District of Columbia. That’s about the size of it…. Full self-government for Washington would be tantamount to turning the town over to welfare recipients.

Also vigorously opposing home rule was the Federal City Council, a shadow government made up of DC’s white business elites. The group, which advanced its interests by working behind the scenes with the mostly white Congress, “had a vested interest in maintaining the political and governmental status quo in the District,” wrote Fauntroy. (To this day, DC doesn’t have full congressional representation.)

Post publisher Phil Graham first brought the Federal City Council together in 1954 to push for the “urban renewal” of Southwest DC, a poor, black area just blocks from the shiny Capitol. This led to Southwest being “obliterated” and its 23,000 residents “dumped unceremoniously across the Anacostia river,” the Economist (4/16/88) noted. Touring Southwest in 1959, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt asked, “What has happened to the people who once lived here?”

Many years later, at a celebration of the Federal City Council’s 50th anniversary, the group’s 2004 chair Terry Golden admitted, “This was basically a white man’s business organization.” Its membership reflected that: In 1975, for example, the group had two women, nine African Americans and 137 white men.

Today, the Federal City Council is less powerful and more diverse, but continues pushing for gentrification, albeit more subtly. And the Grahams are still involved: Phil’s son Don, who succeeded his mother Katharine Graham as Post publisher, is a trustee of the Federal City Council, and Don’s son-in-law, Tim O’Shaughnessy, is on the executive committee, along with top lobbyists, developers and businessmen, like Rusty Lindner.

(The Grahams sold the Post in 2013 to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million, but the paper still reflects its former owners. The biggest change under Bezos may be the financial stability he provides as the richest man alive, which has allowed the Post to add reporters.)

Even after DC’s first modern election for mayor and Council in 1974, the Federal City Council still “sometimes carried more clout on Capitol Hill than the District’s political leadership,” according to the Post (6/28/04). But as the elected Council found its footing, DC residents gained a greater say in public decision-making (except for the years 1995 to 2001, when Congress imposed a Control Board over DC’s elected officials).

This democratization made it increasingly difficult for the Federal City Council to push through its pet projects, which relied on public funding but often lacked public support, despite the Post’s efforts to rally residents to the cause. “The Post has provided consistent editorial support for the FCC’s projects, particularly its earlier ones,” the paper (8/28/94) stated in 1994.

When Jack Evans was elected to the DC Council in 1991—representing Downtown, the part of the city the Federal City Council cares about most—the group must have seen dollar signs dancing before its eyes; all the more so in 1999, when Evans became finance committee chair.

Evans pushed for public subsidies for the Convention Center, MCI Center (now Capital One Arena) and Nationals Park, among other projects. “But for me, this wouldn’t have gotten done,” is a favorite saying of Evans, who also joined the Federal City Council in supporting Exelon’s takeover of Pepco, and trying to lure Washington’s pro football team back to DC from suburban Maryland. (Evans privately called the latter “a done deal,” but it doesn’t look that way now that he’s in hot water.)

 

The Post vs. Black Voters 

The Post recently described Evans as “a kind of concierge for Washington’s business community.” What the Post didn’t mention was that in exchange for Evans’ service to the elite, the paper turned a blind eye to his corruption.

The Post did this even as it routinely attacked African-American officials over comparatively trivial transgressions.

Unlike Evans, these officials were supported by (and responsive to) DC’s black voters, who have long been in the way of gentrification due to their comparative lack of resources. The obscene US racial wealth gap almost looks benign compared to DC, where black families have 81 times less wealth than white families.

The Post’s response to this inequity has been to protect Evans, the councilman who worsens it, while attacking the black officials who address it. The Post targets these officials, and sometimes even runs them out of office, effectively nullifying election results the paper doesn’t like. Here are some examples.

In 2010, Marion Barry, the former DC mayor and then-councilmember, was stripped of his position as committee chair, as Evans would be nearly a decade later. But with Barry—whose politics stemmed from his civil rights work, even if he was hobbled by personal troubles—the Post led the charge. The discovery that Barry’s office paid his girlfriend $15,000 as a consultant was treated by the Post as the Second Coming of Watergate, only more lurid. Evans’ offenses make this look trite, yet it was Barry who the Post (2/25/10) called unfit for office.

(Washington City Paper—7/10/09—took things to another level, publishing a front-page photo of Barry and his girlfriend, along with a quote from her: “You Put Me Out in Denver ‘Cause I Wouldn’t Suck Your Dick.” City Paper proudly billed this as a “Collector’s Edition.” Many were appalled, but not the Post, which hired both the reporter who wrote the story, Mike DeBonis, and City Paper’s unapologetic editor, Erik Wemple.)

In 2012, Kwame Brown, who had strong black support, was forced out as Council chair despite not misusing his public office. He’s likely “wondering what looks good in orange,” the Post (6/7/12) excitedly wrote the day after Brown was charged with personal bank fraud and resigned.

Others were less ecstatic. “As a longtime police reporter, whenever I see the bank fraud charge leading the way for a federal investigation, what I know almost to a certainty is that… [prosecutors] came up empty everywhere else,” said David Simon, creator of the HBO series The Wire.

Brown’s personal bank fraud might pale in comparison to Evans’ personal banking woes, which District Dig exposed but the Post refuses to report on. The Post also hasn’t put Evans’ personal spending, including his second home and pricey club memberships, under the microscope, as it did Brown’s “love affair with expensive cars.”

In 2014, DC Mayor Vincent Gray was on his way to securing a second term when the US Attorney for DC accused but never charged him of wrongdoing. The allegation—which stemmed from an election four years earlier—came a week before early voting. Rather than condemn this electoral interference—as the Postwould do when FBI director James Comey announced he was reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton in the waning days of the 2016 election—the paper celebrated. Splashed atop the Post’s front page the next day (3/11/14) was a headline declaring Gray guilty.

This was the culmination of the Post’s years-long crusade against Gray, who had strong black support. Not only did the Post (3/7/14) demand his indictment (“Charges should be brought now—before DC voters head to the polls,” columnist Colbert King wrote), the paper wrongly predicted he was “almost certainly going to have to resign in disgrace,” and may be headed “to prison,” thereby discouraging Gray’s supporters from voting. Evans also ran for mayor that year, eliciting mostly praise from the Post, which did express concern…over “his reluctance to publicly criticize Gray.”

In 2018, Councilmember Trayon White Sr., who holds the late Marion Barry’s Council seat, made ill-informed comments about “the Rothschilds” controlling the climate. White quickly apologized and met with the progressive group Jews United for Justice, which said it would continue supporting him. But the Post wasn’t satisfied. The following two months the paper published 17 news stories, three columns, three videos and two editorials on White.

As a result of its digging, the Post uncovered a $500 donation White made from his constituent services fund to the Nation of Islam. The Nation does grassroots work in White’s ward, which has high rates of violence and poverty. But the Post focused its firepower on the antisemitic remarks of NoI leader Louis Farrakhan. Meanwhile, Evans has used his constituent services fund to buy over $340,000 in sporting tickets over the years (and a campaign ad in all but name), but this doesn’t receive sustained Post coverage like White’s donation.

 

Democracy Dies in Daylight

As the Post targeted officials with strong black support, the paper protected Evans; and to a certain extent, it still does.

Even as the Post finally covers Evans’ corruption in its news pages, the editorial page continues to shield the councilman, primarily by writing about him infrequently.

When recent Post editorials do mention Evans, they use a sleight of hand. The editorials chastise both Evans and Metro, then quickly direct readers’ anger towards Metro, whose “arrogance is mind-boggling” and whose investigation of Evans amounted to an “incompetent” “clown show”; the latter editorial (6/20/19) also lied about the findings of the Metro report to protect Evans, as discussed above.

(Now that the business community’s favorite councilmember is no longer on the Metro board, the Post is calling on the DC Council to appoint someone not elected by voters — 8/19/19.)

In earlier editorials, the Post defended Evans by using another sleight of hand. These editorials said that while Evans “owes DC residents some answers,” it’s only to a narrow set of questions. And these are accompanied by reminders, like how Evans has “done a lot of good” and made “many contributions.”

The scale of the Jack Evans’ scandal is unlike anything the city has ever seen, and may only be the tip of the iceberg. For the rest of Evans’s extraordinary corruption to see the light of day—and the Post and Chairman Mendelson are just fine if it doesn’t—the Council will have to investigate beyond the past five years.

The Post’s over-the-top slogan informs readers that “Democracy dies in darkness.” But the paper’s treatment of Evans demonstrates that democracy can also be killed in broad daylight.

Photo credit: David | Flickr

A Reckoning is Coming for Jack Evans, But What About the Washington Post?

A Reckoning is Coming for Jack Evans, But What About the Washington Post?