Mail this story to a friend.          
Release: Manhattan Democratic Committee attacks Albany Times Union coverage of Keith Wright, lobbyist who doubles as party chair. Dems criticize paper for having white editors.
July 26, 2019

Kyle Ishmael

While it is not surprising that the Times Union—and Mr. Chris Bragg in particular—would devote disruptive energy and attention towards attacking County Leader Keith L.T. Wright, it is surprising they would do so through a so-called “good government” organization while spreading misinformation and outright inaccuracies.

Despite the Times Union’s flawed reporting and editorializing, the following facts cannot be disputed. Mr. Wright:

1. Is in full compliance with the business restrictions placed upon party leaders;
2. Ushered in a slate of reforms within the New York County Democratic Party this year; and,
3. Did not lobby Albany lawmakers.

In short, Mr. Wright did nothing wrong.

Additionally, had Mr. Bragg done any fact-checking on Reinvent Albany, the “good government” organization both he and the Times Union rely on exclusively for the gravamen of their claim against Mr. Wright that there is somehow now a "conflict of interest," Mr. Bragg would have realized that Reinvent Albany has problems of its own and may have its own agenda against Mr. Wright.

Reinvent Albany claims its “mission” is to “advocate for transparent and accountable” government and “increased transparency.” But Reinvent Albany is anything but transparent or accountable. The finances of Reinvent Albany—something made readily available by those considered “good government” organizations—remain largely secret and out of the reach of the public. By their own admission, Reinvent Government refuses to divulge 33% of their donors who contributed up to $50,000 to their organization simply because those donors “prefer to remain anonymous.” Without knowing who is funding the organization, it is impossible to determine what agenda Reinvent Albany or its donors might truly have and whether it might affect their views of Mr. Wright.

Further, until recently, despite encouraging the public to examine its IRS reports and NYS Charitable organization disclosures on its website, the links did not go to the reports or to the disclosures; they went nowhere. To this day, Reinvent Albany's audited financial statements are not available for public review from the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Hardly the model for transparency or accountability for any non-profit, let alone one that holds itself out as an expert on the conduct of anyone else.

The irony is not lost on New York County that Mr. Bragg and the Times Union can turn a blind eye at the numerous problems and transparency issues that roil Reinvent Albany that could pose its own conflicts of interest while claiming conflicts of interest by Mr. Wright.

With respect to Mr. Wright’s influence in politics, as a former elected official and current leader of the Manhattan Democratic Party, his knowledge and experience is of course a benefit to the Democratic Party officials with whom he has the pleasure of serving. This influence, however, is not in the manner described by Bragg and the Times Union. Neither Mr. Bragg nor the Times Union did their homework here. Mr. Wright did not—as both Bragg and the TU contend—play a “crucial role” in the 2017 City Council speaker race. Lazy journalism, especially from a newspaper not from New York City, could lead to such an erroneous assumption. But, even a few phone calls to those involved in that race would have given Bragg a much clearer picture of Mr. Wright’s role in that race than the wrong one posited by Bragg in his article. That is but one of several examples of the distortions and inaccuracies contained within both the article and the TU editorial.

Finally, as for the offensive and cheap shot by the TU pathetically attempting to link Donald Manes—who died 33 years ago—to Mr. Wright’s colleague today; one wonders what, if anything, that has to do with Mr. Wright at all, except to tar Wright with a brush scented with corruption. That would be akin to criticizing the Times Union as intolerant because of discrimination lawsuits leveled against its parent company, Hearst Communications; or because of the Times Union’s utter lack of racial diversity at any level within its decision-making apparatus. Such cheap shots should be above us all as public servants of any kind.