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Obama and Clinton fundraiser, Julian Castro patron indicted on fraud charges

By: Timothy P. Carney

Multimillion-dollar Democratic donor and Clinton and Obama fundraiser Mikal Watts was indicted on fraud charges this week. Federal prosecutors say his class-action suit against BP after the oil spill was built in part on phony clients.

Watts’ attorney said the charges “are related to allegations that Watts committed fraud or forgery when he claimed to represent 44,000 clients in litigation against BP PLC,” as the Associated Press puts it.

Watts, according to FEC records, has given $2.3 million to Democratic causes and candidates over the years, including nearly $90,000 to Barack Obama. He also bundled at least $500,000 for Obama and hosted multiple fundraisers in his San Antonio mansion for Obama.

Watts has visited the Obama White House three times, according to visitor logs.

Obama, since 2010, has fought to change the law that limits some of BP’s liability — a policy change that would directly profit plaintiffs’ lawyers suing BP.

*Watts also raised more than $100,000 for the “Ready for Hillary” SuperPAC according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Watts was also the primary patron for Democratic rising star Julian Castro, having made possible Castro’s first mayoral run in San Antonio by paying the budding politician a “referral fee” of at least 1 million dollars, as my colleague Byron York wrote in a piece on Castro last year.

The Washington Post’s only story on Watts’ indictment is an AP story, running under the headline “Defense Attorney: Texas Lawyer Indicted Over Oil Spill Fraud.” The words “Obama,” “Democrat,” “Castro” and “fundraiser” never appear in the piece.

The Post’s 2013 story on BP’s accusations against Watts also omitted his prominent role in the Democratic world.

The New York Times’ headline: “Indictment Ties Lawyer to Fraud on BP Spill.” The first paragraph describes him only as “a prominent Texas lawyer.” In the final paragraph, the Times notes, “In addition to his reputation as an intimidating plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr. Watts is a high-profile fund-raiser for Democrats at the local, state and national levels. In July 2012, he hosted a $35,800-a-plate event for President Obama inside a gymnasium on the grounds of his home.”

When the Times first reported on Watts’ potential sketchiness in 2011, they totally omitted that he was a prominent Democratic donor and fundraiser.

Timothy Durham was a Republican fundraiser and donor who had given about $800,000 to Republicans. In 2011, federal prosecutors indicted him “on suspicion of operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $200 million,” as the Washington Post put it.

“A Republican Fund-Raiser is Indicted in a Ponzi Scheme,” blared The New York Times headline.

The lead: “A prominent Republican fund-raiser was charged Wednesday …” The second paragraph began, “The fund-raiser, Timothy Durham, 48, was arrested early in the morning …” Later in the piece, “Mr. Durham donated more than $800,000 to the Republican Party and candidates in Indiana, including almost $200,000 to Gov. Mitch Daniels.”

The Post item mentioning Durham’s indictment described Durham as “a GOP donor and former chief executive of National Lampoon …”

So a Democratic donor directly tied to the president and the single biggest Democratic “rising star” gets his political activity mostly ignored, while a Republican donor who gave half as much gets his politics in the headlines.

Trial lawyers were the top industry giving to House and Senate candidates in the 2014 election, so this story also exemplifies the trends in campaign finance.

As I’ve written many times before, big money gets a lot more media scrutiny on one side of the aisle than it does on the other.

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