South Dakota Paper Probes Senator's Link to Jeff Gannon

By: E&P Staff When the national media bothers to cover the James Guckert case at all, it generally ocuses on the reporter/escort?s access to White House briefings for two years, operating under an alias (Jeff Gannon) and on behalf of a clearly partisan organization (GOPUSA). But there are local spinoffs as well.

Today, the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal examined the Guckert/Gannon links to the 2004 U.S. Senate contest in that state, which sent the Democratic leader, Sen. Tom Daschle, packing. The newspaper?s probe followed reports in E&P and elsewhere about Gannon?s apparent links to political operatives and bloggers in the state who are credited with helping to elect John Thune to the post.

According to the paper, Thune said last week that he barely knew Gannon. He said he appeared on Gannon's radio show once early in the campaign and later may have done another interview for a print piece. But Thune said ?his campaign didn't pay Gannon for his reporting services and didn't coordinate its campaign strategy with him, as some critics have implied.?

He did, however, see the value of working with a journalist with a sharp conservative philosophy, Thune admitted: "As far as we knew, he was just another reporter at a conservative news organization. We talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of news sources through the course of the campaign. We figured if he was reaching a conservative audience, it was going to be helpful for us."

But Steve Hildebrand, who was Daschle's 2004 campaign manager, said Friday that Gannon was ?more manipulator than reporter in the campaign.? With money from wealthy Republican sources, Gannon generated one-sided news stories, fed to the bloggers, aimed at scuttling Daschle rather than covering news, Hildebrand said.

"I believe that Jeff Gannon played a role in trying to destroy Tom Daschle," Hildebrand said. "He's proud of his effort to defeat Tom Daschle?If this would have been a liberal reporter who was caught as a gay prostitute advertising himself for sex, John Thune?.and the far right would have been attacking him vociferously.?

Thune paid two local bloggers a total of $35,000 to be ?research? consultants.

"The blogs were a dynamic in the race that didn't exist two years ago," Thune told the Journal. "And there's a lot of frustration among the liberals who now have started their own blogs, that this is a medium they didn't use effectively in the race."


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