Former future Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez dropped his lawsuits against MLB last week and accepted his 162 game suspension for doping with performance enhancing drugs.
The suspension will cost A-Rod $25 million and very likely his induction to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
No one from the Red Sox Nation, not even a fan, has called for the Yankees to be banned from playoff contention in 2014 due to A-Rod’s transgressions. No sports writer has suggested Derek Jeter is dirty because A-Rod cheated or called for asterisks to be placed next to Mariano Rivera’s records.
Too often in politics when a member of one team is accused or convicted or wrongdoing, the rivals attempt to paint the entire team as dirty. Too often journalists hungry for content cooperate with the slander.
Thus is the case in Monmouth County were former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas, a Republican, was indicted last week on charges of wire fraud, identity theft, bank fraud and providing false statements to the IRS and FBI. A private equity manager, Lucas is accused of deploying a complex and fraudulent scheme to come up with the funds to purchase a farm in Manalapan which he then immediately tried to sell the development rights on to New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program. The Farmland Preservation Program is funded by the state, county and municipal governments.
Unfortunately for Lucas, political opposition from both Democrats and Republicans, to an elected official benefiting from the Farmland Preservation Program (Lucas gets to keep the farm and made about a $400 thousand profit, on paper, by selling the development rights for preservation) delayed the farmland preservation transaction for about 3 years. Eventually the all Republican governing bodies of Monmouth County and Manalapan approved the funding of the farmland preservation deal, in divided votes. The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted to fund the transaction in a 3-2 vote. The Manalapan Township Committee voted in favor of the transaction 2-1 with two abstentions, including Lucas.
For four elections, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, Democrats in Monmouth County and Manalapan and The Asbury Park Press made an issue of the Lucas farmland preservation deal. They claimed it was cronyism and that conflicts of interest existed. In 2013, a Democratic freeholder candidate sued to invalidate the farmland preservation sale, alleging a conflict of interest on the part of one of the freeholders who voted for the transaction. All of these efforts failed as Republicans, including Lucas in 2010, were elected in every contest where the Democrats and The Asbury Park Press raised the issue. A New Jersey Superior Court Judge summarily dismissed the freeholder candidate’s lawsuit with prejudice.
Now that Lucas has been indicted, the Monmouth County Democrats are at it again, alleging “Republican corruption.” At least three prominent news outlets have reported those allegations as if they are newsworthy or relevant to the indictment. All of the charges against Lucas are related to his alleged actions in the private purchase of the property. There have been no charges against Lucas or anyone else concerning the sale of the farm’s development rights for farmland preservation. There is no “Republican corruption” alleged by anyone other than the Democratic chairman of Monmouth County.
The allegations against Andrew Lucas have nothing to do with anyone else, Republican, Democrat or Independent. Not any more than A-Rod’s transgressions reflect on Derek Jeter or that Richard Sherman’s outburst following the NFC championship game reflect on other members of the Seattle Seahawks.
Political grand standing is not news. Yet, hungry for content and web traffic, to many of us in the media treat self-serving and obviously inflammatory and inaccurate statements by politicians as if they are news.
We can’t count on politicians to exhibit sportsmanlike conduct, but we should be able to count on journalists who cover politics to treat political grandstanding for what it is. That would serve the public.