On Oct. 24, the Washington Post reported that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. The firm then retained former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, who assembled a dubious dossier (complete with rumors of encounters with prostitutes) with information from his Russian contacts.
Breaking news? Hardly. It has all but disappeared.
This should have seriously undermined months of wildly speculative reporting on the Trump campaign seeking dirt on Clinton from the Russians, as well as the Democrats' warning of "treason." Even with the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, there's still not a scintilla of evidence of Russia-Trump collusion. But looking like hypocrites for deeply indulging in a double standard never slows these "news" reporters down.
The Daily Caller hints at a deeper angle, and it calls into question the media's sermons on transparency. CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez hyped the dossier, but Perez and CNN never told viewers that Perez worked closely with the founders of Fusion GPS for years at a previous job.
Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS co-founder "most often associated with the dossier," worked on the same reporting staff as Perez at The Wall Street Journal, and they regularly co-authored stories.
Peter Fritsch, another Fusion co-founder, worked above Simpson and Perez as the Journal's senior national security editor.
A third co-founder, Tom Catan, was also a Wall Street Journal reporter in the same time frame. The Daily Caller showed Facebook photos of these men still going to baseball games and taking fishing vacations together.
CNN's anti-Trump stories have hidden all this behind a wall of "anonymous sources." This is one dreadfully serious reason why the American people don't trust investigative reporting: In reality, it looks like a series of chummy hand-offs funded by Trump opponents.
"Pro-Clinton political activism" and "news reporting" are one and the same. "News" is being assembled and colored by personal transactions between old friends and/or political allies. There's a lot of horse trading and glad-handing in the "news" process that they hide through their opaque sourcing techniques.
To be fair and balanced on this ethical front, the conservative Washington Free Beacon website also retained Fusion GPS for research — for a few months before the Clinton campaign and the DNC — and The Daily Caller says it had reported on Fusion GPS without acknowledging a relationship.
For decades now, campaigns have been ravenous for opposition research — combing over decades of a candidate's policy positions, speeches and personal behavior; looking for something damaging that could change a political trajectory. Candidates and political parties pay for it, but the investigative reporters are also doing it.
In the Trump era, "reporting" and "opposition research" have become one and the same. The Clinton campaign and the DNC paid former reporters to find a gold mine in Russia. Why go to the expense? Hundreds of liberal reporters have helped the Democrats at no charge. The public needs to be skeptical about just how ethical they are in organizing scoops behind the scenes.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.