With all the scandals and frauds seemingly popping up everywhere, maybe the American public–or at least the folks who edit the news for the American public–are just jaded. I can’t think of any other good explanation for the almost total lack of meaningful coverage outside the Pacific Northwest of the federal fraud, tax evasion and perjury indictment in Seattle last month of Troy X. Kelley, the state auditor of Washington State.
Searching through national news databases and the Internet, I found virtually no print coverage more than a couple paragraphs long outside of Washington State and its two adjoining states of Oregon and Idaho. One paragraph was the extent of coverage in The New York Times. Nothing came up in my searches of USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. The Associated Press transmitted nationally a lengthy story that seems to have found its way, generally in a shorter version, onto newspaper and TV station websites, but few hard copies or over-the-air broadcasts. Forbes.com, where I do some work, posted its own story.
State auditors are supposed to root out fraud and get to the truth of things, right? Be squeaky clean, right? So shouldn’t a federal indictment accusing a state auditor of outrageous flim flam and lying be a pretty good national story, if for no other reason than it rings the hypocrisy bell loud and clear?
The details of what Kelley, a Democrat, is alleged to have done are fascinating. If you own a home, they will make your blood boil while supporting your worst suspicions about all the confusing fees you get charged. Running a business handling paperwork for real estate closings, Kelley essentially is accused of pocketing as much as $2 million in surplus fees he was supposed to refund to parties, then ducking taxes on his bounty and fibbing about it under oath or to investigators.
Read the indictment here. It’s a little technical but very interesting. Most of this happened before Kelley was elected auditor in 2012.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Innocent until proven otherwise. Kelley, 50, indeed has pleaded not guilty, and yesterday started what is described as an unpaid leave of absence. Under Washington State law, he would have to resign if convicted. That hasn’t quelled various efforts to get him permanently out of office via resignation, a recall election or even impeachment.
Thinking about this some more, I wonder if perhaps the lack of national interest is just news media fatigue with troubled state auditors, thanks to a sensational series of events in Missouri of Shakespearean dimensions. There, Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, who was running for governor, killed himself in February, apparently distraught that a political rival was trying to make hay of Schweich’s religious background (Jewish by ancestry, Christian now). Four weeks late, Schweich’s spokesman, Spense Jackson, also committed suicide.
Meanwhile, I eagerly await Kelley’s trial. I especially look forward to hearing his side’s explanation of why, according to the indictment, he felt it necessary in moving millions of dollars around to set up a trust in Belize. That’s an infamous Central American tax haven and fraud center (click here and go to table at bottom of the page) with strong secrecy laws. In my opinion, there’s no terribly good reason to come in contact with Belize unless you want to scuba dive around coral reefs, fish, soak in the rays, see ancient Mayan ruins, retire–or hide something big time.
But then again, Kelley has done a pretty good job so far of hiding from the national U.S. news media while staying put.