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Ethics Complaint Revives Charges of Watchdog Group Bias

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

In an interview, Sloan dismissed the criticisms and pointed to recent instances in which she has raised ethics questions about Democrats.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) “has been running an ad saying we’re an independent watchdog group because of our criticisms of [Democratic Rep.] Shelley Berkley. And I think we have been all over the New Jersey papers about [Democratic Rep.] Rob Andrews. So it’s just ridiculous,” she said.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said that while CREW does target Democrats, it only does so when the evidence against them is considerable.

“It’s like in the movie ‘The Departed’ when the character Colin Sullivan figures out Frank Costello was an FBI informant and Costello says, ‘I never gave up anybody who wasn’t going down anyway,’” Hill said.

CREW has gone after some high-profile Democrats, including in 2006, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi, set to become Speaker, sought the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) as her Majority Leader.

Sloan ripped the move in the press, and some of her liberal donors fled. The episode, she told Roll Call, culled from its donor base those who were afraid of rough-and-tumble ethics conflicts that hurt Democrats.

Still, critics of the group have, over the years, assembled evidence that overall, CREW targets more Republicans than Democrats.

Last year, Berman and Co., a public relations firm that CREW investigated and made the subject of a website called “Berman Exposed,” turned the tables and created a website titled “CREW exposed.”

The site includes a photograph of six months’ worth of CREW’s press releases, lawsuits, reports and other materials. The 3.5-inch stack of documents targeting Republicans is far more voluminous than the 1/8-inch stack of documents about Democratic-related complaints.

Sloan cut her political teeth working for Congressional Democrats. But she said 10 years at CREW has “made me far more of an independent” and cited New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as someone whose political stances she identifies with.

CREW was originally founded by Norman Eisen, the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, who formerly served as President Barack Obama’s internal ethics cop. Eisen told Ms. magazine in 2007 he launched CREW to provide a balance to Judicial Watch and other right-wing legal watchdogs.

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