ANATOMY O

WHEN BRUCE BABBITT SURFACED AS THE TOP CHOICE FOR THE U.S. SUPREME COURT, A WASHINGTON, D.C., NEWPAPER PLAYED FAST, LOOSE AND SLOPPY WITH HIS PAST

Corbin agreed to examine the tape as part of the ongoing Bolles investigation (Emprise was suspected of involvement in Bolles' death), but not as an independent probe of Babbitt.

"We didn't put a lot of faith in this one, but we felt we had a duty to check it out," Corbin remembers. "We tried to track down so many of Devereux's leads, but it was pathetic--they just wouldn't pan out. And then he'd write in the Scottsdale Progress that we had refused to check it out. I used to get so damned mad at him.

"So I said to my guys, 'Look, go check it out. We've got to check it out or we're going to get accused of covering up for Bruce.'"
Just as the report that Corbin and crew were "investigating" Babbitt turned out to be overblown, it soon became apparent that Lane didn't have any evidence to support his story about the payoff. In fact, Lane admitted to New Times in a 1986 interview that in mentioning the payoff to Nation, he was merely lapsing into a Joseph Stedino-esque fit of braggadocio.

"This is the straight story," said Lane, who was by then retired to Colorado. "I didn't know shit about Bruce Babbitt and gambling. It was something I heard somebody talking about rumorwise one time, and when I got this call from old Keith Nation, I just start bullshitting him--one braggart talking to another braggart."
Even if Lane had been serious about the payoff allegation, however, the story is of dubious relevance to the latest Seper resurrection of gambling accusations against Babbitt. Nowhere on the tape does Lane say the payoff was meant to cover gambling debts, as Seper reports. Rather, Lane indicates that the $45,000 was strictly a direct bribe to ensure Babbitt's complicity in the Emprise deal with state officials.

Nevertheless, Seper saw fit to include Lane's charge in his Washington Times story, patchworking it into the other gambling allegations by using a narrow, almost nonexistent thread of logic: The alleged payoff was from a company that dealt with gambling and had a "mob" interest in a Las Vegas casino, Babbitt had Vegas gambling debts, therefore the payoff must have been meant to cover those debts.

Such attenuated linkages, Corbin says, are Seper's stock in trade. Devereux also has been known, he adds, to make long leaps.

"A reporter . . . can take a fact way over here to the right and one way over here to the left and you can bring them together," he notes. "I've got to have evidence to bring them together."
@rule:
@body:More than simply bending facts to fit, Seper apparently ignored that portion of documents that exonerated his target. According to the same grand jury testimony that Seper cites as proof that the former governor of Arizona was under investigation for gambling as late as 1990, any questions about Babbitt's gambling were answered.

Yes, George Weisz did tell a grand jury--as part of the Bolles investigation--that Babbitt's name had appeared in the Central Credit files. What Seper neglected to include in his damning story, however, is that Weisz went on to testify that there had been a thorough search of all hotel and casino records, and that no mention of Babbitt was found.

As part of his investigation, Weisz interviewed George Duckworth, who started out as a shift boss at the Dunes in 1961 and finished his career as president of the hotel.

Grand jury transcripts show that Duckworth had never heard of Babbitt gambling at the Dunes. According to Weisz, if Duckworth hadn't heard about it, it didn't happen.

"I asked him if an individual such as Mr. Babbitt or any political figure or entertainer would be gambling at the Dunes, would he hear about it?" Weisz testified. "He said he would absolutely hear about it. Something like that would come to his attention, and he just had not heard about Bruce Babbitt doing any gambling at the Dunes."
Weisz also interviewed Inez Anderson, the casino collections manager for the Dunes. In 1986, Anderson was asked by Morris Schenker--the then-operator of the Dunes and a Teamsters boss who federal officials suspected of having ties to organized crime--to comb the hotel's files for any records on Babbitt. Seeking to please her boss, Anderson told Weisz she "checked every record possible," including all the casino books and hotel ledgers. She also talked to employees in the cashier and accounting areas to determine if they knew anything about credit extended to Babbitt.

What did she turn up? Zero, according to Weisz.
As for the credit checks themselves, Weisz interviewed a 22-year employee of Central Credit who said that all the presence of Bruce Babbitt's name in the files indicates is that someone from a casino called and asked about the name. Rather than citing the credit checks as information that casts suspicion on Babbitt, Weisz downplays them in his testimony.

Why none of this exculpatory evidence was included by Seper in his story is unknown. He almost certainly had access to the information while writing the piece. His old friend Don Devereux made sure of that.

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