Earlier this year the Dallas Morning News breathlessly reported what was commonly known: Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton had placed the operations of the company he founded into a blind trust. Despite having complied with the law, the DMN implied Sitton was violating the spirit of the law.

The article, composed by staff writer Steve Thompson, has all the hallmarks of a liberal hit piece: implications of unspecified wrongdoing by a successful businessman turned politician. The DMN implied, without stating, that Sitton should be disqualified from serving on the three-member railroad commission – which primarily oversees oil and gas regulation – because he once ran an oil and gas business. The article implied he had conflicts that would prevent him from acting dispassionately and fairly.

With no evidence of actual corruption, however, the DMN was left merely suggesting that it might be possible. When liberals engage in the game of character assassination, they glibly substitute innuendo for evidence.

The article’s insinuations were troubling. Allegations of corruption are serious charges. Since the DMN could point to no real evidence, we decided to wait and see if any proof supporting the newspaper’s claims would surface.

After all, the DMN gave prominent play to Thompson’s hit piece, so surely some real evidence of corruption, malfeasance or impropriety must come to light. And given the cover of an article in a major metro daily, surely by now someone should have come forward with evidence supporting the newspaper’s attack.

To date there has been none.

Texas Scorecard filed an open records request in late February with the railroad commission – long after publication of the DMN article – asking if any complaints had been filed against any commissioner alleging a conflict of interest or other problem. We requested any record:

within four years of the date of this request, of any person or entity alleging that any Railroad Commissioner within that time period had a conflict of interest regarding any matter that was before the commission.

The response we have received from an attorney at the commission was unequivocal: “We conducted a search and the Commission has no information responsive to your request.”

Translation: out of the hundreds of rulings and judgments handed down by the commission since Sitton was sworn in, there has not been a single complaint of any conduct tainted by a conflict of interest against any commissioner. Not one.

If, as the DMN article implied, Sitton had been unfairly aiding clients of the company he founded, or hindering competitors, one of the aggrieved parties would have complained. By the structure of the system, every single ruling has a winner and loser.

And yet not a single complaint of a conflict of interest has been lodged by anyone on the wrong side of an action by the commission. Not a single one against any commissioner.

Which begs the question: why did the Dallas Morning News imply that there was, or might be, corruption? In the absence of a scandal, or evidence of a scandal, why try to create one?

Why, indeed…

The answer is simple: It was a political hit piece against a conservative, not an honest reporting of facts. It was designed to impugn Sitton’s character, not champion a hidden truth.

The mainstream media is an organ of the establishment in general, and a champion of the left in particular. They will impugn without discretion, at the behest of their friends in the political establishment, the character of men like Ryan Sitton simply because they exist.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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