Investigative reporter Susan Bradford has filed a small-claims court lawsuit in Virginia against The Huffington Post and The New York Times, alleging that the publishers plagiarized her work on the Jack Abramoff scandal in 2008.
The civil suit was filed September 1 in Fairfax County, Va., a close-in suburban county near Washington, D.C.
Bradford told The Daily Caller that she entered into a verbal agreement with Nico Pitney, Politics Editor of The Huffington Post, for payment of $12,000 in exchange for a series of seven articles about the scandal.
She alleges that she submitted the articles and that HuffPo rejected them, ultimately incorporating her work into a series of articles by Gary Chafetz. The same material, she says, was later included in a New York Times article by Jo Becker.
Bradford’s series of articles concluded that Arizona Senator John McCain coordinated Indian affairs committee hearings with Scott Reed, Abramoff’s rival for the Indian casino lobbying business, that led to Abramoff’s 2006 convictions on federal mail fraud and conspiracy charges. Bradford’s chief allegation was that that McCain and Reed conspired to eliminate the competition.
A statement of particulars detailing Bradford’s complaint against The Huffington Post, acquired by The Daily Caller, states that “Pitney was interested in the story and invited Bradford to pitch before him and another editor, both of whom offered to review her evidence before making a decision.”
At the meeting with Pitney, she claims the two agreed on $12,000 for her stories with a handshake, but not before another Huffington Post editor photocopied, without permission, a supporting document she brought to the meeting.
Bradford claims she complained to Pitney after her work was rejected and Chafetz’s articles published. Pitney, she says, responded that she was “fabricating a baseless conspiracy theory — which is precisely the concern we had with your work to begin with, and why we chose not to run it.”
According to Bradford’s complaint, “Chafetz’s articles on Abramoff, which were based on Bradford’s work and published in 2008,” subsequently “were removed from the Huffington Post website.”
Records in Fairfax County General District Court show that Bradford’s case was granted a continuance on Monday. She and her attorney expect the case to be scheduled for trial at its near hearing, on November 7. They expect a January 2012 trial date.
Bradford told TheDC, “Of foremost importance, I would like to be compensated and properly credited for my work. In addition, I am hoping this suit will inspire the Huffington Post to demonstrate more integrity and responsibility in how it conducts business, engages writers, and reports information.”
Reached for comment, Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz told TheDC tersely, “we believe there is no merit to the case.”
Bradford’s book on the Abramoff affair, which includes the material she says HuffPo lifted from her original series of articles, was published in January. Chafetz published his own book-length account, largely focusing on Sen. McCain’s involvement, in 2008.