(Visit FDL’s Arkansas Senate Race page throughout the day for the latest news)

The New York Times conveniently picks today to run a hit piece on Bill Halter.  It’s rife from top to bottom with misinformation. One “Lara Bergthold, a left-wing political consultant” is quoted, who worked with Halter on the 2003 Wes Clark campaign:

“The one thing that united the campaign was dislike of Bill Halter,” Ms. Bergthold said. “He was the only person I know of that left the campaign not of his own volition.”

Wes Clark is, without question, one of the most despised candidates of all time by his political staff.  The only person she knows of that “left the campaign not of his own volition?” Try the entire draft Clark staff, which instantly got the boot once the DC professional consultant class (of which Ms. Bergthold is one) came in.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a mark of pride if those people didn’t like Halter,” says one former Draft Clark blogger, who was also fired.  “The only thing that united the campaign was how dishonest and fucked up they were…The bloggers who put forward Clark were pushed out of the campaign instantly by DC hacks who didn’t like bloggers, and didn’t like progressives.  Who promptly destroyed Wes Clark.  As far as I’m concerned, anyone who says the campaign was unified against them was my guy.”

Did anyone at the New York Times even bother to fact check this article? . . .

Senator Lincoln, a two-term Democrat, had been judged too conservative, and her critics found a willing alternative in Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, whom they hailed as a “true progressive.”

Actually, I spoke with the author of the piece, Shaila Dewan.  I told her that when Accountability Now was acting as a bridge between Halter’s local Arkansas support and national organizations, we were true to the Accountability Now charter which said that a candidate has to reflect the values of their constituents.   We explicitly and repeatedly said that Halter was no flaming liberal, but that he did have considerable local support and we felt he would serve the interests of the community better than Lincoln.

To the best of my knowledge, that’s the perspective of the national groups that answered the call of Arkansas constituents for help countering Lincoln’s $3 million in corporate PAC contributions.  Did they interview even one of those starry-eyed groups on the record who said that they thought Halter was “true progressive?” And if so, why weren’t they quoted directly?

Ms. Bergthold worries that the groups that have poured millions of dollars into his campaign might not know what they are getting. Compared with Mrs. Lincoln, a senator for 12 years, Mr. Halter is a political cipher, with no voting record and several chapters of his history unexamined.

As opposed to Blanche Lincoln, who is virulently anti-union and in the tank for the banks?  You’ll have to explain to me why the New York Times would take the word of a member of a concern troll for the professional DC political class who quite frankly doesn’t know shit about Bill Halter or his relationship to any of these groups.

Here’s Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times: “I’m not sure the unions and liberal groups backing him are necessarily convinced of true-blue progressive tendencies as much as they are sure his tendencies on some issues are better than Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s.”

With union firepower behind him, Mr. Halter finished only two points behind Mrs. Lincoln in the May 18 primary, forcing her into a runoff.

Another canard sure to hurt Halter in the general — his success is due to “union firepower.”  Again, I sent Shaila Dewan a link to Halter’s FEC reports two days ago.  The most recent filing shows that of the $3 million Halter had raised through March 31, only $169,000 came from union PAC money.  Nearly all of the donations made directly to the campaign come from small-dollar donors.  While the unions have made significant outside expenditures, you can’t run a campaign on fumes.  And it is undeniable that the money fueling Bill Halter’s campaign does not come from the unions.

And then it’s off to the races, with one hit job after another:

“His ambition, though, has disenchanted a long list of former allies….”

Really?  He’s running a contentious political challenge to a powerful incumbent, a sitting U.S. Senator who is Chairman of the Agricultural Committee, and there are people who will say bad things about him.  Go figure.

Mr. Halter’s biography says he grew up in North Little Rock, the son of a nurse and a small- business man. His father did not actually own a business, but ran the mortgage arm of a bank.

Saying your father is a “small business man” because he worked for the mortgage arm of a bank is some kind of evil fabrication?  Where did that come from, Blanche Lincoln’s oppo sheet?

[H]e was hired to lead the new Arkansas Institute, a now defunct organization financed by wealthy businessmen like Sam Walton of Wal-Mart. To preserve the institute’s nonpartisan identity, Mr. Halter was hired on the condition that he not get involved with Bill Clinton’s incipient presidential campaign, recalled Walter Smiley, then the chairman of the institute’s board.

A non-partisan institute must legally be non-partisan, and directing the political activities of your employees outside of their jobs is expressly partisan activity.  I hope the IRS sends a nice bill to Mr. Smiley for all the taxes his organization evaded.

But Mr. Halter took to disappearing from the office in the afternoons, and staff members who disliked their boss followed him to the Clinton campaign office, Mr. Smiley said.

“Mr. Smiley said.”  Based on the word of one guy with a political agenda, the New York Times, the paper of record, prints that Bill Halter was sneaking around and that anonymous staff members didn’t like him followed him.  Halter denies it.  Rather than get a confirming source, they run with what “one angry old dude” says?

Finally, after an intense courtship by national liberal groups, he challenged Mrs. Lincoln…. But when he is asked about his union support, he responds that he has nothing to do with campaigning by outside groups.

The national unions quite nearly did not back Halter.  They were afraid of risking the cloture vote on EFCA that Blanche Lincoln was privately telling them she’d cast.  Harry Reid had promised to bring EFCA to the floor after health care was over.  If Scott Brown had not beaten Martha Coakley in late January, destroying the chance of getting 60 votes in the Senate, they probably would not have risked jeopardizing EFCA by backing Halter. By that time there was already strong support for Halter in Arkansas, led by local activists, bloggers and community leaders that national groups tapped into.  Although the author is working hard this week to promote the story that the unions are driving this cart, they aren’t.  They have their own reasons to want Blanche Lincoln out of office.

It’s hard to know whether content or the timing of the piece are more suspect, but appearing as it does on a hotly contested election day it does not  rise to the level of responsible journalism.