Conservative Group Questions Walsh’s Role in HuffPo Hit Piece on Federal Prosecutor

Dan Koh, Walsh's chief of staff, previously worked at the Huffington Post.

Photo via Mayor's Office/Don Harney

Photo via Mayor’s Office/Don Harney

A national Republican group has filed a public records request with Mayor Marty Walsh’s office to determine the extent of City Hall’s involvement, if any, in the Huffington Post’s hit piece on a federal prosecutor.

The story, titled “This Federal Prosecutor Is Building a Career Indicting the Good Guys,” paints an unflattering portrait of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who has indicted two members of the Walsh administration in recent months as part of an ongoing federal labor probe.

Walsh admitted he knew the story was “in the works,” but denied that he or his staff had any role in it. Dan Koh, Walsh’s chief of staff, previously served as Arianna Huffington’s chief of staff, as well as general manager of Huffington Post Live. Both Walsh spokesperson Laura Oggeri and Huffington Post bureau chief Ryan Grim, who co-wrote the story with Daniel Marans, said a heads-up was given prior to publication as a courtesy.

“I think that the reason why this country is so great is because we have a free press and reporters can write what they feel, and I think that this is another article in a series of articles that have been written, and that’s pretty much what I have to say on it,” Walsh told the Herald.

America Rising PAC, a Republican-aligned opposition research firm founded by members of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, has requested any emails and texts between the Walsh administration and the left-leaning Huffington Post. If there was any involvement, group says, it ought to be “held up to public scrutiny.”

“If Mayor Walsh had more knowledge of the story and its genesis than he disclosed, that would be a serious problem and he’d have to explain that to voters,” spokesperson Amelia Chasse told the Herald.

Emails obtained by Boston via public records request show that City Hall has connected with HuffPo in the past. In May, Brian Sirgutz, the site’s senior vice president of social impact, introduced Kate Lee, head of content development at Medium, to Koh and Oggeri in order to assist with technical difficulties on the mayor’s new Medium account.

If there are, in fact, text messages relevant to America Rising’s request, the group may find difficulty obtaining them. A year ago this month, a city lawyer denied the Globe’s request for text messages between Walsh and Koh regarding the Boston 2024 Olympic bid on the grounds that not only did the messages not exist, but that City Hall lacked the “technical capacity” to make copies of them.

In January, Walsh and the Law Department admitted these messages did exist, but that he had deleted them. Five months after Walsh pledged better access to these public records, City Hall said it was “unable to retain” texts between him and Gov. Charlie Baker.