It was 6 p.m. on the Friday evening before Labor Day and most reporters—most Americans—had begun to settle into the final long weekend of summer when the news broke. Of course that was when the news broke: Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was resigning.
There is a long history of politicians, and just about everybody else, dishing out bad news at the closing bell of the work week, hoping to minimize coverage. The strategically timed Benton leak is just the latest sign that the "Friday news dump" is alive and well.
In the spirit of highlighting all the efforts of politicians to bury the news, we've decided to excavate the top eight news dumps of the summer:
8) Rep. Bill Cassidy announces his 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy (July 3)
Late in the day before a long holiday weekend (not technically a Friday, but effectively the same thing), the Republican Senate candidate from Louisiana released a statement to the New Orleans Times-Picayune saying that his 17-year-old daughter, who is not married, was expecting a baby during the summer. It was, he said, going to be "a joyous addition to our family."
7) House Ethics reverses itself on travel disclosure (July 3)
This came the same day as the Cassidy news. After a brief public outcry, the House Ethics Committee announced it was reinstating the requirement that lawmakers disclose their privately financed travels on their annual financial forms. The PR burial effort, however, wasn't altogether a success, as the committee chairman had telegraphed the move on a local radio show in his district a few hours earlier.
6) Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock resigns (Aug. 29)
Two years ago at this time, Mourdock was preparing for the final stretch of his 2012 Senate campaign, having knocked off longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in a hard-fought Republican primary (he would eventually lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly). Mourdock used the weekend before Labor Day 2014 to head for the exit from elected office, though, a few months before his term was to expire.
Why? As the Indianapolis Star reported last Friday afternoon, the decision could allow Mourdock, who campaigned for Senate in 2012 as a fiscal conservative, "to avoid cuts to state retirement benefits that go into effect for public employees who retire starting next week."
5) Administration announces contraception plan (Aug. 22)
After the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision declared that the government couldn't mandate that religious employers offer health insurance plans that cover birth control, the Obama administration concocted a compromise under which the government would offer that coverage to affected employees on its own. It's a touchy subject, and some opponents of the initial mandate weren't all that thrilled with the new measure—so when better to announce it.
4) Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns (May 30)
The scandal—that employees at the Veterans Affairs Department had been hiding month-long wait times for military veterans seeking care—didn't break on a Friday, but the resignation of the top man at the department did. President Obama looked almost pained in announcing he'd let Eric Shinseki resign "with considerable regret." He then further softened the PR blow by returning two hours later to the press room to announce that Jay Carney, the administration's chief spokesman, was leaving, as well.
3) Obamacare won't verify people's incomes (July 4)
The Obama administration tried to bury the news that it wouldn't actually be verifying consumers' self-reported incomes by announcing it not only on a Friday, but on a holiday Friday: July 4. As The Washington Post described it in their Saturday paper, "New regulations published Friday scaled back the federal government's role in determining whether information submitted to new health marketplace is accurate."
2) The IRS, lost emails, and a destroyed computer (July 18)
It was on a Friday in July that the IRS announced that it had destroyed the computer hard drive of Lois Lerner three years earlier, ending any hopes of retrieving all her old emails. Lerner is the former IRS official in the middle of multiple investigations into the uneven treatment of conservative nonprofit groups by the tax authorities.
1) Jesse Benton resigns (Aug. 29)
Benton was the top strategist for the top Senate Republican in one of the top contests in the country. And he resigned because of a bribery scandal from the 2012 presidential campaign of Ron Paul, which he also ran. Maintaining innocence and blaming "unsubstantiated media rumors," Benton said he nonetheless had offered to resign with a "heavy heart." A strategist to the end, he did so in a statement released late on a Friday.