Outrage over political donations by Fox News's parent company News Corp. always seemed like a bit of a stretch when it implied that those contributions affected Fox's political coverage.
Many news media outlets are owned by larger companies. Those companies' activities don't ipso facto affect news coverage at their media subsidiaries. So when NewsBusters pointed out that 88 percent of political donations from employees of the three TV news networks went to Democrats, it was really just to note the double standard at work (surely, numerous employees have nothing to do with the news operations).
New data revealed by the Center for Responsive Politics, however, suggests a real bias at play. According to Megan [spelling corrected - Ed.] Wilson, who writes for the Center's site OpenSecrets.org, 65 percent of donations from 235 self-identified journalists have gone to Democrats this cycle.
Amidst a war of words with the White House, character attacks from the Left, and a New York Times hit piece on his connections with lobbyists, House Minority Leader John Boehner has received positive media coverage – from MSNBC of all places. The network ran a portrait of Boehner's childhood on its 11 a.m. news hour, and again on "Andrea Mitchell Reports" at 1 p.m.
"The public hears a lot of the arguments against [Boehner] from the Left," remarked NBC correspondent Luke Russert on the 11 a.m. MSNBC news hour Monday. "They hear that he's a country club Republican, if you will, with extensive ties to lobbyists. But it's quite interesting. He's a man who comes from very humble beginnings, starting out in a big Catholic family in Reading, Ohio."
Russert narrated a piece on Boehner's upbringing in Ohio, as one of 12 children. He interviewed one each of Boehner's brothers and his sisters, as well as his high school football coach.
"Mr. Boehner's ties to lobbyists seem especially deep," New York Times reporter Eric Lipton wrote of the House Republican Leader yesterday. Well, they're not, and therein lies the problem: Lipton apparently premised his article not on facts and data, but on what he thought seemed reasonable.
Had Lipton stooped to investigate some of the serious claims he was making, he might have discovered that Nancy Pelosi has raised almost twice as much money from lobbyists this cycle as has Boehner. He might also have revealed that Sens. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Blanche Lincoln all raised more money from lobbyists this cycle as Boehner has since 1999.
Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney, who did the legwork on these numbers, also noted that Boehner's name does not appear on the Center for Responsive Politics's list of the top 20 recipients of lobbyist cash. Eighteen House Democrats have received more such money than Boehner has this cycle.
Over at stopnetregulation.org, Seton Motley reports that if the Democrats can't ban books, they'll try to ban book promotion. Democrats are furious that the conservative Threshhold imprint of Simon & Schuster (a corporate cousin of CBS) published a book by three House Republicans titled "Young Guns," and included a promotional video:
That was too much free speech for the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which lawyered up and sent the publishing house an ominous letter intimating it may be in violation of several campaign finance laws - claiming the video was an in-kind contribution to Republicans. This despite the fact that...
Corporations are permitted to make independent expenditures with no coordination with candidates...
Or the simple possibility that Simon & Schuster has printed tens of thousands of copies and would now like to, you know, sell them.
On Wednesday's Rick's List, CNN's Rick Sanchez returned to his obsession with Fox News, stating that the network "obviously tends to lean way, way, way to the right." He did acknowledge this his competitors at MSNBC "tends to sway to the left," but went on to extend his "I play it down the middle" label of himself to his entire liberal network: "We happen to be in the middle, and that's the way we do things" [audio available here].
The anchor, who denied that he had any ideological leanings less than a month ago, brought on correspondent Jessica Yellin 17 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour to report on the political donations of News Corporation, which own their competitor, Fox News. Yellin reported that News Corp. "has given a million to the Republican Governors Association." Sanchez replied that "there is nothing wrong with giving money....Time Warner is a big company. I'm sure Time Warner gives money to different organizations, except I have no idea what it is." He then asked, "So, what I want from you is, the $1 million figure, all those zeroes...is it different? Is it substantially different?"
While lefties are foaming at the mouth over what Republican Senate candidates like Sharon Angle and Rand Paul have to say, they're not quite willing to publicly embrace or defend the antics of their own duly elected nominee, South Carolina U.S. Senate Democratic nominee Alvin Greene. That is, they weren't until now.
On the Aug. 17 broadcast of her radio show, Randi Rhodes went to bat for Greene. According to Rhodes, the indiscretions that brought Greene indictments, in which he allegedly showed obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student and then talked about going to her dorm room, weren't really that bad. Although it's not clear if Rhodes was being serious, and it's difficult to tell, she claimed he was "sharing a wonderful moment of pornography" with this student and bewildered why such an approach warranted criminal charges.
"Let me tell you - you know my candidate for Senate in South Carolina is Alvin Greene," Rhodes said. "I left off where he was supposedly indicted for you know sharing a wonderful moment of pornography with a girl who was over 18 in a college library - in a college library where he had attended college by the way, so he still has his ID card to get on the campus, so. I don't know what law he broke, but apparently they say he did and they indicted him. And so the local TV went over to his house to see what his comments were about the indictment."
Some very persuasive evidence of a double standard at work in The Washington Post came to light today. Today's Post featured a front page headline about the Securities and Exchange Commission charging billionaire brothers Sam and Charlers Wyly with fraud.
The double standard came in when it became clear that the news a couple weeks ago about the conviction of Democratic fundraiser Hassan Nemazee had gotten almost no notice. The Post printed an Associated Press item on the third page. Nemazee had defrauded almost $300 million and was a major contributor and fundraiser to John Kerry's presidential campaign and Hilary Clinton's campaign to be 2008's Democratic nominee.
The Wylys have donated to Republicans and the Republican Party in the past, a fact The Post made very prominent both in its headline: "SEC charges billionaire Texas brothers who donate to Gop with fraud" and put in a quick reminder right in the story's first paragraph:
Sam and Charles Wyly, billionaire Texas brothers who gained prominence spending millions of dollars on conservative political causes, committed fraud by using secret overseas accounts to generate more than $550 million in profit through illegal stock trades, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Thursday.
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante praised President Obama taping an appearance on ABC's 'The View' on Wednesday: "...the President is trying to reach people who may not normally pay attention to politics....It's not the first time [he] has reached out to audiences beyond the Washington Beltway."
Plante went further, explaining: "...it is the beginning of the Democrats' strategy to try to save their majority in Congress." He touted how Obama "blamed Republicans for holding up a bill with tax cuts for small business" while visiting a New Jersey sandwich shop. Plante then highlighted the President's fundraising ability: "Two fund-raisers in Manhattan on behalf of congressional Democrats....it cost 100 guests $30,400 each....That cash will help finance the Democrats' election year strategy."
Plante concluded his report by pointing to DNC talking points for the election: "Party Chairman Tim Kaine laid it out, charging that the Republican Party and tea party have become one in the same." He then remarked: "That's what you'll be hearing for the next three months. Meanwhile, the President will continue to vacuum up campaign dollars."
As it continues its exponential expansion to cellphones, mobile advertising, television sets and book publishing internet giant Google has been simultaneously expanding its presence in the U.S. political scene, adding lobbyists, DC-based employees, and ramping up its campaign donations.
Google boss Eric Schmidt is one of the nation’s most politically active business leaders — a man who uses the cachet of the company he leads, as well as his own charisma, to build strategic alliances in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill.
Schmidt, 55, grew up in Washington and returns frequently to visit his mother, who still lives in Northern Virginia. Those trips often double as chances to meet with President Barack Obama, chat with staffers at the Federal Communications Commission and meet with top lawmakers.
In the "secret" underworld of Republican fundraising, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie use "cloaked" donor lists to "dig up dirt" on Democrats and funnel campaign contributions to Republican candidates. At least that's the impression left by Politico's Jim VandeHei.
On the July 21 "Morning Joe," Time magazine's Mark Halperin challenged VandeHei's characterization of American Crossroads GPS, a Republican political organization that finances issue ads designed to promote conservative positions on policy issues.
"With all due respect to Jim and the folks at Politico, you know, they make this these shadowy donors, this shadowy group, I mean, these are citizens who, under the law, are able to give anonymously to a group like this and to fund political activity to help them win races," complained Halperin.
A liberal panel led by MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews injected sexism into the Kagan confirmation hearings on Tuesday morning, suggesting that Republican senators should curtail the tenacity of their questioning because the Supreme Court nominee happens to be a woman.
Invoking the Clarence Thomas hearings, which focused on the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of making inappropriate sexual comments, Matthews asked, "Am I wrong in hearing flashes here of the Anita Hill testimony way back when in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings?"
Despite the absence of a sexual scandal, Matthews persisted with the bizarre analogy: "Are we past the sensitivity about a male member of the Senate grilling a female?"
The "Hardball" host failed to clarify exactly who in 2010 is sensitive about male senators posing tough but legitimate questions to a woman nominated to the nation's highest court.
Not letting a good crisis go to waste, MSNBC’s left-wing rabble-rouser Ed Schultz insisted on "Morning Joe" today that the BP oil spill reinforces the need for new legislation to restrict corporations from engaging in political speech.
“I really believe that this what is happening in the Gulf is a classic [example] of how we do need campaign finance reform,” implored Schultz. “It’s all interconnected.”
To provoke this remark, "Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist tossed Schultz a softball while plugging the liberal activist’s new book.
“One of the things you talk about a lot on your show and write about in the book is the relationship between money and politics,” declared Geist. “So what you have essentially, you could say, is a form of legalized bribery. I contribute to you, Senator Schultz, and you carry out my interests in Washington. What do we do to change that? We all know that’s the problem. We all know people are acting on behalf of corporations and not people.”
Eight former Federal Elections Commissioners today blasted proponents of a Senate bill that would "blunt" the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, which allowed unions and corporations to spend freely on political advertisements.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, the Commissioners called the bill "unnecessary, partially duplicative of existing law, and severely burdensome to the right to engage in political speech and advocacy." They also accused Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. -- sponsors of the Senate and House legislation, respectively -- of "partisan motives" designed to satiate the Democratic Party's labor union backers.
While some prominent news organizations, including the Washington Post, have raised serious concerns about the legislation, other ostensibly (or at least presumably) pro-free speech news outlets are either silent or, in the case of the New York Times, simply parrot Democratic talking points and give critics of the bill a mention, though not a voice, and make sure to dub them "the business lobby."
Today's New York Times makes its editorial priorities clear: It values free speech for violent video games, but not on the issues of the day.
Thursday's editorial, "Video Games and Free Speech," was launched by news the Supreme Court would review a California law that makes it illegal to sell violent video games to minors:
But video games are a form of free expression. Many have elaborate plots and characters, often drawn from fiction or history. The California law is a content-based restriction, something that is presumed invalid under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has made it clear that minors have First Amendment rights....California lawmakers may have been right when they decided that video games in which players kill and maim are not the most socially beneficial form of expression. The Constitution, however, does not require speech to be ideal for it to be protected.
Too bad the Times doesn't hold the First Amendment in such high regard when it comes to truly important speech: political speech on issues of the day, the most vital kind there is in a democracy.
A January 22 editorial termed the Supreme Court's victory for expanding free speech, in the form of loosening restrictions on companies spending money on political campaigns, "The Court's Blow to Democracy." The text was no less hysterical:
Monday evening, Tonight Show host Jay Leno joked about Wall Street reform. As reported on The New York Times's Web site, he said:
Last week, President Obama gave a speech in New York City about his plan to reform these rules on Wall Street, you know? And one embarrassing moment. When the head of Goldman Sachs was going through security, he was asked to empty his pockets and five Republican senators fell out.
The truth, of course, is that Goldman Sachs has consistently given much more money to Democrats than to Republicans. For the 2008 election cycle, as detailed at OpenSecrets.org, 75 percent of the almost $6 million in political contributions made by the investment bank's political action committee and employees went to Democrats. Goldman Sachs's donations made it the second-biggest contributor to Obama’s presidential election campaign.
Leno's gag would have been funnier, I think, if it weren't so misleading.
President Obama has extensive ties to Goldman Sachs. Yet even given record-breaking financial contributions and sketchy relationships between Goldman executives and Obama officials at the highest level, the mainstream media will not afford Obama the same scrutiny it gave to George W. Bush during the collapse of Enron.
Obama's inflation-adjusted $1,007,370.85 in contributions from Goldman employees is almost seven times as much as the $151,722.42 (also inflation-adjusted) that Bush received from Enron. Goldman was one of the chief beneficiaries of the TARP bailout package -- supported by then-Senator Obama -- and has been a force for -- not against -- Democratic financial "reform" proposals currently under Senate consideration.
Despite the extensive connections between President Obama and Goldman Sachs, the same media that vaguely alleged unseemly connections between the Bush administration and Enron after its 2001 collapse have barely noticed the Obama administration's prominent ties to Goldman (h/t J.P. Freire).
In Howard Fineman's mind, the real "sordid" story behind the now infamous RNC/Voyeur Club kerfuffle is not the inappropriateness of the venue or the expensing of the outing on the donors' dime, but the whole system of raising money from large-dollar private donors in the first place.
Talk about bondage. It feels like we are in thrall to cash and the pursuit of it as never before. I know senators in both parties who spend every spare minute in the soul-shrinking exercise of dialing for dollars. Donors are just as trapped. Once they're on a list, they're on every list.
Fineman went on to add a new boilerplate complaint from the Left as well as to mourn the demise of the media's favorite Republican "campaign finance reformer":
The mainstream media are having a field day with the Republican National Committee spending contributor dollars for "meals" at a risqué Hollywood night spot. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank joins in the fun with today's "RNC spends nearly $2,000 at sex-themed Voyeur nightclub." He provides titillating details of what transpires in that joint, and then attempts a quick rewrite of history with, "And Al Gore got in trouble for going to a Buddhist temple?"
That's seriously misleading. It wasn't going to a Buddhist temple in April of 1996 that got Gore into trouble. It was lying about illegally raising money there that raised questions and generated skepticism about Gore's truthfulness. And, in the end, he didn't really get into any serious trouble at all. As reported by the New York Times in August, 2000:
For the third time, Attorney General Janet Reno brushed off the advice of senior advisers and declined to intensify an investigation into Vice President Al Gore's fundraising activities in 1996.
She said she would not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Mr. Gore's sworn statements that neither his appearance at a Buddhist temple in California in 1986 nor his attendance at several White House coffee sessions were fundraisers.
The Media Institute, a Washington-based non-profit, has called on Keith Olbermann to apologize for comparing one of its Jewish staff members to a Nazi collaborator.
During a January 21 screed regarding the controversial Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission -- in which the Supreme Court granted all companies the same rights as MSNBC's parent company GE -- Olbermann called the Media Institute's Floyd Abrams, a Jew, "the Quisling of freedom of speech in this country."
Vidkun Quisling, for those who don't know, was a Norwegian Nazi collaborator who aided in the Third Reich's conquest of his country by disclosing vital defense information to the Nazis. If Benedict Arnold had been complicit in genocide, we might consider Quisling his Norwegian equivalent.
In his "Notebook" segment at the end of the 3PM ET hour on MSNBC Wednesday, anchor David Shuster took a moment to commemorate the passing of a "hero" of his, well-known liberal advocate Doris 'Granny D' Haddock, a staunch supporter of campaign finance reform.
Shuster celebrated how she "at the age of 89...decided to walk across the nation....All in all, 3,200 miles to underscore her message that we need to change our current campaign donation system and have publicly financed elections instead." He proclaimed that Haddock "was committed to fair and open democracy" and declared her to be "an American treasure" for her activism.
Granny D was certainly a media hero back in March of 2000, when she completed her cross-country walk for campaign finance reform in Washington D.C.. On the March 1 broadcast of NBC's Today, co-host Matt Lauer excitedly announced: "I love Granny D!" Then co-host, now CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric, followed Lauer's exuberance, calling her an "amazing role model" and adding: "She's great!"
Really Barbra Streisand, you didn't think anyone would check?
Perhaps she is worried about having her influence diminished now that there are players on the block that can match her wealth and then some. But Streisand in a 682-word screed published on the Huffington Post on Feb. 23 railed against "entrenched special interests" that can now give money to political campaigns.
"Over the last year, however, frustration has given way to anger as voters have witnessed the inability of our lawmakers to make progress on issues like health care reform, financial regulation, and energy policy," Streisand wrote. "This inaction is due to a tidal wave of big money from the health insurance industry, Big Oil, and giant financial institutions who have mobilized to challenge the people's mandate for change. These entrenched special interests have slowed, compromised and blocked important legislation leaving many Americans demoralized and outraged. I'm one of those people."
Update - 7:15 PM | Lachlan Markay: The questions from the poll phrase the issue in similarly misleading language. Details below.
The news media have a tremendous potential to shape public opinion. So when they misreport important events, it has significant consequences for public opinion and public policy.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today shows that 80 percent of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United v. FEC decision last month. Perhaps if the Post stopped misleading its readers about the decision as it did today in reporting the poll, public opinion would look differently.
The misinformation begins right in the lede, where reporter Dan Eggen claims the SCOTUS decision "allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns." That statement is utterly false. The decision allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited dollars on political advertising. Restrictions on campaign contributions are still in place.
The left is up in arms over the Supreme Court's recent decision in "Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission". But few voices have been louder than those emanating from the echo chamber at MSNBC. It seems that the cable network's talking heads feel that their parent company, General Electric, deserves a special exemption to what should be a blanket ban on unrestricted corporate speech.
First a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the Supreme Court decision. The court struck down in a 5-4 ruling a ban on corporate (or union) spending on political speech specifically endorsing or attacking a candidate for office within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. It ruled that the ban violated the First Amendment.
Few liberals seemed to notice that in attacking corporate speech they were also effectively undermining their own employers, media corporations who employs them for the express purpose of engaging in political speech. Surely Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow would defend MSNBC's right to speak (and spend) freely without interference from the federal government--especially in the run-up to an election when free speech is most important and must be protected.
James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal found a liberal who cheered the recent Supreme Court decision on freedom of political speech: Floyd Abrams, an attorney who represented the New York Times successfully in the Pentagon Papers case in the 1970s. (He’s also the father of former MSNBC executive and host Dan Abrams). In the Journal's Weekend Inteview, Abrams told Taranto it’s ironic that so many media entities support freedom of speech for their companies, but not for non-media companies:
The First Amendment is the lifeblood of the press. Yet most newspapers—the one you are reading is a notable exception—take an editorial position similar to that of the Times. Why? "I think that two things are at work," Mr. Abrams says. "One is that there are an awful lot of journalists that do not recognize that they work for corporations....
The guy has an hour-long television show that isn't the highest-rated program on cable television, but does fairly well considering the circumstances. Yet, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who has expressed his own "unhinged" anger about the Supreme Court ruling that corporations have a free speech right to participate in elections, says there is a deficiency of anger about the ruling.
Olbermann, on the Jan. 22 "Countdown," launched into another one of his abbreviated tirades, or what he calls is a "Quick Comment" and blasted his colleagues in the media for not being as "enlightened" as he thinks they should be.
"I worked full-time in sports for about 20 years and I've worked full- time in news for about 10 years," Olbermann said. "And after yesterday, I must finally say aloud what I have long thought but have been reluctant to voice. The average person in the American news industry appears to be about one-fifth as plugged into the world he or she covers, as does the average person in the American sports industry.
Quip of the day, from columnist Charles Krauthammer on Friday's (January 22) Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC. Baier wondered: “Conservatives, pretty good week?” Krauthammer affirmed:
You know, this is an amazing week. Massachusetts goes Republican, health care dies and the Supreme Court unshackles the First Amendment. It's the best week I've had since spring break in medical school -- and I don't even remember it [laughter from other panelists].
And there was another item which you mentioned: Air America, the liberal talk show network went out of business -- which is a redundancy because nobody was listening anyway.
As the nation's leading newspaper and a beneficiary of the American tradition of free expression, the New York Times would of course celebrate a First Amendment victory at the Supreme Court, right? Well, not exactly.
Friday's lead slot was dominated by the Supreme Court's expected but still momentous decision rejecting limits on corporate campaign spending in elections.
But the subhead to Adam Liptak's story, "Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Campaign Spending Limit," ignored the victory for free speech in favor of dour liberal fears: "Dissenters Argue That Ruling Will Corrupt Democracy."
Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment's most basic free speech principle -- that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.
Even more unhinged than usual, and that’s saying a lot, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann delivered a tirade Thursday night in a “Special Comment” in which he declared the Supreme Court’s ruling, that corporations have a free speech right to participate in elections, was “a decision that might actually have more dire implications than Dred Scott.” High on sanctimony, Olbermann charged:
This is a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little actual democracy is left in this democracy. It is government of the people by the corporations for the corporations. It is the Dark Ages. It is our Dred Scott.
In full paranoia, Olbermann warned: “Be prepared, then, for the ban on same-sex marriage, on abortion, on evolution, on separation of church and state....for racial and religious profiling, because you've got to blame somebody for all the reductions in domestic spending and civil liberties, just to make sure the agitators against the United Corporate States of America are kept unheard.”
And he tossed in some insults of the tea partiers: “Be prepared for those poor dumb manipulated bastards, the Tea Partiers, to have a glorious few years as the front men as the corporations that bankroll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system. And then be prepared to watch them be banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them the Judas Goats of American Freedom.”
The unencumbered ability to sway voters is great for the news media, but journalists are outraged others could re-acquire the same First Amendment rights. Instead of painting a victory for free speech in the Supreme Court's ruling that corporations, non-profit groups and unions can spend money to influence elections, the Thursday broadcast network evening newscasts feared a ruinous future:
“Opening floodgates” to “big money” with “corporate interests having even more of a say” by “attacking political candidates,” resulting in “the real danger...that the candidates are just going to get drowned out” as “special interests” may “take over political campaign advertising.”
“On that subject of big money and power,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer intoned, “a blockbuster decision from the Supreme Court today opening floodgates for companies and unions to spend all the money they want attacking political candidates.” On NBC, anchor Brian Williams previewed “the news today that will result in big companies and corporate interests having even more of a say in American politics and campaigns.”