Politicking

The Money and media election complex

Robert McChesney and John Nichols, The Nation

Like the wizard telling the people of Oz to "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," Karl Rove used media appearances at the close of the 2010 midterm campaign to dismiss President Obama's complaints that Republican consultants, led by the former White House political czar, were distorting Senate and House races across the country with a flood of money—hundreds of millions of dollars—from multinational corporations and billionaire conservatives into Senate and House races. "Obama looks weirdly disconnected—and slightly obsessive—when he talks so much about the Chamber of Commerce, Ed Gillespie and me," Rove mused. "The president has already wasted one-quarter of the campaign's final four weeks on this sideshow."

The "sideshow" from which Rove sought to distract attention was, in fact, the most important story of the most expensive midterm election in American history: the radical transformation of our politics by a money-and-media election complex that is now more definitional than any candidate or party—and that poses every bit as much of a threat to democracy as the military-industrial complex about which Dwight Eisenhower warned us a half-century ago. This is not the next chapter in the old money-and-politics debate. This is the redefinition of politics by a pair of new and equally important factors—the freeing of corporations to spend any amount on electioneering and the collapse of substantive print and broadcast reporting on campaigns. In combination they have created a "new normal," in which consultants dealing in dollar amounts unprecedented in American history use "independent" expenditures to tip the balance of elections in favor of their clients. Unchecked by even rudimentary campaign finance regulation, unchallenged by a journalism sufficient to identify and expose abuses of the electoral process and abetted by commercial broadcasters that this year pocketed $3 billion in political ad revenues, the money-and-media election complex was a nearly unbeatable force in 2010.

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What does News Corp want in return for that $ million?

John Cook, The Upshot

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. raised eyebrows last week with a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association that the New York Times described as "bold" and "one of the biggest [contributions] ever given by a media organization." Critics saw the gift, which came through News Corp.'s News America subsidiary, as evidence of an alignment between Murdoch's political and corporate interests and the conservative editorial bent of Fox News Channel.

But corporate political donations — especially coming from someone as skillful at currying favor among the powerful as Murdoch — are more than mere expressions of ideological preference. They are attempts to advance the economic interests of the donor corporation. As News Corp. spokesman Jack Horner explained to the Times, the company made the donation because "organizations like the R.G.A., which have a pro-business agenda, support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy."

So what, precisely, are those priorities?

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Beck event, protest was a costly embarassment for Mt. Vernon

Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times

Glenn Beck Day in Mount Vernon was an expensive lesson for this small town, as it found out the cost of hosting a controversial celebrity.

It's on the hook for $17,748.85, mostly for 239 hours of police overtime.

Isn't that a little steep for a one-day event?

"Honestly, I'm a bit surprised at how big the cost was," says Alicia Huschka, the town's finance director.

Well, says Ken Bergsma, the town's police chief, better to be prepared than not.

The chief says the crowd of 800 to 1,000 demonstrators that greeted Beck for his early-evening appearance on Sept. 26 was the biggest protest he's seen in his 32 years as a Mount Vernon police officer.

Bergsma

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WH communications director: Fox News operates as wing of GOP

Faiz Shakir, Think Progress

This morning on CNN’s Reliable Sources, White House communications director Anita Dunn defended her recent comment to Time magazine that Fox News is “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” Noting the inordinate amount of attention Fox devotes to stirring fake controversies like Bill Ayers and ACORN, Dunn explained:

The reality of it is that Fox News often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it’s not ideological. I mean, obviously there are many commentators who are conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. What I think is fair to say about Fox is — and certainly the way we view it — is that it really is more of a wing of the Republican Party. [...]

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White House vs. Fox News escalates

Mark Silva, Swamp Politics

In the ongoing struggle between the White House and the FOX News Channel, the Obama administration's direct rebuttal of what FOX's Glenn Beck and a guest have had to say this week about the administration's hand in Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games may seem like a footnote.

But it's emblematic of something bigger: An administration's refusal to play ball with a widely watched cable news network which it views as slanted is escalating to an administration's willingness to challenge commentators on the network for fast and loose foot-play with the facts - or, more specifically in this case, Glenn Beck's carelessness.

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When will this White House learn you cannot negotiate with terrorists?

Baratunde Thurston, Jack and Jill Politics

After a brief respite, the most accessible American political discourse --the national broadcast media--has returned to fearful, hate-filled, ignorant rants of a high-volume, low-intellect minority.

In such an environment, how does one govern? Does one try to “balance” such concepts as contradictory as a “public option” on one hand and “fear of death panels” on the other? Or does one realize that this is a false spectrum and to try to find a center in such a sea is a worthless and foolhardy expedition?

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Van Jones resigns

Think Progress

The AP reports that after weeks of constant attacks by the right wing, Van Jones has resigned as Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality. Below is the letter he sent to chair Nancy Sutley:

I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality, effective today.

On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.

I have been inundated with calls - from across the political spectrum - urging me to “stay and fight.”

But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.

It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead.

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Rush Limbaugh is still a big fat idiot

Joe Conason, Salon.com

It wasn't surprising when, after seven months of legal wrangling, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared that Al Franken had won the 2008 Senate race against incumbent Norm Coleman. Still less surprising (although vastly more entertaining) was the simultaneous breakdown of nearly all of Franken's adversaries on the right, whose regurgitated insults, whining complaints and exploding noggins revealed nothing about him or his victory -- and everything about them.

Upon learning that Franken had prevailed in a unanimous decision by his home state's highest court, the usual suspects on Fox News Channel and in the Limbaugh wasteland of radio immediately threw up a barrage of furious invective. Wasting no time on gracious concessions, they concentrated on two themes. First: Franken himself is wild, spiteful, menacing, bigoted and, most of all, deranged (as must be anyone who voted for him). Second: Franken's ascension to the Senate is tainted by the process, which his opponent insisted on prolonging.

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Media adopt gender, racial stereotypes in characterizing Sotomayor

M.W., Media Matters

Numerous media figures have adopted language reflecting gender and racial stereotypes in reporting about Sonia Sotomayor's temperament and intellect, in many instances relying on anonymous characterizations in Jeffrey Rosen's New Republic piece on Sotomayor.

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CNN plans ‘View from the Right’ election special, but no ‘View from the Left'

Think Progress

Today, CNN announced that it will be hosting a one-hour special this weekend called “Election Countdown: View from the Right,” featuring prominent right-wing pundits. However, it doesn’t appear that there will be a corresponding special featuring progressive voices. From the CNN press release:

On Saturday, Nov. 1, at 5 p.m. (ET), CNN political contributor and Christian Broadcasting Network senior correspondent David Brody will host the one-hour special Election Countdown: View from the Right. This roundtable discussion will examine the strength of the McCain-Palin ticket, the priorities for conservatives after the election and top issues on voters’ minds, including national security and the economy. Brody will be joined by Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter for Townhall.com; Brian DeBose, editorial writer for The Washington Times; Stephen Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; and Kevin Madden, Republican strategist and former press secretary for Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey