CyberAlert -- 10/21/1999 -- Crusading for Campaign Finance "Reform"

Crusading for Campaign Finance "Reform"; Democrat Ray; Rivera on Starr

1) CBS and NBC exploited Elizabeth Dole's decision to quit as a chance to take up a liberal cause. Dan Rather: "The Dole dropout comes one day after Bush allies...killed the latest attempt at campaign finance reform." NBC's Tom Brokaw lamented how the money race hurt "Elizabeth Dole's dream of running for President."

2) ABC jumped on dangerous "microwave" cell phones and CBS's Dan Rather found a "related situation" to spying at the nuclear weapons labs: "alleged prejudice."

3) Robert Ray, who replaced Kenneth Starr, was a registered Democrat until 1998, but none the networks noted that and instead relayed the White House attack on his supposed anti-Clinton bias.

4) NBC's Geraldo Rivera on Ken Starr's legacy: "The most overblown political persecution since Joe McCarthy."

5) Eleven days until Gumbel returns to morning TV. In #7 of the MRC's Top Ten "Gumbel Stumbles," Gumbel finds an upside to riots.

6) Sam Donaldson recalled assuring a Washington media colleague that his "heart" is "in the right place" since Donaldson favors liberal policies like raising taxes.

>>> October 18 Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media, is now up on the MRC Web site thanks to Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell. Quote topics include: "W. Fans: Geraldo, Eleanor, and Al"; "Ted Turner: I'm a Socialist"; "Bush vs. The 'Harsh Hard Right'"; "Good Morning, Liberal America"; "'Intelligent' Catholics Like Dung"; and "Celebrating Communist China." To read all the quotes, go to: For back issues:


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) CBS and NBC on Wednesday night exploited Elizabeth Dole's decision to drop out of the Republican presidential race as an opportunity to crusade for restrictions on spending, portraying Dole as a victim of big money in politics. "The Dole dropout comes one day after Bush allies, among the Republican congressional leaders, killed the latest attempt at campaign finance reform," declared Dan Rather. CBS's Bob Schieffer provided a one-sided story revolving around how John McCain "calls the influence of money disgraceful."

NBC anchor Tom Brokaw lamented how the money race hurt "Elizabeth Dole's dream of running for President," claiming, without citing any proof, that there's a rising tide of anger at too much money in politics: "It's gotten to be so big and so controversial there's a growing demand to change the system, but that demand died again today when it hit the U.S. Senate."

On ABC's World News Tonight John Cochran relayed Dole's reasoning that she didn't have enough money to compete and allowed as to how McCain "blames the system," but refrained from campaigning for more regulation. Cokie Roberts then told anchor Peter Jennings what she thinks will happen to Dole's voters, arguing the other party is the "more natural home" of many:
"She did energize women and young women in particular came to her rallies in large numbers and were very enthusiastic. I think some of them will now stay home. Some of the women will go to their more natural home, which is the Democratic Party and some will certainly go to some of the other candidates."

Later, on 20/20, Diane Sawyer assumed Dole's gender prevented her from raising money, not that her message failed to excite many, asking her: "What will it take to level the playing field for a woman candidate on this pernicious issue of money?"

Now to how CBS and NBC crusaded for campaign finance "reform" on Wednesday night, October 20:

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened the show by stressing the "larger implications" of Dole's dropout:
"Good evening. Elizabeth Dole is out. The only woman running for the presidential nomination of either major party said today she was done in not by a clash of ideas, but a losing scramble for cash. Dole says she was outspent at least 75-to-one by fellow Republicans George W. Bush and Steve Forbes. Bush gets a lot of his money from big business, Forbes spends a lot of his own. Against this Dole said she had no chance. CBS's Phil Jones reports the larger implications of all this."

Jones summarized Dole's complaint about how her opponents could outspend her and how she believed she had paved the way for the first woman President

Though George W. Bush has tried to separate himself from congressional Republicans, Dan Rather then linked him to what he clearly implied was a bad Senate decision: "The Dole dropout comes one day after Bush allies, among the Republican congressional leaders, killed the latest attempt at campaign finance reform, underscoring yet again how big money special interests can turn an election or even who's able to run."

Bob Schieffer began his subsequent story: "Well Dan, as you know, money's always been a factor in politics but lately its become virtually the whole ball game and there is a reason."

As if the world began yesterday.

Schieffer cited the cost of TV ads as the culprit and explained that Dole realized she couldn't win when outspent 20-to-one by Bush. Schieffer then picked up and promoted, without bothering with a retort, the pet cause of McCain:
"Republican John McCain, who has made campaign reform the core of his presidential campaign, calls the influence of money disgraceful."
McCain: "John Kasich, Lamar Alexander, Dan Quayle, now Elizabeth Dole have all left the presidential campaign before a single ballot was cast. Why? Because they didn't have sufficient money."
Schieffer: "Even the Democratic President who was out fundraising for his party last night professed sympathy."
After a soundbite from Clinton, Schieffer continued his crusade to limit the speech of others but not of CBS News:
"Current law limits contributions to candidates to a thousand dollars, but frontrunner Bush has still managed to raise nearly $60 million. An astounding number, but chicken feed compared to the quarter billion dollars expected to flow to the political parties, which are bound by no limit on contributions. Where does it end?"
McCain: "There'll be more money and more scandals and finally those scandals will grow to a point where the American people will absolutely demand we clean it up."
Without addressing how more rules will solve anything when the Clinton team violated the current rules, Schieffer concluded: "But not yet. Yesterday it was the fourth time that Senate Republican leaders had blocked a vote on McCain's reforms, even though a majority of the House and Senate now favor them."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened not with a standard introduction to a lead story, but with a personal pleading:
"Good evening. Tonight we begin with what has been called the mother's milk of politics: Money, tons of money. So much money these days it is spilling into the billions. How it affects those who have it and don't want to give it up and how it effected Elizabeth Dole's dream of running for President. We begin with what is called soft money, but it's hard cash, hundreds of millions of dollars in political cash funneled to political parties to help members of Congress already in office. It pours in from large corporations and other special interests with big stakes in how those members vote. It's gotten to be so big and so controversial there's a growing demand to change the system, but that demand died again today when it hit the U.S. Senate."

NBC then ran three stories to support Brokaw's political cause. First, Lisa Myers on the plight of the "reform" bill blocked by Republicans in the Senate. She did at least note that an "unusual coalition from the Christian Coalition to the ACLU" opposes the "reform" proposal. Second, trying to be bipartisan, Jim Avila profiled a big Democratic fundraiser in Chicago, but on the policy issue he didn't bother to be balanced, giving unrebutted airtime to a Common Cause hack who claimed only those with money are heard. Third, NBC ran an "In Their Own Words" segment from Elizabeth Dole complaining about how her lack of money doomed her campaign.

Reality Check: Not a word in any of these stories about a conservative reform proposal: Deregulate campaign finance and require full disclosure. That way, a couple of wealthy friends of Dole could have given her plenty of money, something the $1,000 per person limit now prevents.

On soft money, if parties are not allowed to raise and spend all they want then the media will gain influence. What's the value to liberals of the CBS and NBC stories crusading for their new regulatory scheme?

As for "big money" and "tons of money" being spent on elections, the U.S. actually spends very little on campaigns compared to advertising other products. And, as noted by George Will, George W. Bush's current fundraising is no greater than what a certain candidate popular with the media raised way back in 1968. Here's an excerpt from Will's October 10 column:

....If fundraising continues at the current pace, candidates for the House, Senate and presidency will spend $3 billion in the 1999-2000 cycle, an $800 million increase over the 1995-96 presidential election cycle. But to put that $800 million -- in eight quarters -- in perspective: $655 million was spent on advertising on the Internet in just the last quarter of 1998.

That $3 billion would come to $14.60 per eligible voter for political communication about the determination of public policy -- about the presidential contest, 435 House contests and 34 Senate contests. Too much? By what standard?

If today's fundraising pace is maintained, the two-year total for congressional races could be $1 billion. But before fainting, consider:
In a single year, 1998, the nation's largest advertiser, General Motors, spent almost $3 billion communicating about its products. The 14th-largest advertiser, McDonald's, spent more than $1 billion in 1998 communicating about food.

The Senate debate takes place after the Bush campaign's announcement that it has raised $56 million in seven months. However, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of the Wall Street Journal reports that in 1967-68 Eugene McCarthy, whose insurgent campaign against President Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination lasted about seven months, raised $11 million. In current dollars, that is almost $53 million. And most of it came from five people. Under the political-speech regulations put in place since then, it is impossible -- it is illegal -- to mount a McCarthy-style insurgency against the political status quo. The political class, which is the status quo, wants it that way.

It is indeed wrong that the political class must spend so much time raising money. It also is that class's fault: It has not repealed the $1,000 limit on contributions imposed, unindexed to inflation, 25 years ago. That limit has created an artificial scarcity of something -- money -- that is stupendously plentiful in booming America....

END Excerpt


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) On other matters Wednesday night, dangerous cell phones on ABC and CBS found something more dangerous than spying at he nuclear labs: racism against Asians.

ABC's World News Tonight opened with a preview of a 20/20 story by Brian Ross on how a scientist hired by the cellular industry now claims cell phones cause genetic damage and a rare type of brain tumor. Ross set back his credibility with me, however, when he referred to how "microwave radiation from phones" penetrates the head and on 20/20 to the "microwave signal" from the phones -- as if he were trying to get viewers to think of a microwave oven which penetrates solid objects. Cellular phones in the U.S., both analog and digital, operate in the 800MHz range with some new PCS licenses just above 900MHz. "Microwave" is defined as 1Ghz, or 1,000MHz, and above. It's direct line of sight communication used by satellites and uplinks from TV station mobile units back to a fixed point receiver at a high-level location. Cell phones do not transmit a "microwave" signal.

On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather, without naming a charge, predicted Wen Ho Lee "will be indicted in the next week or two. Lee flatly denies any wrongdoing. CBS's Sharyl Attkisson has been investigating a related situation at the weapons labs. In this case it goes beyond alleged spying to alleged prejudice."
Attkisson focused on how more than a dozen Asian scientists at the Lawrence Livermore lab "claim that behind the walls guarding the nation's most secret nuclear weapons technology lies another secret. Not espionage. Racism."

All three evening shows touted a federal appeals court ruling overturning a jury verdict for fraud in ABC's hit piece on Food Lion.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Robert Ray, the independent counsel who replaced Kenneth Starr, is a lifelong Democrat, the Associated Press disclosed. But in reporting his appointment, none the networks noted which side of the aisle he comes from, though several happily relayed the White House attack on him for a supposed anti-Clinton bias.

In an October 19 AP dispatch, Washington reporter Peter Yost revealed:
"Based on his work in the Espy probe, Clinton supporters began questioning Ray's impartiality as soon as word leaked out last week that he was to finish up Starr's five-year probe of the president and his wife and other matters.
"But Democrats may have trouble using the same argument that they used with Starr -- that he is a right-wing zealot out to get the President.
"Until January 1998, Ray was a registered Democrat in New York City. He ran twice for the school board in New York City in nonpartisan elections, losing both times. He now is a registered voter in New Jersey unaffiliated with any political party."

Democrats didn't have any trouble impugning Ray since the networks followed their game plan. Below are some examples of how the networks described Ray, as collected by MRC analysts Jessica Anderson and Paul Smith:

-- CNN's Inside Politics, October 15. Jeanne Meserve: "And also from the White House today, criticism of the man tapped to replace independent counsel Ken Starr. Sources say a special three-judge panel will unseal an order next week, naming Starr assistant Robert Ray to finish Starr's investigation of the President and Mrs. Clinton. White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart called the choice of Ray 'dubious,' since Ray also had worked on the independent counsel probe of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy."
Joe Lockhart: "There is, you know, a concern that, you know, that we're continuing to keep going and keep going and people are moving up. You know, it's sort of part of the process of, you know, getting ahead in the independent counsel game is, you know, being involved in a series of these investigations. We think they ought to find a way to wrap this up."

-- ABC's World News Tonight, October 18. Peter Jennings: "As we reported last week, a career prosecutor named Robert Ray is replacing Kenneth Starr as the independent counsel investigating the President. Mr. Ray took his oath of office today and he promised to finish Mr. Starr's work promptly. Now the White House has suggested that Mr. Ray is biased against the President."

-- NBC Nightly News, October 18, played a soundbite of Ray followed by Tom Brokaw relaying the White House hit.
Ray: "We shall do our best to be thorough and fair, to discharge the weighty matters and mandates that have been given our office, and to continue the work of this investigation in a prompt, responsible and cost-effective manner."
Brokaw: "A White House spokesman said it was quote 'dubious' to give someone who's worked on the Starr team and the Espy investigation a promotion."

-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams the same night played the same soundbite before Williams added: "Asked to react to all of this, a White House spokesman said it was quote 'dubious' to give someone who has worked on the Starr staff a promotion like this."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) One last shot at Starr from NBC's Geraldo Rivera. On Monday's Upfront Tonight on CNBC, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Rivera fired away:
"He gave a lot. He gave a lot of heartache. He gave five years of right wing zealotry and he gave the most overblown political persecution since Joe McCarthy, at least in this correspondent's opinion."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Number 7 in the MRC's Top Ten Gumbel Stumbles, a quote countdown to Bryant Gumbel's return to morning TV on November 1 as co-host of CBS's The Early Show, is now up on the MRC home page in RealPlayer format.

In this latest highlight from Gumbel's career as a liberal advocate, on the April 30, 1992 Today show Gumbel found an upside to the Los Angeles riots: "We keep looking for some good to come out of this. Maybe it might help in putting race relations back on the front burner after they've been subjugated so long as a result of the Reagan years."

To watch this quote and #6 as picked by MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey, which will be posted Thursday morning, go to:

Correction: The Top Ten "Gumbel Stumbles" quote cited in the October 20 CyberAlert was misidentified as #7. It was #8. Number 7 is listed above in this item.


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Caring = liberal policies to the Washington media establishment. Catching up on an anecdote caught by MRC analyst Paul Smith last week, on the October 9 Reliable Sources ABC's Sam Donaldson recalled how a prominent Washington reporter worried that Donaldson's wealth made him "out of touch." Donaldson assured him he was not, citing as proof his advocacy of higher taxes and a hike in the minimum wage.

Here's what Donaldson relayed in his appearance on the CNN show to discuss his new Mon-Wed-Fri Webcast,
"Once a good friend of mine -- you'd know his name, I'm going to tell you, he's a good reporter in Washington -- many years ago wrote me a blistering letter along the lines that you just said: Well, you've got too much money now, and you're out of touch and all of this, and you don't care about the working America. And I wrote him back and said, well, what are the issues that I am for on the roundtable every Sunday? I'm for an increase in the minimum wage. I'm for higher taxes on the wealthy. I mean, I went down the whole list of things that were there. I said, that's what I stand for. What does it matter what my bank account is if my actions, my words and my heart are in the right place, according to you?"

The "right place" for the media is on the left. -- Brent Baker


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