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“Deception Carries No Meaningful Risk”: Mega-Blitz Of Ad Spending Makes It Easier For Candidates To Lie

Today the New York Times reports that Republicans are benefiting from a money surge that could give them a boost in all those tight Senate races, and the article probably brought a smile to many Republican faces. The truth is that it’s probably too late for money in these amounts to change much of anything either way.

But this is significant, because it highlights how current campaigns are now getting hit by such a massive blizzard of spending and advertising that for candidates, accountability has become all but impossible and deception carries no meaningful risk.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

All told, in seven races for which both Democrats and Republicans provided complete fund-raising totals by Wednesday evening — Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina — Republicans held more cash in six of them, with a net advantage of about $7 million. At the same time, Democrats had booked more advertising from Sept. 29 through Election Day in at least five of those races, with the biggest advantages in North Carolina and Iowa, according to a Republican tracking media purchases.

In Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia and Iowa, Republican contenders posted their best fund-raising quarter of the year. In Iowa, the Republican candidate, Joni Ernst, who narrowly leads in polling, raised $6 million, more than double the amount taken in by her Democratic opponent, Representative Bruce Braley, and reported three times as much in cash on hand than Mr. Braley. Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas reported raising $3.8 million, far more than the Democratic incumbent, Senator Mark Pryor, who took in $2.2 million. In Colorado, Representative Cory Gardner raised $4.5 million and reported $1.4 million more in cash on hand than Senator Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent.

If you don’t live in one of these states it may be hard to appreciate the incredible volume of political ads television viewers have already endured in recent months. A count from the Wesleyan Media Project of television ads shows that in just one week, some 14,000 ads were aired in North Carolina, 13,000 in Iowa, 11,000 in Kentucky, and so on. Buying a few hundred more ads in one of these states is like walking up to people who have been standing in the middle of a monsoon and firing a squirt gun at them.

Meanwhile, the total spending so far in these races is enormous, as these data from the Center for Responsive Politics show:

By the time the race is over, the spending in, for example, North Carolina will probably total at least $75 million. Is another million or two going to be transformative? Probably not.

The important thing here is that all of this spending makes real accountability a lot harder. The candidates know that any forum where they might actually be held accountable will inevitably be drowned out by all the ads. For instance, in a debate yesterday Cory Gardner had to endure a grilling by a couple of obviously exasperated reporters over the fact that Gardner keeps denying that the “Personhood” bill he sponsored in Congress actually does what it says it does. He bobbed and weaved, and the footage looks really bad. But is Gardner particularly worried? I doubt it. He’s up by a couple of points in the polls, and how many people actually watched that debate? He has thousands of opportunities to get his message out his way.

Nor, I suspect, is Mitch McConnell worried that he’ll pay a price for trying to fool people in Kentucky into thinking that you can repeal the Affordable Care Act “root and branch,” but they’ll still get to keep Kynect, the hugely successful ACA exchange. Voters don’t understand the distinction, and the media aren’t helping them get it. In the post-Citizens United world, there’s little to fear, so long as you and your allies have the money.

That isn’t to say that the media couldn’t impose some accountability if they truly wanted to. But it would take an agreement that a particular issue is important enough to warrant intense, repeated attention. And that, apparently, is something they only do for things that have little or no substantive importance, like whether a candidate will say who she voted for.

Thirty years ago, George H.W. Bush’s press secretary Peter Teeley was asked by a reporter about a lie Bush had told during his debate with Geraldine Ferraro. “You can say anything you want during a debate, and 80 million people hear it,” he said. And if reporters then correct the falsehood? “So what?” Teeley responded. “‘Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000.”

The principle today is the same, but the information environment has changed. Candidates are no more afraid of accountability than they were, but now it’s because they’re drowning voters in advertising. And they can still say anything they want.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 16, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Creating Winners And Losers”: Are The Beltway Media Helping Mitch McConnell Stay In Power?

The Beltway media are at it again, creating winners and losers long before Election Day. Yesterday I wrote that Alison Lundergan Grimes beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s one and only Senate debate, and if you watched the debate, you might agree.

But if you had only followed the media coverage, you might well believe that Grimes is a goner, that her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama was of such import that it rightly overshadowed all other issues the candidates fought over—minimum wage, jobs, climate change, student loans, healthcare—and that her demurral was far more worthy of coverage than McConnell’ s actual lies and deceptions about the healthcare of 500,000 Kentuckians.

And if Grimes’s non-answer wasn’t a pretend disaster enough for the media to hyperventilate over, they got more confirmation later yesterday when the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee announced it wasn’t going to spend more to run ads in Kentucky. Well, surely that showed that Big Dems agreed with Big Media that Grimes was out. Money speaks. She’s over. Or so it seems.

But the media have it wrong. First, on the debate: Columbia Journalism Review did a large round-up of the political media responses to Monday’s debate and found that the coverage was “imbalanced” and that it “calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.”

Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes made national headlines during the debate for again declining to share how she voted in previous presidential elections. At the same time, however, the Washington press corps barely covered a claim by incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell that Obamacare, unpopular in Kentucky, could be repealed without dismantling Kynect, the popular statewide healthcare exchange funded through the law. McConnell’s argument is not only factually questionable, at best, but also seems to be of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters. Monday’s debate was the only televised face-off scheduled before the November election, and the imbalanced coverage calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.

Grimes’ non-answer received headline treatment on web stories at CBS, NBC ABC, and CNN. The Washington Post devoted an entire piece to the refusal, which led the Associated Press’ story , and Politico and National Journal both listed it as their top takeaway of the debate. Such stories either omitted McConnell’s claim or played it down relative to Grimes’ comment. FoxNews.com mentioned only the latter, meanwhile, and The Wall Street Journal left McConnell’s statement as its story’s kicker, unchallenged.

It’s not as if the media was hearing Mitch’s lie for the first time and simply lacked the time to study up on it. It had all been reported on before:

Liberalmedia and a few national outlets, such as the AP, challenged the five-term senator’s claim back [in May]. Indeed, an Obamacare repeal would have huge consequences for the Bluegrass State, as an estimated half-million residents have signed up for health coverage through its Kynect exchange. A Washington Post Fact Checker column soon after concluded, “the history of individual state exchanges shows it is not credible for McConnell to suggest that the state exchange would survive without the broad health-care system constructed by the Affordable Care Act, such as an individual mandate and subsidies to buy insurance.”

Given the availability of such reporting, not to mention McConnell’s hazy logic in a race in which Obamacare has been a central theme, it’s unclear why the national media didn’t pounce on his answer Monday. What’s more, local coverage of the debate suggests that Grimes’ voting history—a sign of her allegiance to President Barack Obama—is merely one of many concerns or Kentucky voters.

It is true that the DSCC stopped running ads in Kentucky in order to redirect funds to other state races. But the Democratic Senate campaign arm is still funding Grimes’s get-out-the-vote drive, and is “monitoring the race for future investments,” according to a DSCC official. In any case, Grimes is very well-funded herself, having just announced a record breaking nearly $5 million haul for the third quarter.

But the national media were quick to jump to the most melodramatic conclusion. As Daily Kos pointed out:

Today a rumor was spread throughout national media by irresponsible nationally-known media (Chris Cillizza, Jon Heilemann, Mark Halpirin, MSNBC, CNN) that “Democrats have abandoned Grimes”.

Heilemann and Halperin agreed on their program that “Her campaign is dead”.

This rumor was based upon the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) not having pre-purchased ad buys in KY market for last 3 weeks of campaign. The DSCC has been very active in the Kentucky market, with great ads playing. The DSCC acknowledged this was true, but that they were open to purchases if necessary.

Guy Cecil, the Executive Director of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, posted at about 8:00pm eastern Tuesday night 10/14, on Twitter:

Guy Cecil ‏@guycecil 3h 3 hours ago

Just signed a $300,000 wire for the KY Get Out The Vote operation for @AlisonForKY. That’s an interesting view of “pulling out of the race”

And for all this, you’d never know that as of Wednesday afternoon, Alison Grimes is only three points behind Mitch McConnell in the RealClearPolitics average.

 

By: Leslie Savin, The Nation, October 15, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Justice Denied”: Federal Judge Faces No Punishment Following Racially Charged Remarks

Last year, Judge Edith H. Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals spoke to a conservative legal group and made a series of controversial remarks about race. There is no official transcript or recording, but affidavits from attendees pointed to deeply problematic language, especially from a sitting federal judge.

According to an ethics complaint, Jones, a Reagan appointee, told the audience that “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime.” A veteran attorney who was in the room said Jones “noted there was no arguing that ‘blacks’ and ‘Hispanics’ far outnumber ‘Anglos’ on death row and repeated that ‘sadly’ people from these racial groups do get involved in more violent crime.” She was also accused of having said defenses often used in capital cases, including mental retardation and systemic racism, are “red herrings.”

An investigation ensued, but the Associated Press reported yesterday that a panel of judges dismissed the misconduct complaint.

“It appears likely that Judge Jones did suggest that, statistically, African-Americans and/or Hispanics are ‘disproportionately’ involved in certain crimes and ‘disproportionately’ present in federal prisons,” said the panel.

“But we must consider Judge Jones’ comments in the context of her express clarifications during the question-and-answer period that she did not mean that certain groups are ‘prone to commit’ such crimes,” the panel of judges said.

“In that context, whether or not her statistical statements are accurate, or accurate only with caveats, they do not by themselves indicate racial bias or an inability to be impartial,” said the panel. “They resemble other albeit substantially more qualified, statements prominent in contemporary debate regarding the fairness of the justice system.”

One wonders if Americans from minority communities, whose legal fate rests in Jones’ hands, would have comparable confidence in the conservative judge’s impartiality.

My colleague Kate Osborn noted yesterday that one of the lawyers who filed the original complaint wasn’t impressed with the investigation, and is pushing the process forward. From a press statement:

The D.C. Circuit judges who dismissed the initial complaint this August repeatedly relied on Judge Jones’ own version of the facts about her Penn Law speech – in spite of conflicting sworn testimony from six people – five of whom were law students – who attended the lecture. The judges allowed Judge Jones to testify but did not allow those who filed the complaint or attended the lecture to do the same. The judges also received documents and other secret evidence that they and Judge Jones refused to disclose to complainants.

“Just as concerning as these instances of bias, the one-sidedness and secrecy surrounding the ethics complaint process and the untoward deference to the judge’s denials makes it unlikely that any claims of judicial misbehavior can be handled in a way that gives the public confidence that justice is being served,” said Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., national general counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens, another party to the appeal.

An appeal has been filed with the Judicial Conference of the United States, requesting its Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability revisit the complaint.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 16, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Edith H. Jones, Federal Judiciary | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Depressing And Infuriating”: Voter ID Laws Make The Poll Tax Look Good

The poll tax is looking pretty tempting in the rear-view mirror. It was $1.50 in 1964, when the 24th Amendment outlawed it as a requirement for voting in federal elections. Adjusted for inflation, the tax would be less than $12 today. That makes it a lot cheaper — and infinitely easier — than getting hold of exactly the right documentation to cast a ballot under some state laws.

The recent wave of rulings and opinions on voter ID laws makes for depressing, at times infuriating, reading. There is the parade of “practical obstacles” summarized by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, writing on the Wisconsin law. Trying to learn what you need, collecting the documents, getting to and standing on line at one or more state offices that are open only during business hours, and perhaps having to deal with multiple other state and federal agencies to address discrepancies — just skimming the list will make your stomach clench and your head ache. It’s a major undertaking for a high-income, highly educated person with flexible work hours and access to public officials. It’s prohibitive in multiple ways for others.

There are the calculated choices majority Republicans made in Texas about what kinds of ID to accept and reject. They said yes to gun permits and military IDs and didn’t mess with absentee ballots — all ways to “broaden Anglo voting,” U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote. They rejected student IDs, state government employee IDs and federal IDs, all “disproportionately held by African-Americans and Hispanics.”

There is the barrier of cost, addressed in an opinion on the Wisconsin law by Judge Richard Posner, a conservative named by Ronald Reagan to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He cited a Harvard Law School report that found the cost of documentation, travel and waiting time to get an ID to be $75 to $175. That’s 50 to 100 times more than that $1.50 poll tax, and all you’d have to do is pay at the polling station before voting.

The poll tax, in many cases applied selectively and used to discriminate, had no place in a democracy. Yet how different was it from the hurdles placed in the path of so many voters today?

These burdens, and possibly even the outcome of a close race or two, hang in the balance as the courts whipsaw back and forth in the weeks before the Nov. 4 election. Ramos blocked the Texas law last week, she was reversed by a three-judge appeals panel this week, and the next day the Supreme Court was asked to again block the law from taking effect. The Wisconsin law went through a similar judicial rollercoaster before the Supreme Court last week said it could not go forward this year.

Posner’s dissent in the Wisconsin case is memorable for personal asides that inject bracing reminders of the real world, and an overall scathing tone. His 11-page appendix, for instance, is called “Scrounging for your birth certificate in Wisconsin.” All 11 pages are required forms and instructions on how to fill them out.

“Scrounge” was the Seventh Circuit panel’s verb of choice in its short-lived ruling to let the law take effect. The panel referred disapprovingly to people “unwilling to invest the necessary time” to “scrounge up a birth certificate and stand in line at the office that issues driver’s licenses.” To which Posner responded that “the author of this dissenting opinion” — that would be him — “has never seen his birth certificate and does not know how he would go about ‘scrounging’ it up. Nor does he enjoy waiting in line at motor vehicle bureaus.”

Posner wrote that since voter-impersonation fraud is virtually non-existent, the only motivation for such requirements is “to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.” He uses charts to show that of the nine states with the strictest ID requirements, eight laws were passed by all-GOP legislatures and seven of the eight also had GOP governors.

The morality of all this is bad enough — we’re talking about voting, for Pete’s sake, the bedrock of the republic, a right people died to win. But the voter ID fad also reveals flawed political strategy. It courts backlash, in the form of higher minority turnout. And it will make it harder to repair relations with the affected groups when demographic reality takes hold and the GOP needs their votes.

If the Supreme Court decides to rule on the merits of voter ID laws, let’s hope it acts with more dispatch than it did on poll taxes. The taxes were declared constitutional in 1937. It was not until 1966, two years after the 24th Amendment banning them in federal elections, that the high court ruled them unconstitutional in all elections. We don’t need 29 years to know that voter suppression is wrong.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, October 16, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Poll Tax, Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“New Depths Of Shamelessness”: Chicken Little Media Keeps Reaching New Lows

One time, my wife and I went walking near a pasture where nine mares grazed. I knew them all by name. Suddenly and for no obvious reason the herd stampeded, galloping by as if their lives depended upon it. It was a thrilling sight, like being right down on the rail at the race track.

But what were they running from? There are no predators around here capable of harming a horse. As the leaders thundered by, I noticed two fillies at the back getting skeptical. They kept looking behind and catching each other’s eye as if to say “What’s this about? I don’t see anything, do you?”

As the fillies pulled up, the leaders thundered headlong into a run-in shed about 100 yards ahead and stopped. The proximate cause of the stampede had been a fat black horse fly on the boss mare’s rump. As soon as she went under the roof, the insect flew off.

It was quite comical, actually.

We Americans didn’t used to be like that. We prided ourselves on being a pragmatic, self-confident people — more like the skeptical fillies than the thundering herd. But if you believe a lot of what you read in the news media and see on TV, much of the public currently lives on the edge of panic.

The role of cable TV news channels in stoking hysteria has reached new depths of shamelessness. They do it purely for the ratings, you know.

And if you don’t, the barbaric propagandists of ISIS certainly do.

Typical headlines: “ISIS Threat: Fear of Terror Attack Soars to 9/11 High, NBC News/WSJ Poll Finds. By the ghastly tactic of beheading American and British citizens on TV, Islamic extremists fighting to establish a Sunni fundamentalist “caliphate” have stampeded the nation.

Millions of Americans who wanted out of Middle Eastern sectarian wars now think the U.S needs to get back in.

If ISIS’s goals are insane, so are their tactics. Politically speaking, no U.S. president could have failed to react to the organization’s mad provocations. Exactly how President Obama’s bombing campaign will end, nobody can say — although that hasn’t stopped a thousand propagandists from trying.

Invading Iraq at all was the big mistake, and it says here that getting sucked back in to yet another Middle Eastern ground war would be to repeat it. A big part of the problem is the unreasoning fear, far out of proportion to any actual threat the nation faces.

Although my saying so infuriated certain readers, I once wrote that Osama bin Laden’s “deluded followers posed no military threat to the integrity of the United States or any Western nation. At worst they were capable of theatrical acts of mass murder like the 9/11 attacks. And that was sufficient evil indeed.”

But fear made us reckless. I’d say the same about ISIS. For all its ruthlessness, ISIS has no Air Force, no Navy, and a ragtag Army incapable of projecting power anywhere but the desert wastes of Iraq and Syria. Helping the Kurds defend themselves against a genocidal massacre is one thing; trying to impose a pax Americana on the entire region quite another.

Quivering in our beds for fear of a terrorist strike should be beneath the American people. It’s impossible to respect shameless politicians like Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton, who actually warned viewers on a TV town hall that ISIS terrorists might collaborate with Mexican drug cartels to “infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.

Armies of Mexican Islamic terrorists descending upon El Dorado and Texarkana! For somebody who comes advertised as brainy, Cotton appears incapable of concealing how dumb he thinks voters are.

Then there’s Ebola, which cable TV also shamelessly hypes for ratings. “I’ve followed cable news for many, many years now,” writes The Daily Banter’s Bob Cesca “and not since the lead-up to the Iraq War has the American news media behaved with such recklessness.”

Among a hundred possible examples, Cesca was aghast at CNN’s interviewing novelist Robin Cook, who once wrote a thriller about a conspiracy to spread Ebola foiled by a hero-doctor.

“The real issue here is how quickly it can mutate, and how that’s gonna affect the transmission…” Cook said. “Perhaps this virus cannot live very long in the air. I don’t know. But I don’t think anybody knows.”

Actually, people do know.  Every professional health agency in the world agrees that Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air. As for mutating, Scientific American reports that there’s “almost no historical precedent for any virus to change its basic mode of transmission so radically.”

The real thing is bad enough without spreading lurid disinformation.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 15, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, ISIS, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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