Issues ››› Elections
  • The media's foreign money double-standard

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Whenever there's a hint of a Democratic campaign finance controversy, the media is quick to draw comparisons to 1997, when Republicans and the media were in a frenzy over the possibility that some foreign money had made its way into the DNC's coffers during the 1996 campaign.

    But there was another foreign-money-in-politics story that broke in 1997 that doesn't get dredged up nearly as often: The revelation that the Republican National Committee essentially laundered funds from a Hong Kong businessman for use during the 1994 elections, when the GOP took control of congress.

    Here's some background, from a July 24, 1997, Los Angeles Times article:

    The Senate's campaign fund-raising hearings placed Republicans on the hot seat Wednesday, examining a money trail in which $1.6 million from a Hong Kong business ended up in party coffers in the critical final weeks of the 1994 congressional elections thanks to timely work by former GOP chairman Haley Barbour.

    The embarrassing episode dates back to the heat of the 1994 congressional elections, when Barbour sought out financial support from Ambrous Tung Young, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman and Republican Party loyalist.

    Barbour arranged a $2.1-million loan guarantee from Young Brothers Development USA, the Florida-based subsidiary of Young's Hong Kong-based real estate and aviation company, to support the National Policy Forum, a GOP think tank created by Barbour in 1993 to promote the Republican philosophy.

    The Forum took out a $2.1-million commercial bank loan, guaranteed by certificates of deposit purchased with funds provided to Young Brothers Development by the parent company in Hong Kong. The Forum then immediately sent $1.6 million to an RNC account.


    Documents unveiled at Wednesday's hearings show a close relationship between the party and the policy forum, and a clear awareness by all parties that the loan guarantee from Young, a Taiwanese citizen, would ultimately end up aiding Republican campaigns.

    "We are willing to consider the support of $2.1 million, which is the amount you have expressed to me that is urgently needed and directly related to the November election," Young wrote in a September 1994 letter to Barbour.

    Months before that, Michael Baroody quit as president of the National Policy Forum and complained in his resignation letter of Barbour's "fascination" with raising foreign money, an account he repeated in testimony Wednesday.

    There's more. Check it out.

    But the media -- which took three years to catch on to the foreign money-laundering -- forgot all about it almost as soon as those campaign finance hearings ended.

    If an organization that is spending tens of millions of dollars to influence this year's elections on behalf of Democrats and was accused of using foreign money to do so, you can be sure the media would be quick to remind you of the 1996 campaign finance scandals. But the Chamber of Commerce is accused of using foreign money to help Republican candidates, and the media dismisses the allegations -- and they certainly don't invoke the GOP's 1994 scheme.

  • Campaign Fox targets Barney Frank

    ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Over the past few months, Fox News has engaged in an all-out campaign against Rep. Barney Frank through insults, falsehoods, and continuous promotion of his opponent, Sean Bielat.

  • Rove-backed GOP slush fund now entering House races

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    This morning, American Crossroads, the GOP slush fund that has been heavily promoted by Karl Rove, announced that in addition to the heavy spending it's been doing in Senate races, it also plans to engage in "at least 15, and potentially more than 20, House races," starting by airing ads in eight districts this week. And I'm sure Fox News still doesn't care.

    The new House spending is in addition to the reported $3 million in new ad buys the group is rolling out in Senate races in Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, Illinois, Kentucky, and Florida.

    On Sunday, Rove, Fox News' political analyst, responded to President Obama's comment that he had "funded and advised" American Crossroads by denying that he personally put up money for the group. But he acknowledged he is "helping to raise money for these groups" and "absolutely doing everything I can to raise money for them." He did not comment on Obama's contention that he has "advised" the group.

    Is anyone at Fox asking him whether he's involved in deciding which House races the group is going to spend the money he's been raising? Somehow I doubt it; he was discussing the buy on America's Newsroom this morning (and bragging about how much money the group had recently been raising) and it never came up:

    It's almost like they don't care that their top political analyst is a GOP shill, isn't it?

  • Hot Air absurdly credits Bush for starting trend of candidates saying "I approve this message"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    In touting Christine O'Donnell's latest campaign attack ad, Hot Air's Allahpundit marvels that "[a]part from the lightning-quick attribution at the end of the spot, her name is never mentioned; there's not even an 'I'm Christine O'Donnell and I approve this message' voiceover," which he laughably credits Bush for starting, saying these disclosures have "become perfunctory in political ads ever since Bush started doing it in 2004." Earth to Allahpundit: Bush didn't just start using these disclosures in his campaign ads because he felt like. No, he started doing it because a law passed in 2002 required it.

    The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002--also known as the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill--included a provision requiring that campaign ads include "a statement that identifies the candidate and states that the candidate has approved the communication." So, Bush wasn't starting any sort of trend when he did this during his 2004 campaign--he was following the law. From the bill:


    ''(A) BY RADIO.--Any communication described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a) which is transmitted through radio shall include, in addition to the requirements of that paragraph, an audio statement by the candidate that identifies the candidate and states that the candidate has approved the communication.

    ''(B) BY TELEVISION.--Any communication described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a) which is transmitted through television shall include, in addition to the requirements of that paragraph, a statement that identifies the candidate and states that the candidate has approved the communication. Such statement--

    ''(i) shall be conveyed by--

    ''(I) an unobscured, full-screen view of the candidate

    making the statement, or

    ''(II) the candidate in voice-over, accompanied

    by a clearly identifiable photographic or similar

    image of the candidate; and

    ''(ii) shall also appear in writing at the end of the communication in a clearly readable manner with a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the printed statement, for a period of at least 4 seconds.

  • Daily Caller sets new standard for "he said/she said" journalism

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Daily Caller today takes a shot at breast cancer awareness group Susan G. Komen for the Cure, publishing a hit piece taking the organization to task for providing funds to Planned Parenthood. The article attempts to concoct an accusation of hypocrisy by saying that "some groups allege" that abortion can cause breast cancer:

    The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation is a breast cancer awareness powerhouse. As its influence has grown, so too have the number of its critics, who, while appreciative of the group's good works, cringe at the fact that some of the donations to Komen end up in the coffers of abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

    In addition to the debate over the propriety of allocating money to Planned Parenthood, some groups allege that studies prove abortions and certain oral contraceptives can cause breast cancer -- while organizations such as Komen deny such links.

    First of all, as the article itself points out, Komen has said that it rigorously audits the funds in question to ensure they are used "for screening, treatment or education of breast cancer only." Indeed, according to Planned Parenthood, 3 percent of its health care services spending goes to abortion services, while 17 percent goes to cancer screening and prevention.

    More importantly, the Daily Caller's presentation of the question of whether abortion causes cancer as a "he said/she said" matter for debate is pathetic and irresponsible.

    Here's who thinks abortion causes cancer: the anti-abortion Religious Right and the Limbaugh brothers.

    Here's who doesn't: the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

    At the Daily Caller, that's two sides of an even argument. In the real world, it's ideologues with no idea what they're talking about versus actual experts.

  • Chamber "speak[s] through Fox News" -- its donor's subsidiary -- to respond to administration

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    This afternoon, Fox News hosted Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive vice president of government affairs, who lashed out at the Obama administration for its recent criticism of the chamber. Subjected to a flurry of softball questions from anchor Megyn Kelly, Josten said the administration was "acting out of desperation" and "seems to have gone from a campaign of hope and change to fear and smear." Watch:

    Josten seems pretty sure of himself -- as well he should be. He's giving an interview on the one network where he knows his attacks will not be challenged.

    How could the chamber be sure they would have a friendly venue on Fox to discuss allegations about the donors funding their attack ads? Because Fox's parent company is one of those donors! Yup, News Corp. gave $1 million to the chamber this summer.

    Somehow, Megyn Kelly forgot to mention that donation during her six-minute interview with one of its top executives.

    This whole situation is an ethics nightmare. But as usual, Fox couldn't care less.

  • The most overrated polling data in politics

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    I've long argued that the media tends to make too much of polling that consistently shows many more Americans self-identify as conservative than as liberal. News reports often portray that data as evidence that America is a conservative nation, use it to justify assumptions about which policies (and politicians) will be popular, and to assert that Republicans -- but not Democrats -- can enjoy electoral success by appealing to their "base."

    It seems obvious that the public's ideological self-identification cannot carry all that weight. Otherwise, how would you explain (for example) the fact that Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the past five presidential elections? How would you reconcile the preference for the "conservative" label with a general preference for liberal policies?

    The significance of the public's preference for a given label is limited by the clarity of that label. A poll asking whether people are Yankees fans or Red Sox fans will yield pretty reliable results: There isn't much danger that different respondents will have significantly differing interpretations of those two choices. That isn't the case with "liberal" and "conservative," which are relatively abstract labels with imprecise meanings that are rarely articulated for a mass audience, and which simply don't mean much to most people.

    The fact that more voters self-identify as "conservative" than "liberal" doesn't tell us nothing. It's reasonable to conclude, for example, that "liberal" may be a more effective insult than "conservative," and "conservative" a more effective validator than "liberal." But it doesn't tell us much at all about whether voters really are much more likely to be conservative, or to favor conservative policies and candidates. It doesn't tell us nearly as much as many journalists and pundits think it does.

    The Washington Post's Ezra Klein makes a similar point today, based on a paper (pdf) by political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson. Ellis and Stimson note:

    [T]he preference for the 'liberal' label over the 'conservative' one has been steadily declining since at least the 1970's, even while preferences for 'liberal' public policy—not to mention 'liberal' political candidates—have vacillated, but have not trended downward, during this time period."

    As Klein points out, shortly before the 1936 election, in which Franklin Roosevelt won a landslide re-election and Democrats won almost 80 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives a Gallup poll found most Americans self-identified as "conservative." Here's Klein:

    So on the eve of an overwhelming victory for liberalism -- a victory not just at the polls, but in policy -- the country still called itself conservative. In the decades after that, the country would call itself more conservative, but it would become more liberal. It would elect politicians to oversee the vast expansion of Social Security, and the passage of the civil rights bills, Medicare and Medicaid, welfare, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It would march toward equality for both African Americans and women, and, it seems, for gays. It would even come to see conservatives defend both Medicare and Social Security as their own.