Issues ››› Elections
  • The silly season cometh, Pingree edition

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    It's mid-October of an election year, and you know what that means: time for political operatives to empty their cupboards of every attack that could possibly stick to the opposing party, and hope the media is willing to credulously run with it.

    Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) is being subject to one such attack, which appears to revolve around two facts: 1) She is engaged to hedge fund manager Donald Sussman and 2) Donald Sussman is rich.

    Specifically, some in the media are attempting to suggest that she is a hypocrite for flying on her fiancé's private jet, contrasting those flights with out-of-context comments that don't quite show what they are suggesting. Here's Stu Rothenberg in a Roll Call column from last week:

    But Pingree won an open seat with only 55 percent two years ago, and GOP operatives see her as "a polarizer in a state that doesn't like polarizers." And Pingree has made herself the focus of controversy by flying around on a corporate jet owned by her fiancé, a wealthy hedge fund chairman.

    This is the same Pingree who testified before Congress by criticizing legislators who used private airplanes and said flying on corporate jets "contributes to the corrosive public perception that Members of Congress are more like the fat cats of Wall Street than they are like the rest of us."

    And here's the full context of Pingree's April 2006 testimony, back when she was president of Common Cause: Pingree was expressing opposition to a provision of a proposed bill that would ban registered lobbyists from traveling on corporate-chartered flights with members of Congress. The thrust of Pingree's argument is that the provision wouldn't go far enough, as the actual problem wasn't that lobbyists were on those flights, but that members of Congress were being flown around by corporations in the first place. According to Pingree, this was a special gift to lawmakers not available to most Americans, and "even if lobbyists are not on the flight, someone from the company, like the C.E.O., will be on board to discuss the company's legislative agenda in their place."

    Seems somewhat different from the issue of a member of Congress having access to her fiancé's private jet, doesn't it? That's probably why the House ethics panel has cleared Pingree's jet use -- a fact Rothenberg doesn't mention.

    Meanwhile, the Maine media is printing stories about how Pingree "would be in violation of federal campaign finance laws" if she used Sussman's jet for campaign purposes, an allegation for which there is no evidence, and which the Pingree campaign has denied.

    Yes, the silly season is here.

  • "All Aboard": Fox "kicks off" promotion of latest Tea Party Express bus tour

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Today, the Tea Party Express -- a project of a Republican consulting firm designed to raise money for its political action committee - launched its fourth nationwide bus tour in Reno, NV. Who was there to cheer them on? Their friends at Fox, of course. "Campaign" Carl Cameron was on the scene to promote the Express and its chairman, Amy Kremer, in back-to-back hits on Fox Business and Fox News.

    On Fox Business, anchor Dagen McDowell said that "Tea Party voters have a chance to jump on the bandwagon as the Tea Party Express weaves its way across the U.S." Cameron explained the tour's route, while Fox Business helped out by displaying it with an on-screen graphic:


    The on-screen text helpfully pointed out that Fox's own Sarah Palin "helped launch" the Reno rally.

    Minutes later, Cameron appeared on Fox News to promote the Tea Party Express kick-off rally and interview Kremer. Cameron played up her grassroots story (she "started as a volunteer"), somehow neglecting to mention that the Express was formed by a GOP consulting firm.

    According to GOP consultant Joe Wierzbicki, who proposed the Tea Party Express' creation, it was intended to "give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus." Wierzbicki hoped that the effort could get "some mentions and possibly even promotion from" the right-wing media, including "Fox News commentators."

    It looks like Fox is planning to cover Tea Party Express IV the same way it covered Tea Party Express I, II and III.

  • Dionne highlights how Beck fits in GOP's "three-level campaign" strategy

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In his October 18 Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne discusses the Republican's "three-level campaign this year," which provides GOP candidates with "a wealth of advantages." The "first level" of the campaign strategy, according to Dionne, is "the party's candidate," the second level is "the outside groups that refuse to disclose their donor lists," and the third level consists of "Glenn Beck and his allies" who "cast President Obama as the central figure in a conspiracy against America itself, fueling participation by the most extreme 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate." From his column:

    The Republican Party is running a three-level campaign this year that gives its candidates a wealth of advantages -- in flexibility, deniability and determination.

    At the first level are the party's candidates, who can be as reasonable or as angry, as moderate or as conservative, as their circumstances require.

    Next come the outside groups that refuse to disclose their donor lists. They are doing the dirty work of pounding their Democratic opponents in commercials for which no one is accountable. The Republican candidates can shrug an innocent "Who, me?" Deniability is a wonderful thing.

    And then, on the far right, Glenn Beck and his allies cast President Obama as the central figure in a conspiracy against America itself, fueling participation by the most extreme 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate.

    Their crackpot ideas, as the historian Sean Wilentz documented in the New Yorker recently, originated in the 1950s and '60s, in the paranoid theorizing of the John Birch Society. But whereas responsible conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. denounced the Birchers and the rest of the lunatic fringe back then, Republicans this time are riding the radical wave. In some cases (think Sharron Angle in Nevada), the extremists are their standard-bearers.

  • Doocy couldn't come up with anything else to ask Rick Scott about his health care "expertise"?

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

    Fox & Friends kicked off what is bound to be a full week of campaigning for Republicans early this Monday morning, by hosting yet another Republican candidate whose opponent was conveniently "unable to join" them. Today's beneficiary of Fox & Friends' boosterism was Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott. In a move that should surprise no one, Doocy made sure to mention Scott's "expertise" in running hospitals, but never found time to mention Scott's health care company settled with the government over a massive Medicare fraud investigation. Must have just slipped his mind.

    Doocy interviewed Scott for almost four minutes today, and included such hard hitting questions about whether he was "actually helped by early voting" in the primary, and about how he is going to "get people to show up and do the voting?" Doocy also made a point to cast Scott as a health care expert, asking: "Your expertise is in hospital business, you were CEO for a big company. Would you work, if you were governor, to repeal all or part of the health care act?" Naturally, Scott said he would repeal the whole thing:

    If you felt like something was missing from this interview, well, you're right. See, Scott resigned as chairman of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp, the group Doocy alluded to, in 1997 amid a federal Medicare fraud investigation. According to a July 26, 1997, Los Angeles Times article, Scott resigned "amid a massive federal investigation into the Medicare billing, physician recruiting and home-care practices of" Columbia/HCA, "the nation's largest for-profit health care company." According to a December 18, 2002, Justice Department press release describing a tentative settlement with HCA to resolve civil litigation, "When added to the prior civil and criminal settlements reached in 2000, this settlement would bring the government's total recoveries from HCA to approximately $1.7 billion." We have also documented repeated instances in which media outlets and figures have uncritically repeated or aired Scott's health care misinformation, including that of his advocacy organization, Conservatives for Patients' Rights.

    You've heard of "we report, you decide," this was more "we won't report, and you're misled."

  • Fox News: Please define, "up for grabs"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    This morning, Fox & Friends just gave us a lesson in wishful thinking. They led their show with a segment speculating that the U.S. Senate race in Delaware was "up for grabs," and went to quite some length suggesting that the Republican candidate, Christine O'Donnell, had a shot at winning the seat. Fox & Friends, let me introduce you to Nate Silver, a respected statistician with an impressive track record of predicting election results. He gives your "up for grabs" seat a 100% chance that the Democrat, Chris Coons, will win--and by a wide margin. Take a look:

    Five Thirty Eight screen grab

  • FoxPAC welcomes former contributor Kasich back for yet another campaign appearance

    Blog ››› ››› KAREN FAMIGHETTI

    Fox News recently hosted former Fox News contributor John Kasich, the current Republican candidate for governor of Ohio, to raise funds for his campaign and criticize President Obama's recent trips to Ohio, complaining that "Obama will have been here eleven times on Sunday night, Biden has been here four times in the last three weeks."

    It was Kasich's ninth appearance on Fox News since he announced his candidacy, according to a search of the Nexis database.

    Media Matters has documented how Fox News contributors who are also political candidates often use the network to promote their campaigns. Apparently past contributors are no exception.

  • Chris Coons debates right-wing smears and Fox News "journalists"

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Fox Nation rehashed a ridiculous and relentless right-wing attack, labeling Chris Coons a "Bearded Marxist"-- an attack that Fox News candidate Christine O'Donnell pushed in her recent debate against Democrat Chris Coons, her opponent in the Delaware Senate race.

    As Media Matters documented, Fox News has aggressively hyped the false claim that Coons called himself a "bearded Marxist" in a college newspaper article. In fact, this false claim is based entirely on a joke that Coons recounted in the article, as Coons himself pointed out in the debate. Observers such as Fox News' Greta Van Susteren and CNN's Howard Kurtz have agreed that this is a "cheap shot" and "bogus."

    O'Donnell debates moderators

  • Conservative media's "foreign unions" charge doesn't hold up

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In recent days, right-wing media have responded to criticism that conservative political groups have put out millions of dollars worth of GOP attack ads from undisclosed donors, possibly including foreign donors, by deploying a wave of false claims about supposedly equivalent actions taken by progressive groups.

    Among the most pernicious (and baseless) is the suggestion that the AFL-CIO, the labor union coalition that generally backs Democratic candidates, is funded from foreign sources.

    On the October 10 edition of ABC's This Week, conservative columnist George Will claimed that "the AFL-CIO receives dues from foreign entities associated with it." Likewise, on the October 12 edition of Fox News' America Live, talk radio host Lars Larson charged that "Half of the AFL-CIO is made up of foreign unions":

    In both cases, the commentators were arguing that neither the conservative groups nor the AFL-CIO had done anything wrong. But their suggestion about the AFL-CIO's supposed foreign membership appears to be false.

    About half of the AFL-CIO's member unions are "international" -- not "foreign" -- unions. What this generally means is that they are U.S.-based unions that also have foreign -- usually Canadian -- members. But according to the AFL-CIO, the Canadian members of the AFL-CIO's member unions are not themselves AFL-CIO union members; the dues the member unions pay to the AFL-CIO are based solely on their American members.

  • FoxPAC: Morris uses Fox platform to fundraise for new pro-GOP PAC

    ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    Earlier this month, Fox News political analyst Dick Morris announced the creation of Super PAC for America, whose goal is to raise $20 million to help Republicans win 100 House seats in this year's election. As he has numerous times before, Dick Morris is using his Fox News platform to promote and raise money for the group.