Jun 18, 201501:25 PMBlaska's Bring It!
with David Blaska
Columnist demands The Capital Times Inc. cease promoting Democratic candidates
(page 1 of 2)
Last time your humble squire expressed amazement at how readily former Sen. Russ Feingold got major news media mileage out of a clearly partisan campaign trick: make your opponent promise to keep third-party spending out of the Senate race.
His gambit was good for follow-up stories. How would incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson respond to this challenge from clean-living Russ? (Read more about his “political action committee” gravy train.) Yes, the mainstream news media took the bait. They like Russ. He’s a liberal.
I said last time that, by definition, one has no control over third party activity. If the Blaska Policy Werkes and Tanning Parlor Inc. decides to post a sign on its world headquarters calling Russ a hypocrite, there’s little RoJo can do about it. It’s my free speech. Actually, Russ Feingold did try to do something about that. The McCain-Feingold Act that would have silenced corporations 60 days before a general election was largely overturned by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.
However, what is good for the goose … Today, Blaska’s Bring It! blog challenges the Russ Feingold campaign to foreswear any third-party in-kind contributions from corporations whose principal for-profit business is the dissemination of news and opinion.
We demand that candidate Feingold request that The Capital Times, the Wisconsin State Journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Gannett newspaper chain — all of them corporations — refrain from publishing news stories, puff pieces, editorials, and opinion columns favorable to his candidacy.
We have in mind “news stories” like this June 10 example from the Corporation that Speaks as if it were a Person: “Columnist blames Ron Johnson for 2,000-day federal judicial vacancy.” Yes, The Capital Times breathlessly reports, “Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, lays the blame squarely on one person: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.”
Campaign finance law recognizes that in-kind contributions must be reported just like monetary contributions. This “free press” is worth thousands of dollars in direct mail post cards, hours of TV ad spots, and scores of highway billboards.
The New York Times has its carve-out
The indispensable James Taranto connects the dots. He asks, “Should the New York Times Co. be stripped of its rights under the First Amendment?”
He notes that the notorious Clinton Foundation donated $100,000 to the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, a charitable affiliate of the company, in 2008. “That same year, on Jan. 25, the company published a lengthy endorsement of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy for president.
Was this a quid pro quo? There’s no evidence of that, but under long-established case law, there doesn’t have to be. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that avoiding the mere appearance of quid pro quo corruption is a sufficiently compelling governmental interest to justify limits on political expression.
Further, even apart from the contribution, what the New York Times Co. did in January 2008 — spending corporate money in an effort to influence voters within 30 days of a primary election — was generally illegal at the time. The New York Times Co. was exempt under a statutory loophole, and at any rate the law itself was struck down by the Supreme Court almost exactly two years later in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. But that ruling has drawn fierce and voluminous criticism, including, ironically, from the New York Times Co. Even Mrs. Clinton, now seeking the presidency again, has vowed that she will not nominate anyone to the high court who hasn’t pledged to overturn it.
Taranto notes that the Times is busy running interference against potential Hillary rivals. Did you know Sen. Marco Rubio “and his wife Jeanette have been cited 17 times for traffic violations.” (The count was Marco 4, Jeanette 13.)”