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  • MOTTO: Qui male agit odit lucem. ("He who does evil despises the light.")

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July 02, 2008


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In 1956, total campaign spending (for both sides) was $155 million. In 2004 it was over $1 billion. We have a huge problem with how much our elections cost; and it's reflected in the fact that our political process is increasingly controlled by moneyed corporate interests.

It costs an unconscionable amount of money to run for president, and that amount is increasing all the time. No matter what you say, the presidential candidates spend vastly more marketing themselves than any corporation does for any one single product or brand. I don't know how much you think gets spent on advertising an individual product, but Proctor & Gamble's entire advertising budget for all of its thousands of products is less than $8 billion (and that's in spite of ridiculous increases in advertising expenditures in recent years; P&G's advertising budget has doubled from 2000).

The [broadcast] media doesn't own the "soapboxes" that they profit from. The broadcast media are a public trust that we, the public, own. Media Mouse isn't really talking about the other media that don't rely on public trusts (like the print media) - because they have a much smaller impact than the broadcast media.

That's the case that Media Mouse is making. Those public airwaves should be made available to candidates (in equal time) to get their messages across to the public. The corporate media shouldn't get to profit from what should be a public service they gratefully provide for the ability to profit from a public trust.

Over the past few decades, the corporate media has lobbied the heck out of congress and had any and all public benefits stripped out of the laws that govern their use of the public airwaves. Moreover, as they've abandoned the requirements to provide a public benefit in exchange for using the airwaves - the quality of the news media has plummeted as the news has become a profit-driven sensationalist medium (I don't think you would disagree).

Until we get a handle on how money determines virtually every factor of our elections - we'll continue to suffer through "the evil of two lessers."

Nothing Media Mouse is saying is lacking in factual backing; in fact - other countries handle the election processes in the ways they're describing (because in those countries, the broadcast media are actually treated as the public trust they are).

PS - P&G (like many corporations - including pharmaceutical corporations) spends four times as much on advertising as it does on research and development.


The Executive Director

Hi, Seth.

I don't think the facts you have presented make your case. Indeed, they support mine.

Take that $155 million spent on campaigning in 1956 and adjust it for inflation. You'll find it is a much larger figure in today's dollars that what you said was spent in 2004. Plus, today's candidates have nearly twice as many voters to reach as they did in 1956.

And your example of P&G's spending on advertising doesn't help either. It's no surprise that companies and candidates spend a lot on getting their message out, because if they don't they're out of business or don't get elected. As it is their money they have to spend to get the results they desire, they are probably the best judge of where that money is best spent -- and they have decided a lot must go to advertising.

Why are you second-guessing their judgments? Is it a general contempt, like that of the old European upper classes, for trade and commerce, and so when our candidates do things like advertise, that smacks too much of grimy money-grubbing businessmen selling their wares? I know too many lefties succumb to a sniffy aristocratic attitude when it comes to such things, but I hope you aren't so narrow-minded, Seth.

Anyway, the point is that people who have to put their money on the line to get what they want place great value in advertising, whether it is commercial or political speech. So they spend a lot of money on it, though much much more to sell margarine than this fall's candidates. What's wrong with that? Nothing.

Yet you would nix the freedom of the press in exchange for government rationing of airtime for political speech according to the fiats of a federal election bureaucracy. Instead of letting political liberty reign and allowing candidates to rise and fall based upon the support they can garner for the campaigns, you would seize airtime from private broadcasters on behalf of a limited number of government-approved candidates to use for their election campaigns.

Have you thought this out, Seth? Do you want the government determining which candidates are worthy of airtime? Have you considered how this institutionalizes the existing lock the Republicans and Democrats have on our political system? Even if you're OK with that, how does the government determine which primary candidates for a major party nomination merit a ration of government-controlled airtime?

(By the way, your "public trust" argument about the airwaves doesn't wash as an excuse to bring about this massive intrusion of government control into political campaigns. One thing is that broadcasters do have property in the airwaves they use -- an exclusive right to a frequency range that they can buy and sell. To the extent that this right is encumbered by a public trust, it arises from the limited supply of frequencies -- though technology is rapidly eliminating that problem -- and so a broadcaster is obligated not to abuse the right. Picking and choosing which political speech he airs isn't an abuse, it is his First Amendment right.)

Now if you want to complain about the deranged rants of MSNBC, the tabloid banality of Fox, the shout fests that substitute for considered political argument and analysis, and the liberal wasteland of the old networks and taxpayer-funded PBS, no argument. But that's a free press in a culture that prides itself on the vulgar, visceral, and vile in which feeling trumps thinking.

Yet you're nuts, Seth, if you think we should give up freedom of the press and submit to even further government control of political campaigns by rationing airtime. So what if that's what they do elsewhere? Are countries like Canada, France, and Germany really examples to follow? Either you trust in the liberty that flows from the exercise of our First Amendment, and so let the chips fall where they may in the battles for elected office, or end the pretense that liberty is good, period, and let the mandarins (no doubt progressives all) choose who rule us.



Is the rebuttal that I spent about an hour researching and writing going to be posted?

The Executive Director

The problem is on you end, Seth. We do not withhold comments for review. They post automatically.

Occasionally, we have to delete a comment because it is spam, abusive to other readers, or contains obscene language, but that's the only control we exercise over L.A.W.'s comboxes.


Scotty K.

My idea: Come up with a public funded tv channel. Call it The Campaign Channel, include it on all television systems and all subsequent media outlets like radio, print, etc. All those who "choose" to listen, view or review candidate positions can go there. Remove the corporations from the mix, disallow political commercials from all other channels.

If not that then ideal number 2 is: With the change to all digital media mandated by law, why not v chip commercials and give the consumer/voter the ability to block ads identified as political or whatever else they don't feel like listening to/

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