Across all nightly network broadcasts, PBS has consistently provided the most coverage of the crisis of money in politics and campaign finance reform over the last 16 months. During Thursday night's debate, PBS can continue its much-needed emphasis on the issue by asking the candidates what steps they will take to address money in politics if elected president.
From the February 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Officials from the Koch brothers' funding arm have announced a new "venture philanthropy" project called Stand Together, with aims of "strengthening the fabric of American society," and focusing on "poverty" and "educational quality," according to USA Today. Media should know that: previous Koch-backed poverty and education efforts have been coupled with ideological proselytizing, Stand Together's executive director is a Koch veteran and former Republican congressional candidate who repeatedly fearmongered about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the group's top collaborator is associated with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's sham "anti-poverty" efforts.
On the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, PBS remains the gold standard for coverage of campaign finance reform while other broadcast networks show room for improvement, according to a Media Matters review of their evening and Sunday news shows over the past 16 months. While coverage of the subject has increased across the board, with CBS in particular showing a substantial increase, a sizable fraction of the increase is due to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) raising the issue in interviews on Sunday programs, rather than proactive efforts by journalists to cover campaign finance reform.
It's true: campaign finance law is absurdly difficult for media to explain to American voters. The numbers are abstractly large, the rules are complicated, and everyone wonders if American voters actually care.
The polls certainly seem to say Americans are concerned. Across the political spectrum, voters consistently tell the media the tidal wave of money in politics is a grave problem and the case that opened the flood gates -- Citizens United -- should be overturned. Whether it's Republicans complaining about the "special interests" of Washington, D.C. or Democrats warning about the billionaires running our campaigns, the message is clear: clean elections matter.
The editorial boards and television pundits seem to agree. Like clockwork, with every new discouraging development handed down by the courts on campaign finance law, every new revelation of the monied power brokers pulling politicians' strings, every new failure to effectively enforce the election regulations on the books, solemn editorials are written and monologues are delivered warning American voters that the system has become at-risk to rampant corruption and conflicts of interest.
And yet here we are: live on Fox Business Network during their televised presidential debate, under questioning from FBN's Maria Bartiromo, a major presidential candidate just admitted he violated a basic campaign finance transparency rule in a fashion that runs antithetical to his core political image and he seems to think no one cares. He certainly doesn't seem to be afraid of the media calling him out, although some are trying. How else do we describe the embarrassing image of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), ostensibly one of the most intelligent legislators in Congress, brazenly admitting in a live presidential debate he broke the law as a senatorial candidate by taking a roughly million dollar campaign loan from Goldman Sachs and Citibank without properly disclosing the sources to the Federal Election Commission (FEC)?
Maybe the reason Bartiromo didn't follow up her original question with anything more than a "thank you" was that she was as stunned as the rest of us.
Yes, the candidate also misled about the details of his election violation on national television and media fact checkers duly called out the bait-and-switch after. Disclosing the possible conflict of interest in receiving a million dollars from Goldman Sachs (this Goldman Sachs) and Citibank while you're campaigning as a man of the people railing against the big bad establishment is not the same thing as disclosing the possible conflict of interest after you've been elected, a conflation the candidate nevertheless attempted to sell with a straight face during the debate. That's like a voter explaining they didn't properly register before they cast a ballot but did so afterwards, so it's all good.
That's not how it works.
Election disclosure laws are supposed to inform Americans before they vote so they can make an educated decision. In fact, this principle of mandated disclosure may have been the only reason Citizens United was allowed in the first place -- as a counterbalance to the obvious conflicts of interest the Supreme Court was about to tempt politicians with. The entire point behind the legal argument that led the conservatives on the Supreme Court to allow the 1% more unfiltered access to campaigning politicians was the idea that at least Americans would know who was potentially buying influence. In the case of Cruz, who rails against big money and the elite as a point of pride, such information may have been particularly interesting to the Tea Partiers who voted for him.
But again, here we are. A major presidential candidate seems to think either voters are idiots, or the media are.
So it's a challenge. The number is a cool million, easy for the typical news consumer to grasp. The case law and implementing disclosure regulations are cut and dry -- if you take money from a bank for your campaign, you have to identify the bank to the FEC. It boils down to the third problem of campaign finance reporting -- does the American public care? They say they do, over and over again, and the media keeps telling us this is an important part of American democracy, so what's the disconnect, if any?
With this ridiculously clear campaign finance violation on display for all to see, we're about to find out.
If media can't get the American public to understand why this sort of behavior, certainly not unique to Cruz, is a big problem, it's no longer the fault of the American public. They aren't the experts. It's the media's job to provide the expertise. But if the media can't effectively explain this one to its audience -- it's time to rethink how campaign finance reporting is done.
After all, Cruz is basically daring you.
Media fact-checkers are calling out Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz for "gloss[ing] over" his failure to disclose loans he received for his 2012 Senate campaign to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), writing that it was not, as Cruz claimed, "a paperwork error" and that '"[f]ederal election laws require candidates to disclose such loans, and failing to do so has led, in some cases, to investigations and fines."
Fox's Chris Stirewalt deflected concerns raised in a New York Times report that GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) allegedly received two loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank during his 2012 Senate campaign that were not disclosed properly.
On January 13 The New York Times reported that Cruz "put 'personal funds' totaling $960,000 into his Senate campaign. Two months later, shortly before a scheduled runoff election, he added more, bringing the total to $1.2 million." However, The Times reported that the Cruzes' took out "two bank loans, each valued at $250,000 to $500,000" from Goldman Sachs and Citibank during the first half of 2012 and that "[n]either loan appears in the reports the Ted Cruz for Senate Committee filed with the Federal Election Commission."
On the January 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News' digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt tried to downplay the lack of disclosure on Cruz's 2012 FEC form by saying that the loans were "essentially a loan from the Cruzes to themselves" and that Cruz had reported the loan on other documents:
CHRIS STIREWALT: Ted Cruz is right, this is stuff he did disclose. If he didn't disclose it on the FEC, he disclosed it on the ethics forms. But most importantly here, this was essentially a loan from the Cruzes to themselves. They borrowed against their investments so that they could take that, dump the money into the Senate campaign, and then pay it back later. So this was not money from somebody else. This was not favorable treatment from somebody else. This is in a way, like somebody borrowing against their 401k so they can take out a mortgage loan.
While The New York Times report does admit that "there would have been nothing improper about Mr. Cruz obtaining bank loans for his campaign, as long as they were disclosed," he could be violating campaign finance laws by failing to disclose the sources of the loans -- Goldman Sachs and Citibank -- on the FEC form. Importantly, "other campaigns have been investigated and fined for failing to make such disclosures." Even though Cruz disclosed these loans on other forms -- which Stirewalt points to in defense of Cruz -- as campaign finance law expert and former election commission lawyer Ken Gross explained in The New York Times report, that would not be enough to satisfy the FEC requirement:
Kenneth A. Gross, a former election commission lawyer who specializes in campaign finance law, said that listing a bank loan in an annual Senate ethics report -- which deals only with personal finances -- would not satisfy the requirement that it be promptly disclosed to election officials during a campaign.
"They're two different reporting regimes," he said. "The law says if you get a loan for the purpose of funding a campaign, you have to show the original source of the loan, the terms of the loan and you even have to provide a copy of the loan document to the Federal Election Commission."
The New York Times speculates that to disclose these big bank loans "might have conveyed the wrong impression for [Cruz's] candidacy," as Cruz had spoken out about "the political clout of Goldman Sachs in particular" when he said, "Like many other players on Wall Street and big business, they seek out and get special favors from government."
Phoenix Arizona's NBC affiliate KPNX hosted the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves on the December 6 episode of Sunday Square Off to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) effort to push corporate backed model legislation in state legislatures.
A series of reports about industrialists Charles and David Koch revealed that the brothers have advocated for decriminalizing white-collar crime, conduct "competitive intelligence" gathering on liberal groups and activists, and donated millions of dollars in 2014 to conservative groups that back Republicans and to anti-choice and anti-gay organizations. How will the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, who have called the billionaires "awesome" and a "godsend," cover these stories?
A newly-released IRS filing reveals that a central group in Charles and David Koch's financial network paid CBS News analyst Frank Luntz's firm roughly $1.5 million in 2014 for messaging work. Luntz recently used his CBS platform to praise Koch donor conference attendees as symbolizing "the American dream," and defend the Kochs' spending -- without disclosing that he's benefited from their largesse.
From the November 5 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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From the November 4 edition of C-SPAN 2:
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From the November 4 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Since the start of the 2016 presidential election season, CBS and PBS have dedicated more coverage of the issues surrounding the crisis of money in politics and campaign finance than any other broadcast network, while MSNBC led in the coverage among cable news outlets. Despite polls showing Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the post-Citizens United campaign finance landscape, most news outlets still provide little coverage of the current impact of money in politics and possibilities for reform.
From the November 2 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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