The New Hampshire Union Leader relied on anecdotal evidence from past elections to revive the misleading threat of voter fraud to endorse voter ID laws that restrict the right to vote.
In a January 27 editorial, the Union Leader cited two cases of potential fraud that it claims justifies the paper's support for strict photo ID laws:
Adam Kumpu of Milford was fined $1,000 and his mother, Janine Kumpu of Milford, was fined $250 for the fraud. Janine Kumpu obtained an absentee ballot in her son's name, and he used it to vote in Milford last November. He also voted in person in Keene.
That was proven fraud. Then there is the mystery of a vote recorded in Caitlin Legacki's name in the 2012 general election. The bloggers at Granite Grok reported last week that someone voted in Manchester in 2012 under the name of former Jeanne Shaheen spokesperson Caitlin Legacki.
We confirmed with the city clerk's office that a vote under Legacki's name and address was recorded. But Legacki moved out of New Hampshire shortly after the 2008 election (in which she voted) and was in St. Louis on Election Day 2012, working for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. "It certainly was news to me" that she was checked as having voted in Manchester in 2012, she told us last week.
The Union Leader's anecdotal evidence is futile since neither case was prevented by the voter ID law in place in New Hampshire prior to the 2012 election, nor do the examples prove the law's effectiveness in deterring the minuscule amount of fraud that occurs in elections. New Hampshire's voter ID law requires an eligible photo ID, or voters must sign an affidavit confirming their identity and intention to vote. The Kumpu family example would not be stopped by stricter ID laws as absentee ballots are counted after the polls close in New Hampshire, thus making the redundant vote unpreventable solely with voter ID legislation. The second case, as the editorial noted, could have been a simple mistake, and was not prevented by the ID law. In addition, it does not show any proof that anyone engaged in fraud.
In the wake of the January 25 shooting at the Columbia Mall in Columbia, Maryland, that claimed the lives of two victims, the Baltimore Sun's recently acquired conservative political blog made a series of inaccurate statements on firearms and firearms laws to attack supporters of stronger gun laws, including recently enacted measures strengthening firearms laws in Maryland.
In a blog post on the Baltimore Sun's Red Maryland blog, Mark Newgent criticized a statement by Vinny DeMarco, the president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence and a supporter of a measure strengthening firearms laws in Maryland, who explained that without Maryland's new firearms law -- which banned assault weapons and limited the purchase of high-capacity ammunition magazines -- the shooting could have been worse. However, in his criticism of the release, Newgent got several points wrong:
A right-wing group dedicated to deterring young Americans from signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) placed an op-ed in several local papers praising false reports of low sign-up rates for millennials. However, recent enrollment data show strong support for the ACA among young people.
A recent piece in the The Tampa Tribune by the president of Generation Opportunity -- a Koch-backed anti-Affordable Care Act group -- Evan Feinberg, called the ACA a "total rip-off" and an attack on "our wallets" while wrongly suggesting the ACA will collapse by failing to win over millennials. Feinberg wrote, "the unspoken truth is the exchanges won't be able to make ends meet without our money." This exact piece appeared in several local outlets in mid-December and at the time criticized the initial enrollment numbers.
While Feinberg's piece might have had more merit in December -- when the available data showed slow enrollment, his latest applause for millennials' supposed failure to sign up for the ACA seems off the mark. According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, youth enrollment increase eight-fold in the month of December. In fact, as many proponents of the law predicted, youth enrollment has mimicked the general enrollment patterns, with an initially slow enrollment in October and November followed by rapid acceleration over the month of December as deadlines for enrollment approached:
The Baltimore Sun recently signed a deal with Maryland conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for its website. But one of the site's editors, Mark Newgent, has worked for organizations that receive funding from fossil fuel companies to attack climate science.
The New Hampshire Union Leader attacked a push to expand Medicaid to the state's low-income residents, claiming that legislators should focus on job growth instead. However, studies show that expanding Medicaid will create jobs, spur economic growth, and cut health care costs for New Hampshire residents.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal misleadingly attacked a proposal to increase the minimum wage by incorrectly claiming that doing so would hurt job growth and do little to reduce poverty.
In a January 12 editorial, the paper attacked a recent push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, arguing that Democratic proposals were little more than distractions "from the party's Obamacare debacle." The paper misleadingly claimed that raising the minimum wage would increase unemployment, especially for workers under the age of 25, before concluding that, given other so-called "broken promises" from President Obama, the public should be skeptical of claims that higher wages would reduce poverty.
But comprehensive studies of the employment effects of the minimum wage don't back up the assertions laid out by the Review-Journal, which has used this tired line of attack -- or allowed anti-minimum wage increase lobbyists to do so -- in its opinion pages before. One analysis by economists Paul Wolfson of Dartmouth and Dale Belman of Michigan State looked at several studies published on the effects of the minimum wage since 2000. Wolfson and Belman found that, while some studies showed slightly positive employment effects and others slightly negative employment effects, across all studies there was no statistically significant negative impact on employment. A similar report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the employment effect of the minimum wage also concluded that, "employment responses generally cluster near zero, and are more likely to be positive than negative."
It's no secret income inequality is on the rise nationwide. Research from economist Emmanueal Saez of the University of California, Berkeley shows inequality at its highest level since 1928. In Nevada, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities release, income for the poorest 20 percent of residents remained stagnant from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. That stagnation led to the richest 5 percent of households having average incomes 13.0 times larger than the bottom 20 percent of households. A report by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Democratic Culture found that 16.8 percent of Nevada's population lives in "poverty areas," with African-American, American Indians, and Latino populations all having more than 20 percent of their populations living in poverty.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal penned an editorial asserting that Walmart offers its employees better, more affordable insurance options than those available on the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the ACA was never intended to compete with employee based insurance, but rather is aimed at covering the millions of uninsured Americans who could not access coverage through an employer.
The January 9 editorial joined a chorus of conservative voices promoting a report published in the Washington Examiner which claimed that Walmart's employer based insurance offers better coverage than what is available on the ACA-established health care exchanges:
In tracking the train wreck of Obamacare, some anecdotes sound too far-fetched to be true. Take Richard Pollock's eye-opening article for the Washington Examiner on Tuesday. Mr. Pollock got health policy experts and independent insurance agents affiliated with the National Association of Health Underwriters to compare Wal-Mart's health insurance plans with those offered via Obamacare exchanges.
Wal-Mart, the retail titan constantly derided by unions and liberal activists as a bad corporate citizen that sends low-wage employees onto welfare rolls, won out by a mile. The company's benefits are far more comprehensive and far less expensive than Obamacare plans.
But the ACA was never meant to compete with affordable employee-based coverage, and it is difficult to compare one company's health care plan to the hundreds of options available to different consumers depending on their state, income level, and type of insurance they want.
According to an article in Public Health Reports, the ACA's main goal is to create universal coverage thereby allowing the approximately 42 million Americans without insurance to have some baseline insurance. The article explains (emphasis added):
Consisting of 10 separate legislative Titles, the Act has several major aims. The first--and central--aim is to achieve near-universal coverage and to do so through shared responsibility among government, individuals, and employers. A second aim is to improve the fairness, quality, and affordability of health insurance coverage. A third aim is to improve health-care value, quality, and efficiency while reducing wasteful spending and making the health-care system more accountable to a diverse patient population. A fourth aim is to strengthen primary health-care access while bringing about longer-term changes in the availability of primary and preventive health care. A fifth and final aim is to make strategic investments in the public's health, through both an expansion of clinical preventive care and community investments.
Beyond the central goal of extending coverage to the uninsured, the ACA also established a set of essential benefits that all insurance plans, even Walmart's, need to have in order to improve coverage for all patients. Many of those previously uninsured before the ACA's passage were unable to find insurance due to pre-existing conditions that made them risky to cover. Thanks to the ACA, those people living with chronic conditions cannot be denied affordable insurance coverage.
For example, the Associated Press reported that a Michigan woman hasn't been able to find affordable insurance since 2007 because of a pre-existing condition but with the ACA "will now pay about $175 a month." In addition, the law also ensures that men and women are treated equally in the insurance market by banning higher premiums on women solely because of their gender.
Late last year, The Baltimore Sun inked a deal with conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for a new blog and weekly column. But save one piece from Red Maryland's Mark Newgent, the paper has yet to explain this decision or how it plans to deal with potential issues with writers' conduct and conflicts of interest.
On November 19, Red Maryland's Mark Newgent published a piece in the Sun announcing that the paper "approached [Red Maryland] about providing quality conservative content for baltimoresun.com and The Sun's op-ed page in print," ending his post with "welcome to the resistance!" On their radio show, Red Maryland editors Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline further explained how the paper noticed conservatives in its comment section rebutting the opinion page and decided to approach Red Maryland with a partnership. Talks began in the summer of 2013, and the two reached an agreement in mid-November to begin publishing content on both a dedicated Red Maryland blog as well as a weekly column in the Friday edition of the Sun.
Red Maryland began as a political blog almost six years ago and boasts that it was named "one of Maryland's best political blogs by The Washington Post." Its staff also contributes to other conservative blogs such as Red State and WatchdogWire.com, the latter of which is run by the Franklin Center, a group known for its shadowy right-wing mega donor funding sources.
The New Hampshire Union Leader misleadingly used the findings of a study on Oregon's Medicaid expansion to attack the program, claiming it did not improve the health of patients and led to increased emergency room visits, and warning that New Hampshire "must not fall into that trap." However, contrary to the Union Leader's assertion, studies of Oregon's expansion show improvements in preventable diseases and mental health, and while ER visits were shown to rise initially, the number of people using the ER has dropped as people become more educated about their insurance coverage.
In a January 7 editorial, the Union Leader, which has a history of misinforming the public on Medicaid expansion, said Medicaid expansion is an effort to "move working-class and eventually middle-class Americans into government dependency." The paper claimed this would have a devastating effect on New Hampshire because the program is "poorly designed" and "does not even achieve its stated goals," using a recently released Harvard study of Oregon's 2008 Medicaid expansion experiment to show how the program "did not improve health outcomes or reduce health care costs" and "even increased visits to hospital emergency rooms."
But the Union Leader's claim that Medicaid did not improve health outcomes is inaccurate and fails to tell the whole story. A digest of the study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research contests the Union Leader's claims, saying the report found "higher healthcare utilization, lower out-of-pocket medical expenditures and medical debt, and better self-reported health." Past reports on Oregon's Medicaid experiment have also shown improvements in mental health and chronic disease detection among those covered by the expansion.
Two of New Hampshire's top newspapers, the Union Leader and Concord Monitor, ran weekly opinion columns from members of the Josiah Bartlett Center (JBC), a Koch brother-funded ally of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but failed to disclose the authors' conservative funding allowing them a platform to air their conservative agendas and legitimizing the viewpoints of their special interest backers.
Ohio's major newspapers cited sham think tank Buckeye Institute 44 times in six months, promoting the opinions of its conservative allies including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers, and big tobacco. Despite these connections being well-documented, every article failed to disclose Buckeye's ties to ALEC and its funding from the Koch brothers and dark money conservatives.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cited deceptive statistics from the Heritage Foundation to attack the immigration reform effort, falsely claiming that the Obama administration is not enforcing current laws and arguing that it would continue this practice under a comprehensive immigration reform law.
A December 15 editorial by the Tribune-Review cited a post by the Heritage Foundation to claim that "the deportation of illegal aliens, in fact, has sunk to its lowest level in 40 years" and that the Department of Homeland Security has accepted 81 percent of 580,000 applicants for provisional legal status under a program called the Deferred Act of Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Tribune-Review argued that these numbers show that the Obama administration is not committed to border enforcement and therefore should not be trusted to roll out a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
But the Tribune-Review's analysis should be taken with a grain of salt since its Heritage Foundation numbers come from "secret numbers" obtained by the anti-immigrant nativist Center for Immigration Studies, which is known for fabricating information and pushing misleading studies.
Ignoring the dubious source of the numbers, the editorial still fails to take into account the nearly 2 million people the administration has deported over the course of President Obama's tenure. The pace of deportations under Obama's administration is actually faster than the previous Republican administration. Even with possibly decreasing deportations -- which could also be a result of lower numbers of undocumented immigrants due to alternative enforcement measures coupled with the administration's priority of deporting high-risk individuals given its finite resources, the cost of deportation, and the current backlog of cases -- the Obama administration has prosecuted a record number of undocumented immigrants in 2013.
Newly released documents have exposed the agenda of the conservative North Carolina-based J.W. Pope Civitas Institute showing that the organization is seeking funds to engage in a campaign to decimate Medicaid funding in the state. North Carolina media should take care to disclose these revelations to ensure readers know what's really behind the Civitas Institute's forthcoming Medicaid attacks.
On December 5, The Guardian released documents noting that conservative groups across the United States "are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment." The Guardian explained that the "proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level." Indeed, according to a report by the Center for Media and Democracy, the State Policy Network (SPN) and its member organizations "work together in coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions that purportedly advance the interests or traditions of the state." The report added:
Although many of SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, our in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.
Among the groups cited in the Guardian papers was the Civitas Institute. The organization requested funding for a campaign to try to sway politicians into reducing the amount of money North Carolina gives to the state's Medicaid program, which it characterized as "failed," and if successful, export their messaging to other SPN affiliates around the country:
The Las Vegas Review-Journal erroneously claimed that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is providing special treatment to part of his staff by not requiring them to purchase insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange, despite the fact that the law does not require leadership staff members to participate in the exchange.
A December 7 Review-Journal editorial attacked Sen. Reid for not forcing his leadership staff off of their employer-based coverage and onto the health insurance exchanges before misleadingly claiming that the GOP had "no culpability" in obstructing improvements for the ACA:
The Affordable Care Act requires the official staffs of each federal lawmaker to abandon their medical coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefit program and purchase subsidized insurance through the law's exchanges. But, as reported Thursday by the Review-Journal's Steve Tetreault, the law allows the staff of congressional committees and leadership offices to stay off the exchanges and keep their current benefits, if their lawmaker bosses so decide.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nonetheless diverted their entire staffs to the exchanges to obtain health insurance. Sen. Reid did not.
Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Sen. Reid, said her boss is following the law and has proposed a fix to the staff coverage discrepancy, but Republicans won't go along. Imagine that: The GOP, which has no culpability in this mess, actually wants something in return for votes that are politically beneficial to Democrats whose poll numbers are tanking.
The attack on Sen. Reid is an attempt to score political points in an on going partisan battle over the ACA. The Review-Journal and conservative opponents are criticizing Reid for following the Grassley Amendment, an amendment to the ACA proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that forced members and legislative staff onto the exchanges instead of allowing them to keep their own employer-based insurance as millions of Americans have under the ACA. This tweak to the ACA law made the decision to place leadership committee staff on the exchanges optional.
In the wake of growing pressure on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a shadowy right-wing group dedicated to pushing a conservative agenda at the state level -- and the exposure of its agenda and tactics, will local media finally acknowledge its influence on state politics when reporting on new legislation?
The Guardian reported on December 3 that ALEC has lost the membership of "almost 400 state legislators" and the funding of "more than 60 corporations" due to the organization's connection to controversial "stand your ground" laws, which received scrutiny following the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. In an effort to rebuild those relationships, ALEC is holding its States & Nation policy summit in Washington, D.C., this week. The event includes Republican legislators such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), as well as several governors.
Legislators and businesses from around the country will gather to discuss this year's model legislation, which, as the Center for Media and Democracy has highlighted, will run the gamut of policy areas including legislation "opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food," "undermining workers' rights," "stripping environmental protections," and "limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs." The last category includes legislation to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, similar to the proposal that Ryan has offered in his budget proposals.
State and local media outlets in the past have often neglected to identify ALEC-influenced legislation and failed to report on their state legislators' involvement with the group. A new wrinkle proposed this year by ALEC, however, directly affects state legislators. The Kansas City Star highlighted a document that was published by The Guardian that, although not adopted, would have required state chairs to take a loyalty oath: "I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first." As Star columnist Barbara Shelly wrote:
What? These are elected officials. They are to put the interests of their states and constituents first. Apparently at some level people realized that, because the draft job description was never adopted. But the very suggestion demonstrates ALEC's eagerness to control these lawmakers.
As legislative sessions begin next year, will state media outlets begin to question legislation offered by their state representatives, especially those who are known to be members of ALEC? Will state media outlets question their ALEC state chairmen about the loyalty oath and whether they are putting the interests of ALEC interests above those of their state and constituents?
ALEC's renewed push has essentially given local media a second chance to identify ALEC's influence in their states and potentially identify the corporate interests behind several pieces of legislation affecting their readers.