This last election season, the candidates from the Republican and
Democratic parties spent over three billion dollars to get the attention
of the American voter, a 50% increase over the 1996 campaign. Most
Americans are aware that corporations and special interest groups
pick up most of the tab for both parties. No doubt, much of this
money is spent in the hope of acquiring a degree of influence and
access over the men and women who are charged with formulating domestic
and foreign policy.
I recall when a reporter asked Keating, the fall man in the Savings
and Loans scandal, if he had intended to effect the "Keating Five"
Senators with his generous campaign donations. His answer was "I
certainly hope so."
You can bet every pilfered S&L dollar that the special interest
groups have already sent their top dogs to fight any meaningful
change to the way campaigns are currently financed. There is one
particular industry that bears close scrutiny in its lobbying efforts
against campaign finance reform. It is the media industry, a formidable
oligopoly that has come to wield enormous influence with both the
general public and our political leaders.
Consider that Mr. Graham, chief executive of the Washington Post
Company, recently spoke of the "political advertising bonanza at
six Post-Newsweek television stations" (NYT, 12/11/2000). Campaign
season is a windfall for the barons of the corporate media. Not
only do they get a huge slice of the three billion dollar pie, but
advertising rates also soar for both the political candidates and
the car salesmen. On top of that, they get all those "free feeds"
from the conventions and the primaries. This campaign season, due
to the close vote in Florida, their ratings soared to a level surpassed
only by the Gulf War, further enriching bottom line revenues.
The Media lords are not about to walk away from all that gravy.
They will fight any reform laws with a vengeance. So, every American
is urged to be alert for biased reporting of this critical legislation.
There is already a concerted effort to prevent Senator McCain for
putting campaign financing at the top of the Senate's agenda.
If anyone still harbor doubts about the danger of the mass media’s
control of the American political agenda, consider the recent reports
of Murdoch’s deals with China. The New York Times reported on Jan
10, 2001 that "Mr. Murdoch has worked hard to restore relations
with Beijing since angering the country’s Communist Party elders
with his anti-totalitarian remark made in 1993 shortly after he
bought the Star TV satellite network." Note that among his
other properties, Murdoch owns FOX, the New York Post and the London
Times. He also happens to own HarperCollins, the infamous book publishers
that gave Newt Ginrich his five million-dollar advance.
The Times article also had the following revelation: "Since
making the statement, Mr. Murdoch has quietly steered his media
empire away from confrontation with China, a potentially huge market
that is still closed to foreign media. In 1994, he removed BBC news
broadcasts from his Star TV lineup and softened the television network’s
other news offerings. He later sold the South China Morning Post
of Hong Kong, a Newspaper often critical of Beijing, to a pro-Beijing
businessman. And last year, the News Corporation’s HarperCollins
subsidiary canceled a contract to publish the memoirs of Hong Kong’s
last colonial governor, Chris Patten, whom Beijing abhors."
While the mass media pundits were out hunting Chads, Murdoch was
working a deal with China over content. While the media was ranting
on about dimples, most Americans were left to marvel at how the
two parties have the system in a lockbox all the way down to the
precint level. We discovered all kinds of wonders about our political
We still get one vote, but the Democrats and Republicans decide
what the ballots look like. They get to set the criteria for who
gets on the ballot. They also frame the narrow spectrum of issues
that the campaign will revolve around, with ample guidance from
the media titans. These two entrenched parties also had the power
to deny third party candidates, like Nader, a seat at the presidential
debate and to prevent him from even attending the debate. Again,
this blatantly undemocratic feat was accomplished with the able
assistance of a few arrogant men who have come to control the international
When you paint the whole canvas of how the media titans have come
to dominate the political decision-making process, it is as disturbing
as Picasso’s Guernica. Part of the canvass has CNN’s Ted Turner
paying the American dues to the United Nations, with Ambassador
Hollbrooke and Senator Jesse Helms relegated to playing the role
of mediators. Then over in another corner, Murdoch is busy making
all kinds of "media arrangements" that will suit the Chinese
government. How exactly would FOX have covered the slaughter of
students at Tianemen Square under the terms of the current "sweetheart
deal" with the elders of the Chinese Communist Party?
In the middle of the canvas, the "journalists" at the
New York Times Publishing Company are busy hiding the evidence of
fifty years of Israeli brutality against the Palestinians. A bit
over to the side, you see Graham of the Washington Post Company
assuring the Russian ambassador that Chechnya will be totally ignored.
He is leading a delegation that includes the Chairmen of CBS, ABC
and NBC who are there to lobby the Russians for stricter compliance
in the Anglo-American embargo against Iraq. The deal is a straightforward
exchange, the lives of half a million Iraqi children for a Russian
reign of terror in Chechnya.
Ignore all the media fuss about chads and dimples. The real problem
in America today is not about the right to vote or whether your
vote counts. The real problem is about the right to run for office.
Any multi-millionaire can win if he is willing to squander his inheritance
on running for office. If you don't have that kind of loot, you
are required to pay your dues climbing the ranks at one of the two
major parties and paying homage to their corporate sponsors.
We now have a political system that has been entirely ruined by
money. Three billion dollars works out to a nice color TV for each
undecided voter. Money can't buy you happiness, but if you have
serious coin, you can always rent a congressman or a Senator to
legislate something that will make you happy.
Next camping season, the networks and newspapers should be required
to import real journalist from England, Australia and Canada and
set their "spin" crews to sea, after providing them with
absentee ballots. Hollywood stars should be limited to endorsing
salad dressing and Nikes, unless they have a law degree from Stamford,
in which case they can endorse only their closest relatives. Individual
citizens should be limited to contributing $500 to any campaign.
No corporate donations should be allowed. No union donations, so
the corporations don’t use unions as an excuse for political corruption.
Most important, candidates will be allowed to solicit and receive
funds only from residents of the states they are running in. Exit
polling should be made a felony offense.
Any campaign money that is remotely tied to the interests of a
foreign government should be strictly prohibited. Finally, FOX should
recuse itself from covering campaign 2004. Campaign reforms are
absolutely essential, lest the elders of the Chinese Communist Party
insist on Al Gore as their candidate for the next election. As for
the Palestinians, they are well advised to demand that the New York
Times be given a seat at the Peace Conference as a party that has
long been a belligerent in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In
the meantime, every American should demand swift and draconian campaign