"Beware of politicians pushing campaign finance reforms...." Crimus Bonus, Roman Senator
There's a lot of talk out there about campaign finance reform. Now, on the surface it all sounds great. If only we could remove money from politics and thus get rid of 36,000 special interest lobbyists in Washington, D.C., it would appear to be a step in the right direction.
But nothing is ever as simple as it looks no matter how appealing on the surface. The only way campaign finance reform can work, where each major candidate would receive and spend an equal sum of campaign money, would be to eliminate all group "in-kind" contributions and if we had a 100 percent unbiased press and electronic news media, which we don't have and never will.
This is why the Democrats are so gung-ho for campaign finance reform. And Republican John McCain has fallen for their ploy hook, line and sinker. It's amazing how a senator who otherwise appears to be bright, a good man who would probably make a decent president, can allow his desperate quest for a campaign issue to cloud his otherwise good judgment.
The reason that Democrats want campaign finance reform which would prohibit "soft" money contributions is they know better than anyone that members of the press and media are 82 percent liberal Democrats. I'm not talking about the media owners and publishers nor the syndicated columnists. I'm talking about the pick-and-shovel journalists who cover the news, interview the candidates and write the stories. By the way, my 82 percent statistic comes from a well established yearly poll in which media members freely admit to their political party affiliations.
So, it becomes obvious that the Democrats don't have to worry about getting more than their fair share of favorable coverage from the "free" press. Democrats automatically get broader candidate coverage without having to pay for it. On the other hand, Republican candidates, with only 18 percent of the media in their ideological camp, can offset the Democrat advantage only by spending money to purchase advertising to assure their side of the issues being told. This takes "soft" money provided by political action committees using donations from you and me.
No doubt about it, Republican candidates do raise more "soft" money than do Democrats, but not from lobbyists and big corporations. Lobbyists and big corporations play both ends from the middle and they couldn't care less about political parties. But labor unions do, almost always, shower Democrats with money. Republican candidates, on the other hand, traditionally raise far more money from small business and professional people than do Democrats, and this is why the Democrats are desperate to dry up or limit those sources through campaign finance reform.
Right about now you must be wondering why the majority of journalists are traditionally left-wing Democrats. There's a very good reason and it's not humanitarian. It's money, or lack of it. And I know whereof I speak because in my own family, my father, eldest daughter and youngest son were all journalists before striking out for substantially greener pastures.
Eventually, my father opted out of journalism to become a securities broker. My daughter opted out of journalism to open her own public relations firm, and my son bailed out of journalism in favor of becoming a justice of the peace. In journalism, below the publisher and upper management level, there's no middle class to speak of, only the higher paid upper class such as syndicated columnists and TV commentators, or the poorly paid lower level journalists who make up the majority and are the backbone of the communications industries.
Why, then, are we surprised when journalists don't think like capitalists? There's no reason why they should. If they aren't paid enough money to be able to invest and save after paying the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, then why should they extol the virtues of capitalism?
Journalism may well be the lowest paying of all private sector professions. There's little in the world pecking order involving journalists as an integral part of the capital creation machine. They're on the outside observing, writing and commenting about what other people do and say. Most journalists are out of the loop. The political "left" is a logical alternative.
What can be done about it? I don't know. The marketplace usually dictates our worth to our employers or customers. Perhaps media owners are exempt from that fundamental capitalist law because they are often monopolists. Where there used to be two or more newspapers in a given market, now there's only one, and too many are owned by one individual or group.
Anyway, the only thing we voters can do is ignore "free" political journalism in favor of syndicated columnists and paid political ads. That, plus forums and debates, are about the only avenues open to us to objectively arrive at reliable gut feelings about candidates. At least that way we can read and hear what candidates are actually saying without being filtered through biased journalists and commentators.
Above all, we can't let anybody take away our free speech right to support candidates of our choice with as much money as we choose to give them, whether through PACs or as individuals. Money and votes are the only weapons we have!
Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.