Thursday, September 17, 2015

CARLY and the sliding scandal scale

Here's Charles Pierce commenting on  a recent National Journal article by Emma Roller
Consider the latest prime example of fudge from the campaign of Carly Fiorina. As you know, presidential campaigns are forbidden by what's left of our campaign finance law from "coordinating" their operations with the Super PACs that also are dedicated to the election of the same candidate. This is a rule that everybody knows but to which very few people pay attention. That's why most of them have names like American Heartland Jesus Highway or something.

Anyway, down at the Federal Election Commission, somebody came out of their klonopin coma long enough to notice that Fiorina's SuperPac was called "Carly For America." This person also noticed that Fiorina's campaign seemed to be doing no actual campaigning, but that the SuperPac was doing a lot of the nuts-and-bolts that a campaign usually does. Hey, said the person from the FEC, this doesn't look right, speaking softly so as not to awaken the other watchdogs.

No, he was told. Carly For America and the Fiorina campaign were separate things. (You got your SuperPac in my campaign! No, you got your campaign on my SuperPac!) The way that you know this is that, in the SuperPac's name, "Carly" stood for "Con­ser­vat­ive, Au­then­t­ic, Re­spons­ive Lead­er­ship For You."

This dif­fer­en­ti­ation between in-kind and in­de­pend­ent ex­pendit­ures can lead to some con­fus­ing op­tics. It was Fior­ina's birth­day on Sunday, and at a cam­paign stop in New Hamp­shire she was presen­ted with a birth­day cake. The cake was dec­or­ated not with her cam­paign's logo, but the su­per PAC's logo. At a Labor Day parade the next day, a video sent out by Fior­ina's of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count shows the can­did­ate walk­ing down the street, sur­roun­ded by sup­port­ers in CARLY T-shirts, wav­ing CARLY signs. There was no vis­ible cam­paign swag from Fior­ina's pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, so a cas­u­al ob­serv­er could reas­on­ably as­sume that the paraphernalia was com­ing from the cam­paign it­self. Sarah Is­gur Flores, Fior­ina's deputy cam­paign man­ager, ac­know­ledged that the cam­paign does not do as much mer­chand­ising at events as CARLY For Amer­ica does, but said the su­per PAC's ad­vance work does not con­sti­tute an in-kind con­tri­bu­tion be­cause it is not co­ordin­at­ing with the cam­paign.

And we're supposed to believe this nonsense. It's our new responsibility as citizens to accept the fact that our politics are mere dumbshow for an increasingly irrelevant audience. Gullibility is the new civic duty. The actual power of self-government has been leached away into fewer and fewer hands while we sit back at home and enjoy the show, committing democratic suicide by acronym.

Pierce doesn't mention perhaps my favorite part of Roller's article

“For a can­did­ate like Carly Fior­ina, who is a polit­ic­al out­sider, who does not have the polit­ic­al base that a lot of these oth­er kind of ca­reer politi­cians in the race have had, what we de­cided as an out­side group that the best thing that we could help to provide is ground-game sup­port,” Shedd said.

When asked to cla­ri­fy wheth­er or not the su­per PAC provides those ser­vices so that the Fior­ina cam­paign does not have to worry about them, Shedd balked.

“No, I would def­in­itely nev­er say that be­cause that would be co­ordin­at­ing,” Shedd said. “What I have told you is that we have as­sessed the situ­ation and we have de­term­ined that one of the ways that we can help is by help­ing with the ground game.”

You see, it's just a string of lucky coincidences. The CARLY people just happened to bring the signs and the tee-shirts and the tables and all the other things a campaign needs. It could just as easily turned out that both CARLY and the campaign would have brought cake.

Roller does throw in an everybody's at fault paragraph (because this is the National Journal and unbalanced journalism makes Ron Fournier cry) but it is remarkably weak stuff.
And Cor­rect the Re­cord, an op­pos­i­tion-re­search firm led by prom­in­ent al­lies of Hil­lary Clin­ton, is ar­gu­ably tak­ing work off Clin­ton staffers’ hands by dig­ging up dirt on Clin­ton’s op­pon­ents.
The might-ar­gu­ably-tak­e-work-off-staffers’-hands standard is exceeded by pretty much all SuperPACs. CARLY is not only blatantly coordinating with the campaign; it's routinely doing so on an event by event basis. You might think that the frequently scandal-hungry New York Times would eat this up but, as far as I can tell, Fiorina's apparent violation of campaign finance laws barely shows up on their radar. The only reference I could find was one sentence at the end of the eighteenth paragraph of this story.

The liberal bias of the press has always been overstated. The how and why is a topic for another post (or thread) but simply as an assertion, it's fairly easy to argue that the mainstream press has been as tough or tougher on Democrats than Republicans ever since the Republicans turned hard right in 1980. This isn't to say that the MSP (exemplified by the NYT) is not biased, but that other biasing factors such as cultivation of sources, fear of conservative pushback, social norming, style and personality conflicts, class and regional bigotries, and commitment to flawed narratives almost always swamp ideological biases.

For a variety of reasons, the NYT et al are comfortable with the ex-CEO Fiorina and the old money/old power Bush family. The result has been conspicuously slanted and selective coverage. Add to that the fact that having a Clinton in the race has always made the paper's editorial staff crazy and Trump has the same effect on lots of people.

Mark my words, over the next few months, the journalist standards of the old gray lady will be hitting the ground like bags of wet cement. There goes one now.

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