Conservatives may regret foolish FEC complaint

The American Conservative Union said Friday it has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming the discount given by The New York Times for Moveon.org’s “General Betray Us” ad constitutes “a corporate soft money contribution to a federal political committee.”

It’s a foolish move, concocted in haste, and could fall prey to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The foolish factor: The ACU either didn’t do its homework or ignored the facts for the purpose of political gain for [insert name of your favorite GOP presidential candidate here]. The ACU cited an FEC regulation that calls provision of goods or services to a political committee “at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods and services” is in reality a political contribution.

The ACU cites as sources for its complaint “publicly available information and numerous media reports documenting the illegal excessive corporate contribution” by The Times. [By the way, does this mean the ACU and conservatives everywhere now believe in the accuracy of mainstream media reporting on political affairs, reporting that conservatives routinely argue carries a “liberal” bias?]

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani also charged that The Times had inappropriately discounted the Moveon.org ad. Perhaps the ACU should have read a New York Daily News story (available online at 4 a.m. Friday) that had a few facts that would have choked the ACU’s complaint:

… Giuliani’s facts were challenged. Any advocacy group seeking to place a single, full-page, black-and-white ad in The Times on “standby” over a seven-day period — the paper picks the day — pays what MoveOn.org did, $64,575, sources said.

The New York Post reported The Times charges a higher rate, $181,692, setting up erroneous charges MoveOn got a “lefty” discount. But the higher price is for ads guaranteed to run on a specific day, said Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis. [emphasis added]

The Times doesn’t exactly have clean clothes here. As can any newspaper, it can refuse to carry ads. The American Spectator claims that The Times refused political ads it did not like:

The New York Times in the past has rejected “advocacy” ads from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as well as from the National Right to Life Committee, despite the fact that both would have qualified for the same “special advocacy, stand by” rates that the radical, left-wing organization MoveOn.org was given for its smear ad of Gen. David Petraeus.

The unintended consequence of the ACU’s complaint? Perhaps it is time that the FEC took a harder look at what media give which candidates (and their assorted “official” and “unofficial” political committees) what kind of discounts for their political advertising.

Money is power — and there’s plenty of money involved here. As noted earlier at S&R, the Television Bureau of Advertising forecasts that the politicians who want your vote will spend about $3 billion in 2008.

Perhaps the FEC should make sure that the conservative Republican owners of broadcast network affiliates are charging the same prices to air political ads to Republican and Democratic (and other parties) candidates alike. And, of course, that those notoriously left-leaning newspapers charge the same for ad space to all political comers.

And, if I were a stockholder in some of these media conglomerates, I’d want to know why these TV stations and newspapers were handing out such hefty discounts. That’s revenue, folks.

The ACU — and candidate Giuliani — opened up this expensive can of worms. In the long run, they may wish they hadn’t.

4 replies »

  1. Great analysis. Of course, every time I read a case like this it brings me back around to my assertion that the only way to solve this problem is to evict ALL money from politics and make it all publicly funded. I’ll wait while the laughter subsides.

    And of course, this isn’t exactly about electioneering, and how you’d get dirty money out of policy debates like this one I have no idea….

  2. The World’s only Superpower has the most baffling internal political wars, anti each other advertisements, spin etc.

    Why does it have to be so nasty?

    …and I cannot believe the GOP is so demonic.

  3. The GOP IS that demonic, Elaine. Accept it. 😉

    My hope is that this FEC filing will turn around and bite the GOP right on the butt the next time they get a sweetheart “soft money” contribution of some program on Faux News….