Does it qualify as a newscast? Is it a free political advertising? Is it even newsworthy? These are all questions that can be legitimately asked about the forthcoming collaboration between Mayoral Candidate Carl DeMaio and local TV station KUSI. This Thursday (Sept 15), the station will be giving up a four hour chunk of airtime for a “Sign-a-thon” featuring live coverage from eight locations throughout the area, where voters will be encouraged to sign or turn in petitions in support of DeMaio’s campaign for pension “reform”.
Conservative activists nationwide have initiated similar campaigns that are, in fact, thinly disguised attempts at union-busting aimed at public-sector employees. This is part of a larger strategy aimed at minimizing the influence of constituent groups that are traditionally considered part of the Democratic Party’s voting base. The ultimate goal of this strategy is insure conservative dominance in the electorate for the foreseeable future. For some on the right this means the ascension of libertarian “less government” policies, for others this process is more about establishing a fundamentalist theocracy. In practice, should such a scheme succeed, it will mean that the American eagle will be flying with only one wing.
DeMaio’s scheme, as Jim Miller points out elsewhere in the OBRag this week, looks both to the past (covering up) and the future (attacking unions) :
What this assault on public sector pensions masks, of course, is that it is the local business elite and San Diego’s robber barons who have been raiding the municipal cookie jar while the local press has been pounding away at city workers. As UCSD’s Steve Erie and co-authors Vladimir Kogan, and Scott MacKenzie show in their new book Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failures in San Diego (Stanford University Press, 2011), San Diego’s fiscal mess is just as much a product of our city’s decade’s long aversion to any taxes and our reliance on “public-private partnerships” which enrich the affluent while delivering little to the majority of San Diegans.
In the wake of the failures of two other recent “grassroots” faux reform campaigns (DeMaio’s “Outsourcing Initiative” & the “Great Schools” scheme to add appointed school board members) to actually gain enough valid signatures to qualify for ballot placement, backers of the “pension reform” campaign have hired a company to verify signatures on petitions. Committee chair T.J. Zane told the Voice of San Diego:
“..the campaign hired a firm called National Data Services to do signature verification. Zane wouldn’t disclose where the firm was based and said it would be hard to find.”
(A google search for a company by that name working in the elections field turned up nothing.)
Local labor groups have actively campaigned against the measure through a public education program called the “Decline to Sign” campaign. There have been several confrontations between petition supporters and their opponents. And the bottom line is that, despite months of campaigning, with DeMaio himself trolling out in front of grocery stores for signatures nearly every weekend, they have thus far failed in their quest.
That’s why they’ve turned to KUSI for a chunk of “free” airtime. KUSI is calling their donation a “news special”, a move reminiscent of TV news programming in totalitarian countries. Which, if you think about the ultimate goals of DeMaio and his minions, makes perfect sense. If you’d like to see an example of what passes for news programming on KUSI, please watch the video, where the so-called reporter just about drools over what the candidate has to say.