By Doug Porter
Our local daily newspaper continues to ignore a story about themselves, rolled out last Friday by inewssource/KPBS, concerning deep discounts in advertising rates given to GOP candidates Brian Bilbray and Carl DeMaio during last fall’s electoral contests.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission has confirmed that an investigation of the ad rates offered to various candidates and ballot measures by the UT-San Diego is under way.
A group opposing Bob Filner paid $25,000 for 16 full-page ads, according to campaign disclosures, or about $1,560 per ad. Brian Bilbray’s campaign got an even better deal, paying $25,000 for 27 full-page ads, or about $926 per ad. And a pro-Proposition 32 group calling itself the Small Business Action Committee ran at least 20 full-page ads in the U-T during the fall campaign and reporting $26,000 in costs for print advertising.
Campaigns not favored editorially by UT-San Diego uniformly reported being quoted $8000 per page. An emailed statement to the KBPS team by a newspaper executive claimed that the discounted rates were part of ‘bundled deals’. A request by the Bilbray campaign for bundled rates worked out to the same $8000 per page rate, with some additional web banner ads thrown in with a three page purchase.
The discounts given by the newspaper to conservative causes and campaigns appear to have violated both State and Federal campaign laws.
…a spokesperson told 10News any “discounts” offered by a media group over $10,000 must be reported or it may face fines or even criminal charges. In this case, the audit revealed no such disclosures from U-T San Diego.
“I’d like to see them prosecuted for campaign violations … We have to put them on notice, so that next time, they’ll think twice,” said Filner. “Next time, it could influence an election and that was be disastrous for democracy.”
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, any campaigns or group that receives any in-kind donations like a discounted ad rate is also supposed to report it. In this case, the audit found no such disclosures.
“It’s not permissible under the federal election laws to offer a discount period to federal candidates,” said former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter. “The federal rule is that candidates must pay the market rate. You have to treat candidates the same way you would treat other customers.”
UT-San Diego publisher Doug Manchester has a clearly documented history (that’s three links there!) of flaunting the law. And if history holds true here, he’ll quietly pay some fines and the troubles will go away. After all, some people are more equal than others.
Note: the term ‘AdRateGate’ was brazenly stolen off Twitter where writer John R. Lamb may have been the first to use it.
Carl DeMaio’s Dial-A-Story
While Doug Manchester may be able to get away with shenanigans, his newspaper empire clearly stands at the beck and call of failed GOP Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio when it comes to the slightest suggestion of impropriety by his political enemies.
Having won his battle to keep ex-councilwoman Donna Frye from working for Mayor Bob Filner, as her whopping $32,000 pension was considered double-dipping, DeMaio apparently dialed up a story for the Sunday UT.
The account suggested that a handful of locally elected officials were purposely violating Proposition B, the voter approved initiative passed in 2012 that promised to limit future pension costs. Although the City’s municipal code caps pension costs for elected officials, DeMaio has decided that Proposition B requires the elimination of the taxpayer subsidy for elected officials.
Down in the story, the Mayor was allowed to respond, and he called it out for the made-up political posturing that it was:
In an interview, Filner said he signed up for the plan that was available to him when elected, but he would support a 50/50 split because “it sounds fair.” He also said he wouldn’t use his mayoral veto if the council changed the law. He then took issue with the U-T raising the subject.
“It’s a mindless attack on supposed privileges that people are getting,” he said. “It’s such a minor thing that you’re talking about. You ought to focus on the bigger issues here. This is not the test of our fiscal sanity or our devotion to taxpayer interests or anything else. I would get off to something more important and not let Mr. DeMaio run our agenda.”
Drones, Drones and More Drones
Today’s Los Angeles Times reports on the fierce nationwide competition between 50 groups covering 37 states to win FAA approval to become one of six federally designated sites for testing how drones might be safely incorporated into the nation’s airspace.
San Diego’s efforts in this competition have been the subject of nearly fawning news reports locally. After all, there’s (maybe) gold in them thar skies. From the Times:
Those bidding for test sites — in many cases alliances of economic development groups, universities and aerospace companies — believe that if they land a test site, drone manufacturers will follow.
Aerospace research firm Teal Group Corp. estimated that worldwide drone spending will almost double over the next decade to $11.4 billion. Thousands of drones are expected to be deployed over the U.S. within the next five years for all sorts of chores, including inspecting pipelines, scouting film locations, searching for lost hikers, helping police track criminal suspects.
From the other coast and the Other Times (as in New York Times) comes this report about how drones have made killing rather than capturing terrorists a preferred course of action for US foreign policy.
The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war. Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction. Killing by remote control was the antithesis of the dirty, intimate work of interrogation. Targeted killings were cheered by Republicans and Democrats alike, and using drones flown by pilots who were stationed thousands of miles away made the whole strategy seem risk-free.
Before long the C.I.A. would go from being the long-term jailer of America’s enemies to a military organization that erased them.
Gun Control Update
Word comes via Associated Press that gun control legislation may actually see the light of day this week with an agreement that promises to expand background checks on firearms sales.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., could nail down an accord early this week, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks. With the Senate returning Monday from a two-week recess, the chamber’s debate on gun control legislation could begin as soon as Tuesday, though it might be delayed if the lawmakers need more time to complete a deal, the aides said.
Not everybody is thrilled about this so-called compromise. From The Hill:
Gun control groups say Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) are watering down a bill that expands background checks on gun purchases.
The groups say the two Democratic senators are going too far in a bid to win Republican support for gun control legislation expected to hit the Senate floor next week.
“Everyone supports background checks except for NRA leadership,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, one of the advocates alarmed by the changes Schumer and Manchin are suggesting.
Shortly before the Easter recess, Schumer and Manchin proposed that such transactions be subject to background checks but exempt from the record-keeping rules.
And then there’s the NRA toadies, who are bound and determined to make sure no bill ever makes it to the floor of the Senate. From PBS politics report:
If Manchin and Toomey are able to broker an agreement, it will need to withstand a Republican filibuster effort led by Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rubio. (So far, a dozen senators back Paul.)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged his colleagues not shy away from debate on the issue.
“I don’t understand it. The purpose of the United States senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand,” McCain said during an appearance Sunday on CBS. “What are we afraid of?”
The End of the Journalism World as We Know It
The Newspaper Association’s American Newspaper Media Industry Revenue Profile 2012 is out and it’s been another disappointing year for the dead-tree press. Ad revenues (adjusted for inflation) are now below where they were in 1950, as this handy-dandy chart from the AEI’s Carpe Diem blog shows:
There was one bright spot. Newspapers have finally figured out that their price point really isn’t an issue with readers. Circulation revenue was up 5% last year, the result of ending deep discounts for subscriptions and bundling digital content behind (usually) limited paywalls.
The reality of those numbers is that they have little to do with the future of journalism. Sure, corporate news content providers are learning how to stem the flow of revenue caused by declining readership.
What they can’t stop is the declining trust in the news media by both advertisers and readers. Like the GOP, much of the audience for newsprint based publications is rapidly aging. Let’s face it, when the host of a comedy show (the Daily Show) is considered to be among America’s most trustworthy news sources, the practitioners of the journalism craft have got a bigger problem than the financial health of corporate media purveyors.
California GOP Continues to Self-Destruct
Here’s good news for Governor Jerry Brown who, having just celebrated his 75th birthday this weekend, probably doesn’t really want the demands of a grueling re-election campaign in 2014… From the San Francisco Chronicle politics blog:
Grover Norquist, America’s leading antitax advocate, said Friday that California Republicans should have no more trust in a moderate 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate like former Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado than they would in Arnold Schwarzenegger “if he says he wants his wife back.”
Norquist, whom Jerry Brown once derided as a part of the California GOP’s “Legion of Acceptability,” an elite group of conservatives that Brown said dictates party policies, made the comments in a wide-ranging session with The Chronicle‘s editorial board Friday.
The conservative who once declared he would like to see government so small it could be drowned “in a bathtub” talked about immigration reform, Silicon Valley politics and what he called California‘s role as the poster child of bad tax policies under Brown, a Democrat.
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltrán, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: email@example.com
On This Day: 1913 – The Seventeenth amendment was ratified, requiring direct election of senators. 1952 – President Truman seized steel mills to prevent a nationwide strike. 1977 – In Britain, The Clash’s self-titled debut album was released.
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