The Daily Caller has blown the lid off a scheme to coordinate communications funded by non-profit Media Matters with organizations and officials eager to elect Democrats in the fall.
Founded by [David] Brock in 2004 as a liberal counterweight to “conservative misinformation” in the press, Media Matters has in less than a decade become a powerful player in Democratic politics. The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country.
The Media-Matters strategy is to spend $20M this year crafting ledes for the Washington Post, The Daily Kos, MSNBC and other outlets—and to finance the protest groups that will boycott advertisers on right-leaning cable and radio shows. Media Matters claims already to have dedicated 50 employees to collecting the scalp of CNN’s Lou Dobbs alone, and with financing the forcing of Glenn Beck from the cable rotation at Fox News to a smaller audience watching behind an internet pay-wall.
“A group with the ability to shape news coverage is of incalculable value to the politicians it supports, so it’s no surprise that Media Matters has been in regular contact with political operatives in the Obama administration,” the Daily Caller reports.
I cannot help but wonder what campaign “reformer” Fred Wertheimer thinks of all this. On Feb. 7th, Fred released a statement that called the Romney-supporting Super PAC an “illegal operation,” saying that “to believe that the Super PACs … are ‘independent’ from the presidential campaigns they support, you must believe in the tooth fairy.” Fred’s organization also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that the non-profit Crossroads GPS is really just a political organization, and should lose its tax designation.
One might make a snide comment regarding Fred’s vigilance; suggesting hypocrisy—something about sauce, goose and gander. But, while I would be interested to see whether Fred would support an IRS investigation into Media Matters, Fred has been remarkably consistent in his critique of Super PACs, charging that Obama’s Super PAC is no more independent or legal than Romney’s.
This isn’t surprising. The betting all along has been that Fred’s campaign restrictions are designed to sideline robust political speakers, in a manner that survives the Equal Protection Clause, while permitting mainstream news outlets to prepare November’s playing fields. This is reminiscent of the Progressives’ winning combination in 2008: McCain-Feingold plus JournoList equals Obama for America.
So on January 7th, media commentator George Stephanopoulos asked Republican candidates an out-of-the-blue question, taken straight out of the Democratic blueprint: Can a state outlaw contraception? The follow-up from MSNBC suggests that a matter impinging on fundamental religious liberty is better understood, by a casual listener, as a denial of contraceptives available in any pharmacy.
No doubt, keeping-up with the machinations can be frustrating.
But the answer to Media Matters’ apparent conspiracy is not just to preserve Super PAC spending, but to preserve the First Amendment in all its applications. Media Matters may drive the news cycle, strategize with the White House, and organize and fund boycotts of advertisers to the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin programs.
But so long as the law recognizes the rights of the Daily Caller to write, radio and cable jocks to speak, and Super PACs to spend, messages from both sides will get through.
And the efforts of Uncle Fred and Brother Brock will likely go for naught; filtered-out as background noise.
Stephen M. Hoersting is counsel to DB Capitol Strategies, PLLC.