Money for politics….
Over the last two presidential debates, both Democratic and Republican candidates have asserted that the television news media is biased and has done a poor job informing voters of the most pressing issues in the election.
And while their focus is on things like the type of questions asked by debate moderators, they are overlooking much clearer signs of potential conflicts of interest. Fundraising disclosures released this month and in July reveal that lobbyists for media companies are raising big money for establishment presidential candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton.
The giant media companies that shape much of the coverage of the presidential campaign have a vested stake in the outcome. From campaign finance laws that govern how money is spent on advertising to the regulators who oversee consolidation rules, the media industry has a distinct policy agenda, and with it, a political team to influence the result.
The top fundraisers for Clinton include lobbyists who serve the parent companies of CNN and MSNBC.
The National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group that represents the television station industry, has lobbyists who are fundraising for both Clinton and Republican candidate Marco Rubio.
Presidential campaigns are obligated by law to send the Federal Election Commission a list of lobbyists who serve as “bundlers,” collecting hundreds of individual checks on behalf of a candidate’s campaign.
CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, is represented on Capitol Hill by Steve Elmendorf, an adviser to Clinton during her 2008 campaign, who is also known as “one of Washington’s top lobbyists.” He’s lobbied on a number of issues important for media companies like CNN, including direct-to-consumer advertising policy.
Elmendorf, according to disclosures, has raised at least $141,815 for Clinton’s 2016 bid for the presidency.
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal, which includes cable networks NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC, has a number of lobbyists on retainer who are working to raise cash for the Clinton campaign, including Justin Gray, Alfred Mottur, Ingrid Duran and Catherine Pino.
Much of the $5 billion expected to be spent over the course of the 2016 presidential election cycle will be on cable and network news advertisements. The election-related spending bonanza is singularly boosting the profit margins of many media companies, as we’ve reported.
“Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS,” Les Moonves, president and chief executive of CBS, memorably said.
If there’s spillover between the corporate media political agenda and what you see on TV, the most likely place for it is in the lack of reporting on campaign finance reform. Though networks have focused great attention on the amount of money raised by the candidates, there is very little discussion of how to reduce the influence of money in politics.