Monday, June 28, 2010
THESE ARE NOT THE DROIDS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR
It's reached epidemic proportions among the political press. It may even have affected a journalist you know.
For example, according to grand jury presentments, the House Republicans' alleged scheme to divert millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to political activity supposedly began just after the 2000 elections. The House Democrats' alleged plot to reward political volunteerism with taxpayer-funded bonuses supposedly kicked into gear during the 2004 election cycle.
Even according to the Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett, House Republicans had been unfairly and illegally kicking House Democrats' asses for four years before Mike Manzo and Scott Brubaker came up with an equally-illegal plan to help the Democrats level the playing field.
But even though the Democrats' alleged illegal scheme was much smaller in scale and was initiated four years later, it's somehow portrayed as having given the Democratic candidates a wildly unfair advantage over Republican candidates.
Witness the Post-Gazette's hilariously melodramatic (and shockingly misleading) account of plucky underdog Jim Marshall, whose earnest supporters rolled meatballs and hand-addressed fund-raising letters from Marshall's home-based headquarters. Not a word did reporter Tracie Mauriello write - was she even aware? - of the blizzard of professionally-produced television ads, robo-calls and slick direct mail that swept through the district in the final weeks of the campaign, all funded through the state Republican committee.
Apparently Mauriello will believe anything she's told as long as it reflects poorly on Mike Veon. She didn't even bother to check Marshall's campaign finance reports, which reveal more than $150,000 in funding from the state party. And that's just the support that was legally reported. If Corbett's allegations against Perzel are true, a virtual army of taxpayer-funded House Republican staffers were using millions in taxpayer-funded resources to support Marshall and other Republican candidates.
If you want to try to set up a David vs. Goliath analogy, you kind of need someone to play the role of David, and there's no suitable candidate in this situation. It's not an "advantage" if both sides are cheating.
The Tribune-Review's Brad Bumsted chimes in, characterizing the bonus scheme - for which even he admits "Veon didn't write the script," as a direct result of Veon's "unquenched thirst for more power." Bumsted's been covering the legislature for a long time; he must know that when the bonus scheme which Veon didn't concoct was launched, the Democrats had virtually no power in the legislature. At that point, according to Corbett, the Democrats were being victimized by a multi-million-dollar taxpayer-funded Republican campaign blitzkrieg.
For that matter, Bumsted places responsibility for the scandal on Veon because Veon "signed off on it" as the "de facto leader of the House Democratic Caucus." But it was Bumsted himself who first revealed that the actual leader of the House Democratic Caucus - the only one who had the legal authority to disburse caucus funds - was well aware of the scheme. Yet somehow DeWeese never faced charges in connection with it, and Bumsted apparently has no problem with that?
How can you help combat cognitive dissonance among political reporters? Just a few seconds of critical thought a day could mean the difference between substantive analyzis and mindless rhetoric. Please, take the time to care.