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Deliberately ignoring candidates who lack ad money (part 1)

Written by Subject: Politics: Libertarian Campaigns

I reluctantly write this, but my eyes are slowly being opened to a form of political censorship with nation-wide implications. Examples of it are rampant in my home state of Arizona. The Publisher of Freedom’s Phoenix has just written of it. So I will add my two cents.

Example 1: Barry Hess is a candidate for governor, who was on the ballot in Arizona’s primary election, and will be on the ballot in the general election. He participated in a debate with two other candidates, who represent the Republican and Democratic parties. One of Mr. Hess’ apparent crimes is that he represents the Libertarian party.

Mr. Hess was invited to three gubernatorial debates because state law required his opponents, who run their on public money to participate in these debates, which by law three must be held and are publicly funded. The law also requires any other non-publicly funded candidate appearing on the ballot to be invited to participate. Mr. Hess’ other crime is he refuses on principle to run his campaign using public funds.

The first two debates lasted some 120 minutes, (Tucson debate video link; Phoenix debate video link) and equal time was allotted to the three candidates to answer the questions. In other words, one third of the debate was Mr. Hess speaking. But if you were to look at the state’s newspaper, The Arizona Republic, the following day (Phoenix, Tucson) you might get the idea their were only two people speaking at the debates: The R and the D. As Mr. Hess’ stances on the issues is ignored.

The East Valley Tribune (a Freedom Communication’s publication!) made little reference to Hess in the Phoenix debate. The Tucson major paper made even less reference to Hess at the Tucson debate.

When pressed for an explanation, the press now answers that since Mr. Hess doesn’t receive public funds his campaign is not credible. Really? He is on the ballot. He has been publicly endorsed by one of the losing Republican primary candidates. Barry Hess has raised a little money and put up signs, he has a campaign manager, his campaign distributes bumper stickers and buttons. He was involved in both debates. He has toured the state for many months speaking before a variety of interest groups. Everyone will have a chance to cast their ballot supporting him. Yet the news media refuses to cover him ... not because he has no chance of winning, but because he has no money to offer them in advertising purchases.

The Arizona Republic gave him a write-up on the front page that finally was the last straw for Mr. Hess. His opponents had already had their write-ups, appearing on the front page of back to back Sunday editions, while his came out in a post-Columbus Day Tuesday edition. I don’t know if this bothered Barry Hess, but the article itself did. The bulk was devoted, not to Mr. Hess’ stances, but to belittling him, his campaign and the Libertarian party and libertarians in general. I will let you read his press release yourself. Suffice it to say that he has called for donations to help him raise money to shame the Arizona Republic, the newspaper of record in this state, into better behavior in the future. The reason I am writing this is he has so far raised over $2,000 in a little over a day. That is pretty impressive and probably reflects as much people’s admiration of Barry Hess, as it does their contempt for the Arizona Republic or nationwide for the way the mainstream media treats both libertarians (and other third parties) and elected officials in general. In the former, ignoring them if not downright ridiculing them, and in the latter treating them as if they were royalty.

Barry Hess has started to run radio ads slamming the media for its contempt of the electorate in deciding who’s viewpoints will get attention and who’s won’t. Now may be the time to do a little slamming of our own. Maybe it is time to picket television and radio stations that give free time to candidates who wear R’s or D’s after their name, or even more narrowly defined just the party approved R’s and D’s, yet blackout coverage of other qualified candidates who lack the resources to invest in advertising with that outlet. Maybe it is time to call advertisers in papers and let our wallets do the talking. Now these are private businesses (except for PBS affiliates) and are entitled to do what they wish. But so are we entitled to do as we wish. And turning the media into their own story is not a bad idea.

I have seen the Libertarian Party and libertarian activists and candidates in my state shame pollsters into including us in polls, cajole societies into including us in debates, include us in front of the cameras, or on the front pages, or the air waves. We have the magic “C” word to dangle (Controversy). That makes for viewers. That makes for ad revenue. But unfortunately along the way the press continually forgets that our message is consistent, stays the course, and never cuts and runs. (thanks Karl) Instead the press when forced to cover libertarians frequently mocks them. Or only covers libertarians who have been arrested in the course of trying to protest or get into the debates.

continue to Part Two

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Jefferson Paine
Entered on:

When the media covers only selected candidates in a race, that amounts to in in-kind campaign contribution to those candidates, since it gives them an advantage that unbiased coverage wouldn**Q**t. Somebody should make a big stink about this, pointing out how it**Q**s a violation of campaign finance laws (no big deal for libertarians, but certainly a big deal for the political class), and especially how unfair it is to both the slighted candidates and all the voters who want to be fully informed about all their alternatives.

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