Soft Money Double Standards: Gunning for the NRA, but Soft on Soros - June 16, 2004 -

Times Watch for June 16, 2004

Soft Money Double Standards: Gunning for the NRA, but Soft on Soros

Reporter and Democratic optimist James Dao on Wednesday writes, "Gun Group's Radio Show Tests Limits on Advocacy-NRA Says It Is Joining the News Media." (Is that not a subhead guaranteed to raise sneers all over liberal Manhattan?)

Dao puts the NRA on the defensive right from the get-go: "In a direct challenge to federal limits on political advocacy, the National Rifle Association plans to begin broadcasting a daily radio program on Thursday to provide news and pro-gun commentary to 400,000 listeners. The group says its jump into broadcasting with its program, 'NRANews,' means that it should be viewed as a media organization that does not have to abide by provisions of a sweeping campaign finance law from 2002. That law stops organizations from using unregulated 'soft' money to buy political advertising that directly attacks or praises federal candidates in the weeks before federal elections and primaries."

Yet few such worries have accompanied Times reporting on left-wing billionaire George Soros and his so-called 527 political organizations like the Media Fund, groups set up for the explicit purpose of beating Bush in 2004, despite protests from Republicans and liberal campaign finance "reformers" alike that they run afoul of the intent of McCain-Feingold.

Back on May 13, reporter Glen Justice blandly described the FEC's decision to allow anti-Bush 527s in a story benignly headlined "F.E.C. Declines to Curb Independent Fund-Raisers." Compare that to the-pardon the pun-loaded headline on Dao's NRA story.

Justice wrote in May: "The decision was a major victory for a group of Democratic organizations that have helped Senator John Kerry by attacking President Bush with millions of dollars in television advertisements. It was a setback for Republicans, who had wanted to maintain their financial advantage over the Democrats by shutting down these groups, known as 527 committees after a section of the tax code. Several Republicans said they would begin immediately raising millions in unlimited donations known as soft money from companies, labor unions and wealthy donors in order to compete."

Note the emphasis on the Democrat's tactical victory, not the potential flouting of federal regulations, which is how Dao begins his story on the conservative NRA. Also see how, in Justice's last sentence, "soft money" is apparently a peculiarly Republican phenomenon-as if George Soros isn't the biggest soft-money donor around.

For the rest of Dao on NRA News, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Campaign Finance | James Dao | Soft Money | George Soros

The U.S. "Scolding" in San Francisco

The first problem with Eric Lichtblau's story ("Judge Scolds U.S. Officials Over Barring Jet Travelers," about security precautions in the wake of 9-11) is the headline. The judge is not in fact scolding the U.S. for barring jet travelers, just the government's refusal to release names of those that are barred.

Lichtblau's Wednesday story begins: "A federal judge on Tuesday accused the federal government of using 'frivolous claims' to avoid publicly disclosing who is banned from boarding airplanes because of terrorism concerns."

Lichtblau writes: "Some passengers say they believe they were stopped because their names were similar to those of terrorist suspects, while others say they suspect their strong liberal politics were a factor. In one well-publicized incident in 2002, some two dozen members of a group called Peace Action of Wisconsin, including a priest, a nun and high school students, were detained in Milwaukee on their way to a 'teach-in' and missed their flight."

Lichtblau could have pointed out what the Wall Street Journal dug up about the case. Reporter Ann Davis notes the Wisconsin incident may have had more to do with plain old bureaucracy than "strong liberal politics" (as satisfying as the latter may have been to peace activists): "A security official for the airline says that a group member with the last name of 'Laden' might have helped trip up the group."

For the rest of Lichtblau's piece, click here.

" Airlines | Eric Lichtblau | Terrorism

On the Economy, Good News Is Bad

Did yesterday's inflation report contain bad news? The markets didn't think so-but the Times does.

Eric Umansky, who writes the column "Today's Papers" for Slate, notes the "panicky" tone of the NYT's (initial) web headline to the Wednesday story by economics reporter Louis Uchitelle, "Consumer Prices Surge at Fastest Rate in 3 Years."

(The dead-tree version of the headline is considerably milder but still hints at trouble: "Gas Prices Lead Gradual Rise in Inflation." Later on Wednesday morning the Times changed the online headline to make it conform with the hard copy.)

By contrast, the Washington Post's front-page teaser for its business-section story reads: "Greenspan Eases Inflation Fears," and the headline to the actual front-page business story is "Inflation Doesn't Worry Greenspan."

Perhaps the Times is just worried the economy is recovering in time for Bush's re-election campaign.

For the rest of the story on the inflation report, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Headlines | Inflation