Monday, January 21st, 2019

Kelchner: Fox News covers horse race over cash cows

Posted on February 07, 2012 in Perspectives
By Kit Kelchner

Kit Kelchner
Dalton Kelchner
Kit Kelchner

On the night of the Florida primary, several friends and I went out to our favorite coffee house to watch the polling results come in on the television. Everyone was in a great mood, eager to discuss the results and the significance of the outcome. As I stood in line to order my favorite overpriced drink, I was so distracted by a commotion coming from our area near the fireplace, I turned to see which of my friends was the source, only to realize it was the broadcast.

What Fox News served up that night for U.S. citizens was a consumer grade carnival ride — a production of laughs, bad jokes and inappropriate comments, interspersed with political analysis. It began with co-anchor Megyn Kelly, billed by Fox News as “smart, tough and trusted.” It was difficult to watch her laugh her way through the production, dropping such gems as “I thought you were about to say drama queen” during the broadcast.

Perhaps, we are to blame for choosing Fox in the first place, right? The coverage looked promising with senior political correspondent Brit Hume and Karl Rove as commentators and co-achored by Bret Baier, a former chief White House Correspondent with considerable Washington political journalism experience. But Baier was noticeably uncomfortable at times, trying to keep the show on track. The difficulty stemmed from the balancing act Baier had to perform between Kelly and the eight commentators interspersed throughout the coverage and a production that pushed flash over substance.

The Florida results were important because it was a winner-take-all delegate state, and the issue of corporate favors became an issue between Romney and Gingrich. The critical gaze of the concerned public has been increasingly focused on the relationship of corporations to government and what has  been called “crony capitalism,” the influence peddling in Washington in exchange for campaign donations and favorable laws. Republican presidential hopeful, House Speaker Newt Gingrinch, came under considerable fire from Mitt Romney for his $25,000 per month “consulting fee” from Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant embroiled in the housing crash. When Gingrich defended his relationship, Romney fired back, “They don’t pay people $25,000 a month for six years as historians.”

Additionally, this is our first presidential campaign since the Supreme Court struck down a large portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws, and Florida may be the first state to be unduly influenced by Super-PACs (super-political action committees). Under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) to uphold corporate rights to make campaign contributions, a ruling which has caused considerable ongoing debate. In the wake of that ruling, corporations can donate unlimited funds to Super-PACs as long as those funds are not coordinated with the actual candidates campaigns. This amounts to the ultimate honor system. Stephen Colbert has formed his own Super-PAC to illustrate the absurdity and danger of such a political monstrosity influencing our political process, raising over a million dollars and temporarily turning control of the Super-PAC over to fellow satire-news show host Jon Stewart while he explored a run in South Carolina.

Supreme Court Justice Stevens forceful dissenting argument in the 2010 landmark case pointed out the dangers and ambiguities of the decision: corporations may be controlled by nonresidents, they can neither vote nor run for office, and the ruling has no indication about how a corporation should handle electioneering when shareholders are not united in agreement about a candidate.

There has been coverage on Super-PAC contributors, and Fox News did discuss it, but they chose to focus on the individual donors rather than the business interests they actually represent. The fact that there were anonymous donors was lightly touched upon, but no speculation was broached regarding the significance of such an arrangement. In other words, the Fox News coverage did not consider Justice Stevens concerns to be worthy of investigative reporting or even the cheapest form of acknowledgement: talk.

Campaign finance will remain an issue, especially during a time of the supposed billion dollar re-election fund goal of incumbent President Barack Obama. Jim Messina, the Obama for America re-election campaign manager, squashed those rumors quickly, noting that type of money “turns people off from politics.” And increasingly, a specific kind of money is turning people off from politics: corporate.

Less is sometimes more. Just as Colbert is showing the money in Super-PACs makes a mockery of democracy, Fox News is showing the quest for excitement — the music, the touchscreens, the sound-bite quips and the laughter — misses an opportunity to critically examine one of the most important issues in our country: “corporate personhood” and the influence of the Super-PACs.

 Kit Kelchner is a philosophy and health sciences major in his senior year.

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