by Helen Tansey ©
You may think this is a story important only to the voters of Virginia, but think again. This is a heads up to the voters who are paying attention and who are working to make sure their local, state and federal primary elections remain fair amongst all candidates vying for nomination to run in the general.
Here in Virginia, we learned this week that the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and Virginia’s Associated Press Managing Editors met to establish what they are calling a primary debate “criteria” that is applicable to all US Senate primary candidates before being invited to participate in their televised sponsored debate. Their modus operandi is obvious, they are purposely establishing an artificial “criteria” which heavily favors the establishments two- party frontrunners, thereby weeding out any and all other contenders.
Of course this same modus operandi has been going on for years, but given the mood of the electorate and the critical nature of the 2012 elections it is incumbent upon all of us to pay closer attention to what our local and state media are doing; especially as it relates to the state election process.
These corporate media Associations, associations whose membership is made up of local and state news journalists, editors, anchors and reporters and whose corporately owned media companies pay hefty membership dues to belong, are little more than a club full of establishment media “insiders”. Sure they call their clubs names like the “Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association” or the “Associated Press Association” or “whatever Association” but know it is made up of a group of insiders who meet regularly to discuss Association business, network and hold annual self-congratulatory banquets to honor themselves and their work. Nothing wrong with that mind you, that is until they use their financial resources to purposely influence the electorate. Then, I dare say, their motives become suspect.
Understand that it is from these paid dues that such Associations are able to financially sponsor local and statewide political debates. Since they are the ones who financially underwrite all related expenses, they too are the ones who decide on the debate location(s), the format, the moderator and now, what candidates will make the cut or not. This means that the fourth estate, the body who is responsible to report the news, has become the arbiter of who and who is not newsworthy.
As one such primary candidate who will be excluded from the debate recently stated in a Richmond Times article –
“They’re attempting a coup d’état. The establishment candidates in collusion with the media have set a debate for Virginia’s U.S. Senate election and rigged it so that Tim Kaine and George Allen are the sole participate,” Donner said in a letter to supporters.
What’s that saying if it smells like a duck…
Following is the artificial “criteria” made by these two sponsoring organizations as communicated to the Jamie Radtke campaign for US Senate –
- Candidate must have at least 15% of their respective primary vote in an average of recent public polls.
- Candidate must have raised at least 20% of the amount raised by the fundriaising leader in their primary as of September 30.
To confirm Radtke’s understanding, I phoned the Associated Press, Richmond office seeking a formal list of all the debate “criteria” and was referred to a Ms. Dorothy Abernathy who “serves as Bureau Chief of Richmond, Va at The Associated Press and oversees the Mid-Atlantic operations and membership relations on an interim basis.” According to the individual I spoke with at the AP this Ms. Abernathy participated and likely lead the discussion centering around the discussion on candidate “criteria”. I was provided with her email address and sent her the following request in the afternoon on September 22 –
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:17 PM
Subject: Formal Request to Receive the “Criteria” Being Used for AP/Correspondent US Senate Virginia Debate
Dear Ms. Abernathy:
I just spoke to one of your staff who goes by the name of Mike who directed me to you. I am seeking the formal list of “criteria” being used by the AP/Correspondent Association when deciding what candidates will be participating in the upcoming debate sponsored by the AP/Correspondent Association for Webb’s open seat in the US Senate.
Thank you in advance,
As of this morning, September 24 I have yet to receive a response from Ms. Abernathy.
Voters Must be Vigilant
As the voting electorate is most aware, there is a primary season and then the general election is held. The primary season typically happens over the summer months and is where candidates spend their time attending large festivals, parades and other public gatherings to introduce themselves and their policy positions on a variety of issues important to the voters, thereby raising their name recognition. It is also a time spent raising campaign funds and meeting potential donors, because dollars are necessary again, to pay for staff, websites, polling, palm cards, direct mail and if lucky radio and television advertising. Both the handshaking w/voters and the dialing for dollars are critical building blocks to a candidate’s electability.
Therefore, serious primary candidates look for any and every meaningful opportunity to introduce themselves and their positions on the issues to the voters. A debate, especially one sponsored by the media establishment, is just such an event that can take a little known candidate and propel them into the pack with the primary frontrunners. It is also precisely why the frontrunners do what they can to shut out their primary contenders from gaining such a platform and exposure.
Heaven forbid the voters be exposed to divergent views on heady policy areas such as their healthcare, budget spending and cuts, Wall Street accountability, education and more. Apparently only the establishment candidates have all of the right answers. Hogwash!
But it was this little ditty that caught my eye when first reading about this story in the Virginian Pilot –
Leaders of the news organizations declined to discuss the issue. The correspondents group and The AP issued a joint statement Wednesday night: “The organizing committee of this debate… has received a number of concerns about the criteria, which were carefully discussed and established beforehand. It’s commonplace to have criteria for participation in a debate. We’ve sponsored debates in the past and have had criteria.”
Spokespeople for the Kaine and Allen campaigns said they did not place restrictions on who could participate. (emphasis added)
Plausible deniability is what this little ruse is called and no one is fooling anyone here.
You see, the frontrunner’s in the primary race for Webb’s open seat are none other than former US Senator George Allen, he was fired by the people of Virginia in the 2006 US Senate contest after being caught on video casting the aspersion “macaca” at the fellow who was recording Allen’s pitch to his supporters, and the second is former Governor Tim Kaine, the man who recently served as Chairman of the Democratic Services Corporation aka the Democratic National Party and who did everything short of holding a head stand contest on the Capitol lawn to ensure an Obama win in 2008.
Allen and Kaines’s “spokespeople” stated neither of their teams “place[d] restrictions” on who could participate in the debate, all the while the debate sponsors run cover for them by using the artificial “criteria” as their excuse to exclude primary contenders, that is ALL PRIMARY CONTENDERS, not just one or two but ALL OF THEM. Of course the campaigns didn’t place any “restrictions” but they surely did suggest, rather strongly I’m sure, a set of “criteria” they could live with.
If I’m wrong, which I am not, I would think Allen and Kaine’s campaign spokespeople might want to issue a statement telling the voters they too are offended by the
clubs Associations establishing a random set of “criteria” which excludes ALL of their contenders and that ALL primary candidates be given a fair shot at laying out and defending their policy positions before the voters. If they don’t demonstrate such leadership, well then, the voters have two choices, as I see it – BOYCOTT THE ENTIRE DEBATE and DO NOT VOTE FOR EITHER ALLEN OR KAINE in the primary. Cast your vote for the non establishment candidates who are working their tales off to get you to hear them and their message.
I’ll bet you a dollar this same ruse is being played out in your state. Remain vigilant and hold the rascals accountable! Otherwise, we deserve the lack of leadership we get year after year after year.