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Did NYT Violate Campaign Finance Laws with MoveOn Ad?

Bob Bauer has some interesting thoughts on the legal aspects of the NYT's acknowledgment that MoveOn.Org was not charged the proper rate for its "General Betray-Us" ad at the More Soft Money Hard Law blog.

The campaign finance laws that the Times has so righteously championed have, by its own admission, trapped the paper in a violation. A salesperson got the rate wrong, and though the advertisement is not aimed at an election, does not support a candidate, and does not promote a political party—though its purpose is to weigh in on a debate over national security policy—the discounted price paid by MoveOn is arguably an illegal contribution in kind from the Times to a federally regulated "political committee." Silly as this may seem, the Times is the last publication in the land to grouse about the madness and injustice of it all.

Nessuno:
I have a dream of an America where political speech is at least as well protected as depictions of child pornography.
9.24.2007 6:47pm
Justin (mail):
The article doesn't claim what you says it claims. The only thing the NYT has acknowledged is that it failed to detail the definition of the standby rate that it charged.
9.24.2007 6:58pm
frankcross (mail):
I'm amazed at the pursuit of this. All we know is that the NYT quoted the standby rate, without telling moveon it was standby. As it happened, there was space, so the ad appeared the day desired. Now, there may be legal implications here, perhaps moveon could have sued if it had not appeared the day they wanted. But all we know is that the NYT was negligent. Negligence is not a campaign contribution. Especially since moveon apparently got no benefit it would not have received had it knowingly purchased the ad standby.

Maybe you could argue that moveon would have paid more for non-standby to ensure it appeared that day. But there is no evidence they received non-standby treatment. So the NYT practice didn't really harm or benefit anyone ex post and may have harmed moveon from an ex ante perspective.
9.24.2007 7:05pm
Steve P. (mail):
I may be misremembering, but didn't the NYT just run anti-MoveOn.org ads (paid for by Giuliani) under the same rubric, for the same price?

Now, apparently the NYT didn't inform MoveOn.org that there was no guarantee of the run date. That could be fishy. Then again, it could be innocent. Do we have more evidence one way or the other?

Finally, if MoveOn.org did give the NYT the money to cover for the higher-cost, guaranteed-date ad, how is there a possible campaign finance violation?
9.24.2007 7:52pm
Mac (mail):
"The answer to the first question is that MoveOn.org paid what is known in the newspaper industry as a standby rate of $64,575 that it should not have received under Times policies. The group should have paid $142,083.

The Times had maintained for a week that the standby rate was appropriate, but a company spokeswoman told me late Thursday afternoon that an advertising sales representative made a mistake."

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of The Times and chairman of its parent company, declined to name the salesperson or to say whether disciplinary action would be taken."



frankcross,
I suggest you read the omsbusman's column (excerpted above in this post). We know far more than that.

Read the second sentance above. You don't find anything odd in the Times maintaining one story for a week? For Pete's sake, they are a Newspaper, supposedly the best in the world and it takes them a week to figure this out? Not just a little odd? Somehow this story comes out after they are hit with an election campaign violation. Not just a bit, odd??

Then they refuse to disclose the name of the staffer and the discipline, if any? How convenient. I would like to see their histerics if any Republican or other group they don't like tried this.

And, if you read the column, the Times violated their own ad policy re running ads with personal attacks.

The issue, despite your amazment, is that the press has a special place in our Constitution It has this place as our Founding Fathers knew government needed to be watched. When you have the press pretending to be fair and in reality rooting for one political party and only "watching" the other, they violate that trust. Financially supporting takes that violation even further.



But, you are amazed at the pursuit of all this? I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to talk to you about.
9.24.2007 7:59pm
Smokey:
The fact that MovOn.org has now decided to pay lots of extra money for an ad that has already run speaks volumes. Nobody gives away free money like that for no reason. It's CYA time.
9.24.2007 8:03pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
I think it's clearly a violation of laws that the FEC administers. The NY Times Corporation cannot give money to a political cause out of it's general operating funds. A discounted ad rate is is this type of contribution.

What's more interesting is that the discounted rate may be the normal rate chaged to MoveOn for their ads. This sounds like someone should go back and check for other time-sensitive ads placed by MoveOn.org in the NY Times.
9.24.2007 8:30pm
KeithK (mail):
This is a big story for me not so much because it potentially catches a political opponent in a campaign finance violation. It's important because it points out the foolishness of the campaign finance regime. For a strong supporter of these laws to be ensnared by them, even through negligence, highlights the problems.
9.24.2007 8:46pm
KeithK (mail):

The issue, despite your amazment, is that the press has a special place in our Constitution It has this place as our Founding Fathers knew government needed to be watched. When you have the press pretending to be fair and in reality rooting for one political party and only "watching" the other, they violate that trust. Financially supporting takes that violation even further.


Mac, for much of our nation's history the press was openly political, not merely on the editorial pages. No one saw a problem with this. There's nothing fundamental about a so-called "objective" press - oversight can work just fine when you have biased press on both sides.

I have absolutely no problem with the NY Times supporting MoveOn.org or Hillary Clinton or whatever liberal group they want. I just want them to have to admit this bias.
9.24.2007 8:49pm
Toby:
frankcross does not notice that not only. surprise surprise, did the ad run on the target date, but it ran in the target location, something ls not promised to discount rate non-profits.
9.24.2007 8:58pm
Mac (mail):
"Mac, for much of our nation's history the press was openly political, not merely on the editorial pages. No one saw a problem with this. There's nothing fundamental about a so-called "objective" press - oversight can work just fine when you have biased press on both sides"

Keith, I will agree. Howevr, they should, as you said, admit their bias and I still think they betray a public trust when they slant and lie in their news stories.

Also, for much of our nation's history we did not have 95% of the major news outlets on the same page (no pun intended).

And, no, talk radio is not "news". It provides commentary with it's bias clearly known, but it does not report the news. Bias is present in which news to cover and how much to cover it as well as in what is covered and how.

I agree the campaign finance law is ridiculous. It is one reason I did not vote for McCain in the last Senate election. How stupid could he be? Talk about an abridgement of free speach. He is clueless. A hero, yes, but clueless in too many areas.

I would rather do away with all of the laws and make everyone disclose every cent and it's source. However, that would be a lot of work for journalists to follow the money to the law that was passed and so on and I think the majority are too lazy to dig.

I would prohibit politicians from using their own money. All we are getting is a bunch of super rich idiots running for office. Who can compete with multimillionaires?
9.24.2007 9:17pm
frankcross (mail):
Standby pieces can often run on the right date and in the desired place. It's just conditional. There's no evidence of anything but the fact that NYT failed to inform moveon of the standby nature of the price it paid.

The personal attacks standard is a completely different issue and has zero to do with the campaign contribution case.

And Mac, you vastly exaggerate the evidence of media bias. The best study finding a liberal bias, that of Groseclose &Milyo and commonly cited by conservatives, found that liberal bias to be quite mild and not shared by 95% of the outlets.
9.24.2007 10:23pm
Smokey:
frankcross-

Um... are you saying that liberal bias in newspapers is quite mild, and not shared by 95% of the outlets?

Because that's what it looks like you said.
9.24.2007 10:57pm
Mac (mail):
Groseclose &Milyo

A google search reveals lots of discussion re this study and it is not hailed as the "best study" from what I can tell.
9.24.2007 11:42pm
Mac (mail):
"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy school."


frankcross
Are you sure you want to quote these guys? This in the UCLA News.
9.24.2007 11:46pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> And Mac, you vastly exaggerate the evidence of media bias. The best study finding a liberal bias, that of Groseclose &Milyo and commonly cited by conservatives, found that liberal bias to be quite mild and not shared by 95% of the outlets.

Let's test the "exaggerate" theory. If the bias is "quite mild" and "95%" is meaningful, there'd be no objection to swapping positions. In other words, conservatives get the "mild" bias at the 5% of media outlets where it's found.

What? You're not willing to give up that "mild bias" at "only" 5% of the media outlets? So much for it being insignificant.
9.24.2007 11:46pm
frankcross (mail):
Mac, it's the best study finding a liberal bias. And their data show many sources, including the NYT, have a liberal bias, though, as your quotation notes, it's quite moderate. Other studies show no liberal bias. And there are legitimate questions about Groseclose and Milyo. My point is that the best rigorous conservative case for liberal bias shows that its existence is mild. And that's the strongest case for bias, it may be overstated.

Andy Freeman, I have no idea what you're saying. The 95% is wrong.
9.24.2007 11:56pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Move on can pay because they just raised ~2M$ based on the ad and the campaign against it and they will raise more. Guiliani?
9.25.2007 12:13am
Dave N (mail):
The campaign finance laws are moronic. Frankly, the best approach would be to require complete transparancy (readily doable in the era of the Internet). Contributions and expenditures would both have to be posted online in a public website within 24 or 48 hours.

If the NYT wanted to give the ad for free, good for them--but then the world would know of the contribution and they could be criticized. Anything less than full retail would constitute a contribution for the difference.

If Rupert Murdoch and/or George Soros wanted to self-finance their own shills, the world would know. And everyone would know who bought and paid for them.

Of course willful failure to report either a contribuution or an expenditure would and should have severe penalties.

A modest proposal--but it will never happen.
9.25.2007 1:18am
Randy R. (mail):
"The fact that MovOn.org has now decided to pay lots of extra money for an ad that has already run speaks volumes. Nobody gives away free money like that for no reason. It's CYA time."

Or perhaps, moveon.org is an honorable organization and they want to do the right thing. I know, it's hard for conservatives to understand that, but sometimes people aren't always selfish.
9.25.2007 1:53am
A. Zarkov (mail):
If moveon.org were an honorable organization they wouldn't resort to smear ads.
9.25.2007 2:12am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Standby pieces can often run on the right date and in the desired place. It's just conditional. There's no evidence of anything but the fact that NYT failed to inform moveon of the standby nature of the price it paid.
Frank, I don't know why you're stubbornly maintaining this, but it's false.

There has never been "no evidence." Last week, we had the behavior of MoveOn -- placing a time-sensitive ad -- as evidence that this is not what happened. The New York Times didn't "fail to inform" MoveOn that it was a standby ad; they now admit that they explicitly informed MoveOn that it was not a standby ad, that they were guaranteed placement. (And if for some reason the direct admission weren't enough, MoveOn implicitly admitted it by giving the Times an extra $80K.)


Randy R:
Or perhaps, moveon.org is an honorable organization and they want to do the right thing. I know, it's hard for conservatives to understand that, but sometimes people aren't always selfish.
If you were more interested in logical arguments than misplaced cheat shots, you'd understand that paying extra is not "the right thing" unless the Times' initial decision violated the law.
9.25.2007 5:42am
rarango (mail):
Dont know about the legalities of the ad, but somehow I think there are going to be a whole lot of irritated advertisers who normally use the NYT and are going to feel like they have been screwed. As in: "yo, Pinch--how come those folks got a deep discount and I have to pay double...? and so forth. I suspect market forces are going to be more effective than legalities in this case.
9.25.2007 10:55am
frankcross (mail):
I have entirely missed the reference to where the NYT said it explicitly informed moveon that it was not a standby ad. It was not in the article That might benefit from a reference, please.

And now, the best case for illegal contribution is with Giuliani
9.25.2007 2:02pm
Smokey:
Randy R:
"Or perhaps, moveon.org is an honorable organization and they want to do the right thing. I know, it's hard for conservatives to understand that, but sometimes people aren't always selfish."
The defense of MorOn.org by Randy R fails, because that $80,000 paid to the NYT, after the fact, could have helped a lot of widows and orphans. So much for this "honorable organization." Bill Gates gives more in one day to charity than Soros/MovOn has ever given.

George Soros is behind MovOn.org. His money created it. And he did it for the aggrandizement of power, and because of his deranged hatred of George Bush, not to help the less fortunate. Helping the needy is not something these folks do.
9.25.2007 2:25pm
DCL (mail):
Guys -- MoveOn is a PAC, but it is also a 501(c)(4). Do we know for sure that MoveOn paid for the aid with PAC money and not (c)(4) money? Because if the latter is true, there is no election law issue here.
9.25.2007 2:58pm
NickM (mail) (www):
frankcross - there was no extended discussion, but the LA Times blurb on this yesterday said that the NY Times had promised MoveOn a particular placement but charged them the standby rate.

Nick
9.25.2007 3:24pm
frankcross (mail):
I'm searching the LA Times for every conceivable reference word and getting nothing.
9.25.2007 5:53pm
Mac (mail):
My point is that the best rigorous conservative case for liberal bias shows that its existence is mild.

Ffrankcross,

Did you even read the quotes I entered above? Here they are again.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy school."

The study you are quoting to prove your point that bias is mild says "there is quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left" said co-author jeffrey Milyo.

Where are you getting your "mild" from? These are quoters from the authors of the study YOU mentioned. They are NOT saying the bias is mild. You can read, but do you really have that much trouble with comprehension? (No, I am not trying to be nasty, I just don't understand how you can keep saying the exact opposite of what the study's authors are saying.)
frankcross and Randy R
Go read their omsbudsman's article, linked above. You and Randy are making statements that, by his account, are not true. You don't need to go to the LA Times or anywhere else. Surely, the omsbusman for the NY TImes knows what happened. They aren't even claiming what you two are.
9.26.2007 1:10am
Mac (mail):
Guys -- MoveOn is a PAC, but it is also a 501(c)(4). Do we know for sure that MoveOn paid for the aid with PAC money and not (c)(4) money? Because if the latter is true, there is no election law issue here.

DCL,

At issue here is not Moveon's money, but the "in kind" contribution made by the NY Times. Their ad space has a monetary value. If they give a discount to a political group, they are making a contribution the same as if they gave them money and they are breaking election laws. Ones which they chammpioned.

They offered the Republicans the same rate and Guliani took them up on it to try to get their behinds off the hot seat. It didn't work. I could see that in trying to save face, they may very well have broken election laws with regards to Guliani as well. I don't know. But, Guliani has nothing to do with their first offense which got them into hot water in the first place. The NY Times is admitting they screwed up. I don't know why you two are saying they didn't do things they have already admitted to doing.
9.26.2007 1:20am
Mac (mail):
championed. Preview is a good thing, Preview is a good thing.
9.26.2007 1:21am