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May 27, 2008


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This might be a watershed moment if in fact Jack Lessenberry was now taking the position that the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has advocated for years -- that all campaign finance limits be abanadoned, and instead we simply go to a system requiring the transparency of fast and complete reporting. In that instance, Fieger might not now be facing a jury in the U.S. District Court. But this is no watershed moment inasmuch as Mr. Lessenberry shows no indication of backing off from partisan politics. I can only presume that Mr. Lessenberry actually agrees with the large number of Democrats and a few maverick Republicans who thought that they could make them selves look good by enacting campaign finance "limits."

Jack Lessenberry probably loves campaign finance rules as long as they are used to snag the likes of Tom Delay (who is charged with an even more benign violation of a Texas state-law corollary to the federal violation with which Fieger is charged), and not colorful, Democratic personalities (and good sources for book material) like Fieger.

But this is not Fieger's first run-in with election laws. In 2004, Fieger spent more than $450,000 as the sole contributor to a PAC called "Citizens for Judicial Reform." The kind of "reform" Fieger wanted was to rid himself of State Supreme Court Justices (in 2004, it was the scholarly conservative jurist Stephen Markman) who reversed some of Fieger's more memorably egregious trial verdicts. Fieger apparently concocted a phony figurehead and a P.O. Box for the PAC. The PAC funded atack ads that ran on tv against Markman. Fieger kept his involvment in the PAC secret until more than seven months after the election (which Markman won), and which was found to have been a violation of state campaign rules. Fieger didn't go to jail then, just as none of the Swift Boat Veterans were jailed, and - oh yes! - George Soros didn't go to jail for his involvement with "America Coming Together" which was another 527 organization that SUPPORTED the Kerry campaing and which was fined $775,000 for its own irregularities in the 2004 campaign.

And now I've got a simple question for Jack Lessenberry's clever and well-informed listenership. Why, since Fieger has now admitted to the straw-man donations and reimbursements now under scrutiny in federal court, should he not be quickly convicted of the Federal Election Campaign Act? (I set aside the obstruction of justice charge for the moment.) District Judge Paul Borman has instructed the jury that they may convict Fieger only if they find that Fieger "knew" that straw-man donations were a violation of FECA. Why? When did that kind of actual knowledge become an element of the crime? Does anyone know?

So, Anonymous, are we to infer that citing the Wall Street Journal editorial page, or wanting to do away with any campaign finance limits, do NOT represent a partisan opinion?

Joe, you're welcome to infer anything you'd like. It's a free country.

I happen to agree with the general notion that campaign finance limits are mostly a waste of time and effort. And yes, that is certainly the general position that the Journal's editors have advocated for a long time.

Whether that is a "partisan" position is debatable. We've had limits in some form or another for more than about 30 years, right? The watershed Supreme Court case of Buckley v Valeo was a 1976 opinion, and it held that some limitations on maximum donation amounts was constitutional.

The Republican nominee and the co-author of McCain-Feingold is of course John McCain, and he is no firebrand opposing all campaign contribution limits.

I am a self-proclaimed Republican partisan, and if I cite the Journal or the New York Times or the Periodic Table of the Elements, it is likely to be in support of my own politics. Of the three, I think I'd have the fewest arguments with the Periodic Table, and second with the Journal. I'm sure I'd have no more than 50 or 100 complaints about the New York Times' editorial opinion on any given day.

So if the proposal to eliminate campaign finance limits, to be replaced by an advanced reporting requirment, is "partisan," I plead guilty.

I'd just like to note, as I did once before on this blog, that the 1968 Presidential Campaign of Eugene McCarthy would have been entirely illegal under today's standards. McCarthy's campaign was founded on the strength of a couple of huge (by 1968 standards) cash donations from wealthy backers of McCarthy. Ironic, isn't it?

My last questions posed above still stand, by the way. Why was it that U.S. Ditrict Judge Paul Borman decided to impose, as an element of the crime to be proven versus Fieger, that he "knew" that the contributions were illegal? Is that a required element under the statute, and is it an element that has been required under other federal prosecutions of the FECA?

If you want to state partisan opinions, that is fine with me. It just seems hypocritical to accuse someone of partisan bias while making no attempt to hide your own.

The only reason to get jazzed up about Jack Lessenberry's partisanship has to do with the fact that, unlike me, he holds the position of "Senior News Analyst" for Michigan Radio, a public broadcasting outlet explicitly supported by the State of Michigan. We don't know quite what a "Senior News Analyst" is, except that it clearly involves editorial control over this weblog, and broadcast time on the radio network.

NPR has its own "Senior News Analysts" too, and they include Dan Schorr, Cokie Roberts, Juan Williams and Ted Koppel. At its root, the position as loosely defined by NPR and now, apparently by Michigan Radio, is to have the Senior News Analysts gently guide the listener and/or reader through thorny current events. In the case of public radio, it seems to be determinedly liberal guidance. There's never been a conservative Senior News Analyst at NPR. They are all, more or less declared Democrats. (Ted Koppel is probably the only questionable case.) And there's never any formal rebuttal, opposing editorial view, or other check on these liberal voices. Liberals pretty much own public radio, except that to a great extent, taxpayers are supporting it, through the state universities' infrastructure, through tax policies, and through direct government grants.

Can anyone imagine the outcry if the University of Michigan gave Rush Limbaugh a radio studio, and a tax subsidy to run his program?

"To a great extent" highly overstates the case. Less than 2% of NPR's funding comes from government grants, a number that has steadily declined since the 80s. Most of it comes from donations and corporate/ foundation underwriting.

oh yeah... Referring to NPR programming as the liberal equivalent of Rush Limbaugh is amusing at best.

Joe, you may be able to get away with the "percentage of NPR funding" number, but please remember that Michigan Radio operates out of the University of Michigan, with University-owned studios, offices and staff. Ditto WDET and WCMU. What portion of Michigan Radio's infrastructure was publicly funded? Something pretty close to 100%? And of the purported 98% of funding that you attribute to donors, corporations and foundation grants, isn't 100% of those donations subject to special, favorable tax treatment?

Oh yeah, about the Rush Limbaugh versus NPR comparison. If you compare his program to "Democracy Now!" on NPR, I'd say the comparison is quite fair.* The only difference is that Rush's program has millions more in listeners, and pays for itself very nicely, thank you, without begging for any governmental support.

*You probably think Rush Limbaugh is a partisan hack. I think Amy Goodman is a partisan hack. You think Rush's program is an hours-long partisan screed. I think Democracy Now! (on WDET-Detroit) is an hours-long partisan screed. What is beyond our argument is that one is a private-sector broadcast and the other is part of public broadcasting. There's no more "fairness doctrine" in commercial broadcasting. But in public broadcasting, shouldn't there be a passing effort made at fairness and balance?

I need to state that I am not a declared Democratic partisan; I normally split my ticket, and have been very critical of many Democrats. The amusing farce is that the anonymous Republican shill makes such accusations, but unlike grownups, is afraid to sign his name.

Jack, I know you've been critical of many Democrats. Usually it is the day before they are indicted. (Lonnie Bates, Kwame Kilpatrick, etc.) Or the day after they are convicted, since indictment wouldn't have been enough. (Fieger?) Or if they are members of the Detroit City Council, which is hardly a fair fight. We have to confine our discussion to serious, real-world governments.

But this idea of your having "split your ticket"? Now that's intriguing!

I'm quite certain from your writing that you haven't supported George W. Bush, Bob Dole, or George H.W. Bush in any of the last 20 or so years of presidential elctions. I'm guessing that you are a constitutent of Joe Knolleberg's Michigan Ninth Congressional District. And you have more or less made his defeat in 2008 a personal vendetta. You ridiculed the gubernatorial campaigns of Dick DeVos and Dick Posthumus, and your never-ending contempt for the legacy of Governor John Engler is a recurrent theme in your writing. Has there been a Republican that you've supported for the United States Senate? Did you support or even vote for Spence Abraham? Honestly, I don't know what's left in terms of any serious ticket-splitting. Have you supported a Republican for State Attorney General? Is your Republican 'cred' built upon votes for county commissioners? Dog catcher?

I won't even touch the subject of ostensibly non-party judicial candidates. You've made yourself pretty clear on your feelings toward the Michigan Supreme Court. What's left?

Some kind of ticket-splitting!

I don't live in Knollenberg's district; have been more critical of Gov. Jennifer Granholm than most Republicans, have frequently invited Saul Anuzis to appear on this program, and openly endorsed Terri Lynn Land. About as right as usual for Mr. no-name.

Puh-leeze, Mr. Lessenberry. You've been critical of Governor Granholm for not raising taxes enough. You're not going to be a featured Lincoln Day Dinner speaker for that!

I had guessed that somewhere, somehow, among the 15 or 20 most important state and federal elections, there'd be some Republican you could endorse. You found Terri Lynn Land, a perfectly good and capable Secretary of State. Your earth-shattering endorsement of her allowed you to avoid the ignominy of having to endorse her first opponent, Butch "Woodward & 7 Mile" Hollowell, and her re-election opponent, the ossified Carmella Sabbagh of Macomb County. Congratulations on that one, Jack.

I did not know whether you lived in Knollenberg's district, and said I was only guessing. Naturally, the location of your residence ought to not be in the public domain; but perhaps your could tell us whether your "ticket splitting" or even whether your public support extends to ANY of the metro Detroit Congressional Republicans, or any Republican candidates? Remember, "Any Republican" or "Any breathing humanoid" versus Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick doesn't count.

I am guessing once again, but it appears that the extent of your "ticket splitting" in elections sort of begins and ends with Terri Lynn Land.

In our fight over the fairness and balance of public radio, we should not lose sight of the original issue in this thread, that of Campaign Finance Reform.

I surely hope that it will be a long, long time before any Michigan Democrat again makes so much as a peep about "campaign finance reform" as long as their 1998 nominee for Governor, has made a mockery of it.

I did not say I normally split my ticket to vote for Republicans; I am more inclined to vote for Soviet-style Communists.

I am more inclined to vote for Soviet-style Communists.

Thank dog for small favors! w00t!!! =)

Welcome to Public Radio, citizens of Michigan!
(Republicans need not apply.)

Anonymous: would you recognize sarcasm if it jumped up and bit you?

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