24 June 1999
The Howler follow-up: Creative accountings
Synopsis: The celebrity press corps keeps playing games with reports on the hopefuls fund-raising.
Wallets Open Wide For Bush in D.C.
Susan B. Glasser, The Washington Post, 6/22/99
Lobbyists Are a Lode for the Leading Presidential Campaigns
Don Van Natta, Jr., The New York Times, 6/22/99
As far as we know, White House hopefuls Bush and Gore have
done nothing wrong in their campaign fund-raising. But Gov. Bush
has charted a fund-raising course that is different from Vice
President Gore's. As has been repeatedly stated by Bush officials,
Bush hopes to raise enough money to be able to bypass the federal
matching fund program. In so doing, he would avoid the limits
on state-by-state spending that are part of the matching fund
program. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bush's desire
to do so. But it does commit Bush to raising much more money than
would be necessary were he to take matching funds.
But you'd never know it to read the press, including Tuesday's
Washington Post. Bush was coming to town for a major fund-raiser,
and Susan Glasser said this to her readers:
GLASSER: Overall, sources close to the Bush effort say they
expect to reach the $20 million figure by the June 30 close of
the second quarter, after posting $7.6 million in receipts at
the end of March. They are hoping to outraise Vice President Gore,
who beat them in the first quarter with $8.9 million raised and
who leaves today on a nine-day fund-raising tour. Both Bush
and Gore are aiming to raise more than $50 million.
In fact, for those who take matching funds, the FEC limits
primary spending to around $48 million, with up to $16 million
coming from matching funds. Thus, the Gore campaign is hoping
to "raise" around $32 million for the primaries. The
Bush camp hopes to raise at least $50 million, as Bush officials
have repeatedly made clear.
There is nothing wrong with the Bush camp's plan. But the Bush
campaign is, in fact, trying to raise substantially more money
than Gore. If Glasser is going to compare the campaigns, she ought
to give a more accurate account. Her construction continues Post
finance reporting which has consistently obscured basic facts
about funding-reporting in which the Post has painted Gore as
the Big Money Guy, although Bush plans to raise much more dough
(see links to past reporting below).
Don Van Natta was also involved in creations about Bush's fund-raiser.
Early on in his Tuesday piece, he offered the following point:
VAN NATTA (paragraph 6): Like Vice President Al Gore Mr. Bush
is relying on lobbyists and lawyers [in Washington] to help raise
the vast sums of money needed to run for President. But the
Vice President has much deeper ties to K Street, having dealt
with and raised money from Washington lobbyists since his election
to the Senate in 1984.
You remember 1984-a year when Bush's father, George Bush, was
vice president of the United States, on his way to becoming the
president? The notion that Bush is some sort of unconnected outsider
is one of the silliest ideas one could possibly conjure. But the
image is scattered all throughout Van Natta's Tuesday piece.
Let's walk through what Van Natta tells us. Paragraph five
is a lengthy quote from a Washington lobbyist, telling how Bush
is holding the establishment at bay (text below). In paragraph
six, Van Natta explains that Gore is a K Street insider (with
"much deeper ties" than Bush). It isn't until paragraph
ten that Van Natta mentions that Bush has a few ties based on
his father's old job. Then, after listing establishment figures
helping Bush, he saves the day with a striking statement for which
he offers no source whatsoever:
VAN NATTA (paragraph 15): Far more than Mr. Bush, Mr. Gore
is perceived by the public as someone with very close ties to
the Washington establishment.
Far more than Mr. Bush! Van Natta gives no source for
this statement. There has been a considerable effort by the RNC
to paint the vice president as a creature of Washington. When
Gov. Bush is portrayed as Van Natta portrays him, the effort has
begun to pay off.
(Note: Not connected? At least 11% of respondents in John Zogby's
current poll believe the "George Bush" they're discussing
is the former U.S. president. Details in postscript below.)
Visit our incomparable archives: Already, the Post and
the Times have offered fund-raising pieces that constitute campaign
writing as bad as it gets. We offered four articles on Ceci Connolly's
cover story in the Post Magazine (see THE DAILY HOWLER,
4/20/99 through 4/23). Five weeks after Connolly's piece, Jill
Abramson offered a Times Magazine knock-off, in which the
nugget statement was-word-for-word!-the same as Connolly's nugget
statement. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/99, for our review of Abramson's
The basic points remain. There is nothing wrong with the Bush
campaign's plan. But Governor Bush does plan to raise much more
money than Vice President Gore. Both the Post and the Times have
published major articles portraying Gore as the Big Money Guy,
while ignoring or obscuring this salient fact. Glasser's construction
on Tuesday continues this problem. The facts involved here are
groaningly simple. Why can't the Post simply state them?
Call for Philip Morris: Here is Van Natta's complete
fifth paragraph, a virtual infomercial for Bush's campaign:
VAN NATTA (paragraph 5): "He has essentially given the
signal to the establishment here: you can come on board, but you
are not going to shape this candidacy," said Wayne L. Berman,
a Republican fund-raiser and a lobbyist with Park Strategies,
whose clients include PaineWebber and Philip Morris. "Bush
has said: 'I'm shaping it from the outside.' The establishment
here doesn't necessarily like it," Mr. Berman said, "but
Bush has been able to persuade them."
This describes the campaign of a president's son, whose panel
of top advisers is full of names from his father's administration
(as is perfectly appropriate). By the way, apparently no one else
has any view on Gov. Bush's connection to Washington. Only Berman
was quoted on the subject, and the very next paragraph in Van
Natta's piece tells what a major insider Gore is.
God watches over the public: In his polling, John Zogby
asks respondents for a one-word, "top-of-the-head" reaction
to the names of White House hopefuls. When asked about Bush in
his latest polling (done last week), eleven percent offered this
That is, at least 11% of respondents think they're discussing
Bush's father when they're presented with "Bush-Gore"
match-ups. (11% offered the view; there was no way to know
how many others may hold it.) This compares, by the way, with
7% who used "dull, stiff, or boring" to describe Vice
President Gore. But which perception have you been reading about,
as you scan the celebrity press corps?