Opinion: Media Mangle

N&O needs remedial instruction on First Amendment

Today’s lead editorial in The Old Reliable was reliably ignorant about the part of the Constitution it should be most knowledgeable about: the First Amendment.

The editors dedicated roughly two-thirds of a piece ostensibly about the ethics bill before the short session of the General Assembly into a diatribe on the public-financing provision that was axed.

[Lawmakers should not] give up on public financing for the remaining Council of State races – labor, agriculture, secretary of state and treasurer, with attorney general to follow in 2016 (already covered are insurance commissioner, auditor and superintendent of public instruction). Public financing is uniquely important for these statewide elected offices, which directly oversee particular industries and interests. It’s simply smart government to separate candidates for these posts from big-money contributions from those particular sectors.

Nary a mention of the Supreme Court’s Davis v. FEC decision from last year outlawing matching-funds laws like North Carolina’s in federal races. Nor did it acknowledge the court’s decision earlier this month to block Arizona’s “trigger” law for state races that’s even more analogous to the Tar Heel State’s scheme of taxpayer welfare for politicians.

I wrote about the entire controversy here.

The teenage crush major media outlets have on public financing of campaigns may seem baffling. But it isn’t. It allows them to sanctimoniously rail against big money in politics while never disclosing that these risky schemes always exempt major media outlets from limits on spending or advocacy.

As former Federal Elections Commission member Bradley Smith wrote,

as restrictions on private campaign spending grow, the free coverage that politicians get from the press becomes more and more important.

And as Smith notes, the loudest cries for restrictions almost always come from the political left, particularly left-wing edit pages like the N&O’s.

Backing campaign finance reform lets big media become phony populists, attacking big-moneyed interests, while hypocritcally giving a larger amplifier for their own well-moneyed voices. Nice work if you can get it.