Lobbying by Any Other Name

Kentucky democrat legislator Jim Gooch is a thorn-in-the-flesh to his party. He's already incurred the wrath of the politically correct crowd by pushing for action to deny "partner benefits" to employees of the state, namely those already in place at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky. Actually, no legislation is needed since the Kentucky Constitution plainly prohibits such perks. The state attorney general, already on the record before his recent election as favoring the perks, has not and will not take action to remedy the situation, notwithstanding that the outgoing attorney general had already ruled that the perks were illegal.

Gooch makes the "greens" mad because he pushes for more coalmining, though the "greens" haven't come up with an alternative to coal, at least for the near term, drive cars that spew toxic fumes, and eat food that has been transported on those atmosphere-killing 18-wheelers. Now, Gooch has incensed the newspaper folks because he has introduced a bill that would put them in the same class as lobbyists, which, often, they are.

Part of the current law defining the lobbyist specifies "any individual who is engaged: 1. During at least a portion of his time to lobby as one of his official responsibilities." Obviously, no target of the lobbying is named in this portion, so it does not strictly apply to making nice with legislators. Newspapers don't – or at least aren't supposed to except in rare circumstances – lobby legislators; therefore, they can be said to be lobbying their readers if they push an agenda, which nearly all newspapers do.

Even with this part of the lobbyist law in place, Gooch provides an amendment that would specifically add to the lobbyist category editorialists and editorializing cartoonists for any news-medium engaging in profit. Since most news outlets are operated for profit, Gooch's bill pegs them squarely, especially since they unmistakably push agendas, thus lobbying their readers for whatever they favor. In the case of newspapers such as the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal the notion of agenda-pushing is all the more important since they have a monopoly on the printed news, not just locally but throughout the state.

Gooch was recently excoriated editorially for producing his bill by the Paducah Sun, suggesting that either he was not serious and just wanted to send a message, or – if serious – "sincerely misguided," railing, of course, about First Amendment rights, which rights the newspaper would claim any rapper would also have in espousing rape of children and old women and the glorious murdering of policepersons. Any terminology advancing the "lyrics" would also be protected. Predictably, the editorialist hearkened back to Thomas Jefferson, as if his ghost should haunt Gooch and scare him into reconfiguring his shabby thought-processes.

Will Gooch's bill pass? No. Has he unmistakably made a point, as the editorialist perhaps unhappily suggested? Of course he has. There are no greater lobbyists in the world than newspapers that routinely mix reporting with commentary on their "news pages," and TV-radio talking-heads as well as, regarding the evening newscasts, the reporters who, unlike in the past, are also commentators, i.e., presenting the news and then explaining to all the great unwashed out here what it actually means. It means, of course, whatever the lobbyist/media-outlet says it means, not what it actually means.

The TV-reporter appearing on the evening news programs while standing in the snow or rain (like an idiot) in front of the White House may report that the president has dispatched troops to Country X, and that this action is bound to enhance – or diminish – his approval ratings. Say what??? Yeah…if ABC, for instance, doesn't like the president, the reporter can just explain how that action proves that the prez is stupid and deserves to be not only second-guessed, but maybe even impeached.

Far-fetched? Not at all! Flash back to 2004 and the intrepid CBS news-guru Dan Rather. CBS was particularly well-known as anti-Bush – well, actually rabidly anti-Bush, or anti any republican, for that matter. So…what to do? Senator John Kerry had been "swift-boated" and was in danger of losing the election, especially since he would not release the important parts of his service record. Added to that was his tossing of his medals or ribbons or whatever he specified at any given news-conference, as well as his peculiar statements back in 1970-71 about the Vietnam War.

A military smear – to offset the "swift-boaters" – was the perfect tool to be used in sinking Bush, notwithstanding his well-documented military service, including plenty of active duty. So…Rather comes up with a document as phony as a three-dollar-bill designed to accuse somebody somewhere of doing Bush favors. CBS was lobbying its viewers, in other words, to be against the prez in November 2004, and lobbying dishonestly in the process.

Regarding the case in point, the Lexington Herald-Leader printed the Paducah Sun editorial on its Op-Ed page on 12 February. The lead editorial in that issue had to do with the wrongness – in its opinion – of a State-Senate-passed bill that would require a pre-abortion ultra-sound. In other words, the paper was lobbying its readers (its constituency) to put the pressure on the lawmakers to throw out such a mandate. This satisfied the paper's pro-abortion agenda, just as a coal-lobbyist would satisfy his constituency by putting the pressure on a lawmaker to favor his industry through legislation.

The media folks call it responsible enlightening of the public. Actually, it's just lobbying by another name, to wit, editorializing.