L.A. Times Headlines Perpetrate Outrageous Distortion of Campaign Finance Figures in California Gubernatorial Election
Here is the typical format for an L.A. Times article on a political contest between a Democrat and a Republican:
Headline Disfavoring Republican in Bold
Somewhat longer headline in italics, called the “deck headline,” elaborating on why the story disfavors the Republican
DATELINE — Lead that disfavors Republican.
Second paragraph that disfavors Republican.
Later paragraph, expressed as an aside, that completely undermines point of entire story.
You can see how this template is filled in, in this story about the funds received by the candidates in California’s race for Governor:
Donations to Whitman undercut her no-special-interests claim
Reports show the Republican candidate has received more money from outside donors than has her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, whom she paints as beholden to unions.
Donors with business before the state and corporate leaders poured millions of dollars into Meg Whitman’s campaign in the last three months, potentially undercutting her claim that her personal fortune makes her uniquely free of special-interest entanglements, campaign disclosure reports filed Tuesday show.
Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive of online auction house EBay, raised more money from outside donors than her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, whom she has criticized heavily for his dependence on support from the state’s public employee unions. Whitman pulled in more than $10.7 million from individuals, businesses and other groups to Brown’s $9.5 million.
Although those figures don’t tell the whole story — unions and other special interests separately spent a further $13.7 million supporting Brown through independent political committees not controlled by the candidate — they highlight that Brown is not the only one getting a big assist from wealthy individuals and groups.
You have seriously got to be [expletive deleted]ing kidding me.
Look at all the money that Republican Whitman got! Republican Whitman got more money (coughdirectlycough) than Brown has received!!! It may really hurt Republican Whitman that she has received all that money!!! OkbythewaytheunionshavespentwaymoretosupportBrownthanWhitmanhasreceivedfromanyonebutnevermindthat. Now back to our thesis about how Republican Whitman has gotten a ton of money — more than Brown!!!
The spin becomes even more outrageous when you go searching for the comparable sum that Whitman has received from special interests. It turns out it is a mere $450,000 to Brown’s $13.7 million (or more, see below).
I had to poke around to find these figures. I found them here, at the web site of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. When I clicked the link and opened the spreadsheet, I was so astounded by what I saw that I spent some time with a calculator adding it all up, and took a screenshot so you could see it for yourself:
(Ignore the yellow line; I’m not sure how it got there. Maybe it indicates the new donation since the previous report.)
At first glance it all looks about equal. Then you look at the column on the right side saying “Support/Oppose” and realize: nearly all of it is support for Brown and opposition to Whitman.
I got out a calculator and added it all up. Feel free to correct my math. A total of $10,656,676 was donated to support Brown in the general election, combined with $10,606 in the primary season. Add to that $2,688,091 to oppose Whitman in the general, plus $682,573 in the primary season. The totals: $13,344,767 spent to support Brown or oppose Whitman in the general. When you include funds from the primary season, unions and other special interests have spent a whopping $14,037,946 to support Brown or oppose Whitman.
That all compares to a mere $450,000 to support Whitman, from a single group: California Law and Order IEC.
Here’s what the story should have said:
Brown supported by millions in union and special interest donations
Donations on his behalf outnumber Whitman’s more than 30 to 1
Unions and special donors with business before the state and corporate leaders poured millions of dollars into supporting Jerry Brown’s campaign in the general election, lending credence to Meg Whitman’s claim that Brown is dependent on support from the state’s public employee unions. Only $450,000 was spent to support Whitman by special interests and unions, compared to more than $14 million to support Brown and oppose Whitman in the general and primary elections combined.
Although those figures don’t tell the whole story — Whitman directly pulled in more than $10.7 million from individuals, businesses and other groups to Brown’s $9.5 million in direct donations — they highlight that Brown is virtually the only one getting indirect support from unions and other groups.
The spin on this story is truly outrageous. It’s a prime example of why this paper needs to die.