Former LA Governor's powerful indictment of unrestricted corporate money in politics shut out of national debate...
By Ernest A. Canning on 1/8/2012, 1:06pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

In the latest tracking poll released out of New Hampshire, the Suffolk University/7 NEWS poll [PDF], TX Governor Rick Perry receives 1% support from 500 likely voters in the Granite State. Former LA Governor and four-term U.S. Congressman Buddy Roemer also received 1%. In fact, Roemer received approval from a higher number of respondents (6) than Perry did (4). And yet, Perry was allowed to participate in both last night's GOP Presidential debate in NH as televised on ABC, as well as this morning's on NBC. Roemer was not allowed to participate in either of them.

In fact, out of some 16 GOP Presidential debates to date, Roemer has not been allowed to participate in a single one of them.

The exclusion of Roemer from every single Republican Presidential Debate provides but the latest example of how the corporate-owned media limits the ability of the American people to elect --- or even hear from --- individuals who challenge oligarchic corporate control of our ostensibly democratic institutions.

A candidate like Roemer, who has embraced Occupy Wall Street and spoken (and Tweeted) powerfully and openly and passionately and continuously against the corrupting influence of corporate money on our democratic institutions, poses a direct threat to the corporate media bottom line --- a corporate media which is looking forward to approximately $3 billion in political ad revenues in 2012, courtesy of Citizens United --- the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2010 decision which has flung the door wide open to the corrupting influence of unlimited anonymous corporate campaign expenditures.

Whether it entails ending coverage of the Rose Parade before thousands of Occupy demonstrators, their signs and floats could be seen or limiting the scope of discourse in both Presidential Debates and the selection of the nominee in general, exclusion provides a powerful means by which the corporate media maintains the status quo...

Sliding scale of excuses vs. reality

During his recent appearance on Democracy Now! (see video below), Roemer complained about the new hurdles to inclusion he has faced at each successive debate:

First, you had to be an official candidate for president. I thought that was fair. I announced at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in August. We called for the next debate. They said, "Well, you have to have 1 percent in a national poll." We worked four weeks. We made 1 percent. I called again. They said, "Oh, you have to have 2 percent now, Governor." We made 2 percent. I called again three debates ago, and they said, "Well, you had to raise a half-a-million dollars in the last 90 days." We had raised $256,000.

From the perspective of the corporate media, the last criteria makes the most sense. In corporate America, it is money, not democracy, which is the end-all, beat-all criteria. Thus, the fact, as noted in a Dec. 27 Boston Globe editorial that Roemer is polling ahead of Texas Governor Rick Perry in the Granite State, where the all-important "First-in-the-Nation" primary will take place on Tuesday, carries absolutely no weight in the corporate media's decision as to who is included or excluded from a televised debate.

Debate exclusion and the 'democracy deficit'

In Failed States, Professor Noam Chomsky refers to the "democracy deficit" --- the significant gap between the substantive policy positions of the U.S. electorate and their elected "leaders." He attributes that deficit to the manner in which U.S. "elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population, freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people."

Roemer's exclusion from the media stage provides a classic example of a "democracy deficit" occasioned by corporate media manipulation of the electoral process.

With a double-digit lead, recent polls suggest Mitt Romney may be poised to win a landslide victory in New Hampshire. Those polls would suggest that large numbers of Republicans share Romney's opinion that "corporations are people." Concord Monitor editor Felice Belman apparently thought so. She told Rachel Maddow on Friday evening that she believed Roemer's message was a protest message primarily shared by Democrats and independents, not Republicans. (See video below).

Yet, when citizens are asked directly about the "issue" --- as occurred earlier last year in a poll conducted by the Hart Research Associates --- it turns out that 87 "percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Independents, and 68 percent of Republicans said they would support...amending the U.S. Constitution to affirm that corporations don't have the same rights as people."

The gap between candidate numbers and policy calls to minds the August 2007 "blind-poll" Internet survey which set forth the policy positions of Democratic candidates for President but did not include their names. Barack Obama, the charismatic "change" candidate whose soaring rhetoric was second to none, received a meager 3%, Hillary Clinton performed marginally better with 3.6%, while Dennis Kucinich was the choice of "a phenomenal 53%."

We've seen this before

On January 15, 2008, MSNBC, following an adverse ruling by a Nevada superior court judge, successfully petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court to prevent Kucinich from participating in a presidential debate, arguing that Kucinich’s effort to be included amounted to an "illegitimate" effort "to impose an equal access requirement that entirely undermines the wide journalistic freedoms enjoyed by news organizations under the First Amendment."

"Journalistic freedoms", in this context, amounts to an Orwellian claim that media corporations who enjoy the occupation of our public airwaves have a First Amendment right to limit the content of debate.

The fallacy of the MSNBC position was underscored when, one day after the debate, Kucinich appeared on Democracy Now!.

At the outset, Kucinich described his exclusion as a "conundrum" which "goes right to the question of democratic governance, whether a broadcast network can choose who the candidates will be based on their narrow concerns, because they’ve contributed --- GE, NBC and Raytheon…have all contributed substantially to Democratic candidates who were in the debate. And the fact of the matter is, with GE building nuclear power plants, they have a vested interest in Yucca Mountain in Nevada being kept open; with GE being involved with Raytheon…they have an interest in war continuing. So NBC ends up being their propaganda arm to be able to advance their economic interests."

During the MSNBC debate, moderator Tim Russert asked all three candidates: "Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?" All three candidates, without any hesitation, answered "yes;" Clinton adding that universities should "certainly not do anything that either undermines or disrespects the young men and women who wish to pursue a military career."

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Kucinich, would you?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Absolutely not! Our society is being militarized. And part of the problem is NBC, which is a partner defense contractor through the ownership of General Electric of both NBC and Raytheon. So NBC is really promoting war here.

The truth of the matter is that we need to make it possible for our young people, if they desire to go in the military, they can go to a recruiter’s office, instead of telling campuses that if you don’t let recruiters on campus, you’re going to lose your money. That, to me is antithetical to a democratic society.

While Ron Paul's inclusion this year leaves open the possibility of at least some meaningful anti-imperialist war discussion during the 2012 GOP "debates," Roemer's exclusion prevents the American people from examining the ramifications of the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics.

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Buddy Roemer's 1/6/12 appearance on Democracy Now! follows...

Roemer's powerful indictment of the corrupting influence of money in our political system, during his 1/6/12 interview by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC follows...


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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.