Saturday, March 29, 2008

Anchorage Daily News Openly Admits To Categorical Bias Against Assembly Candidates Who Take The Municipal Exemption

On March 21st, 2008, the Anchorage Daily News posted video clips of the leading Municipal Assembly candidates on their Alaska Politics blog. Where applicable, there are also links to their articles explaining why they endorsed certain candidates.

The key word in the previous paragraph is "leading". I have always suspected that ADN was biased against candidates who choose to take the municipal exemption rather than engage in conventional fund-raising and the comprehensive reporting requirements which accompany it. However, that bias appeared very subtle and was never openly expressed.

Until March 21st, 2008. By the editorial staff themselves. Here's their comment, posted to the thread referenced in paragraph 1:

March 25, 2008 - 12:44pm editorial_views

Why the editorial board didn't interview everyone

Note from the editorial staff:
We have limited time for interviews and in this case, Blankenship had no noticeable community or political experience in Anchorage, and indicated he would not be a competitive candidate by declaring that he planned to raise and spend less than $5,000 against a candidate who raised and spent considerably more.

Got you wankers red-handed, didn't I? LOL!

However, the four candidates left out in the cold aren't "LOLLing". One of them, Downtown Assembly Candidate Chris Blankenship, is a bit unhappy, although this time he expressed himself in a much more parliamentary fashion. In addition, Eagle River candidate Anthony Lemons, West Anchorage candidate Bert Hoak, and South Anchorage candidate Jesse Busick fall into this category. All four chose to take the municipal exemption rather than subject themselves to the additional rigours of fund-raising and reporting. Note: I found a Bert Hoak video on a different ADN page.

For those not familiar, in order to take the municipal exemption, a candidate signs a piece of paper proclaiming the intent not to spend or raise more than $5,000 during a campaign. However, there is no penalty if the candidate exceeds that threshold; the candidate merely begins formal reporting at that point.

While ADN may well be accurate about the lack of "noticeable community or political experience" on the part of these candidates, who is ADN to proclaim them not to be "competitive"? Chris Blankenship in particular has been quite competitive. He wasted little time in keeping me up to date on his websites and his projected appearances. He has, by all accounts, showed up at the flagship forums like the Chamber of Commerce and KAKM's "Running". He provided input to the Anchorage Education Association's (AEA) candidate survey while several more prominent candidates couldn't be bothered to respond to them. If this isn't "competitive", I'd like to know what ADN defines as competitive.

I think we already know. ADN's definition of "competitive" is simply the ability to raise money. And that's why campaigns have become so expensive and why corruption has so nakedly permeated Alaska politics. Perhaps ADN believes the ability to raise money is the most quantifiable test of a candidate's powers of persuasion. If so, that may not necessarily be invalid, but why hasn't ADN previously owned up to it publicly and made a case for it?

ADN opines that they have "limited time" for interviews. Gee, KTUU doesn't seem to have that problem. They not only have plenty of time, but they literally begged reclusive school board candidate Toni Truelove for her input on multiple occasions before finally giving up in sheer frustration. You're telling me that the largest and most profitable newspaper in the state of Alaska cannot make the time to do it right? Uh-uh. I'm not buying it.

The larger point is that every other venue in Anchorage (besides KAKM, which hosed Dick Traini) except the Anchorage Daily News has extended EQUAL consideration to all candidates. By only videoing "leading" candidates, ADN displayed unacceptable bias. While this type of egregious behavior by ADN is the exception rather than the rule, it is clearly flagrant and noticeable in this case. Either do it for all declared candidates or for none. No exceptions, no exclusions.

I should note that KFQD's conservative talk radio host Dan Fagan also exhibits bias. However, his program is entertainment rather than journalism and so it is not incumbent upon a talk radio host to abide by the same rules of fairness. And he fesses up to it publicly. That lesser standard can also be applied to any other talk radio host.

If you missed KAKM's "Running", they've archived it. Click HERE to reach their archive page.

All of the Anchorage Daily News' election content can be accessed via this page.



  2. One candidate refused contributions from anyone to protest big money running politics and corruption:

    "He filed paperwork with the state saying he doesn't plan to spend more than $5,000 on his campaign.

    "In my view, contributions are simply IOUs," he said."

  3. Since the daily news gave some candidates and not all equal time or coverage, that could fall under the category, as a contribution. Look at the APOC laws in regards to that. If it is a law, please make a huge stink of it for the rest of us.

  4. Anonymous #3 - that's an interesting point you raise, and I will take a look at APOC's laws.

    However, here is ADN's possible defense. They could claim that not all candidates are equally "newsworthy" and that they have do not have the obligation to provide equally voluminous coverage of each candidate. Be prepared for that possibility.

    And the impetus for a formal APOC inquiry can best come from the affected candidates. Perhaps Chris Blankenship, Anthony Lemons, and Jesse Busick might want to join forces on a class action complaint or other similar initiative (Bert Hoak had a video available under a different link, so he wouldn't need to be a part of it).

  5. All candidates, especially the ones who filed within the alotted municipal time frame are all certified, which means that they are automatically "newsworthy". How a write-in candidate took precedence over a certified, on the ballot candidate, is beyond my comprehension. To give a write-in candidate coverage and not an on the ballot candidate the same opportunity is discrimination in my book, even if APOC doesn't cover it.

  6. In the 17 years I've lived here, I've only seen one other write-in candidate get thw world-class "bump" that Janet Brand's received, and that was Republican write-in candidate Robin Taylor during the Lindauer meltdown a few years ago (I think it was 1998).

    The incredible push behind Janet Brand's candidacy is unsettling. And while KAKM censored Dick Traini, they gave time to Brand. She also got the Teamsters official endorsement. I think some group is deliberately using her to stick it to Bill Starr.

    There is one way to push Bill Starr over the edge to victory - for Anthony Lemons to admit the inevitable and publicly throw his support behind Starr. Lemons has run a courageous campaign and has put personal integrity front and center, but the media focus is exclusively on Starr-Brand. Lemons is being officially ignored. Here's an opportunity for him to "take one for the team", so to speak.

  7. Brendan Joel Kelley3/29/2008 4:40 PM

    "Chris Blankenship in particular has been quite competitive. He wasted little time in keeping me up to date on his websites and his projected appearances." - are you kidding me? of course he hit you up with his appearances etc, you two's views are simpatico. see:
    view_printer.asp?ID=548 (cut & paste that together, this blogger comment thing is weird & i don't know html)

    Blankenship never had a chance; Lemons, maybe, not Blankenship.
    and he totally screwed himself, there were so many outs he could have chosen to take, and didn't take any - the audio of our conversation, uncensored, is up at, in the middle about halfway down the page.

    by the way, where'd your other blog go? you know, the hate-spewing racist one?

    love, Brendan Joel Kelley

  8. From APOC:

    State of Alaska > Administration > APOC > Advisory Opinion Menu

    Number: AO 05-04-CD

    Requested by: Jack Frost
    Alaska Talk Radio Network

    Prepared by: Brooke Miles, Executive Director

    Date Issued: March 31, 2005

    Subject: Employment as a Radio Talk Show Host while running for public office

    This Advisory Opinion responds to Jack Frost's March 10, 2005 letter asking for an opinion regarding his continued employment as the owner of Alaska Talk Radio Network and a talk radio host for “Jack Frost and Friends.” Mr. Frost has stated that he is planning to file a letter of intent to become a candidate for the office of mayor of Anchorage in the April 2006 election. Mr. Frost has also asked if it would create fairness for him to invite other mayoral candidates to participate as co-hosts on Jack Frost and Friends, a daily talk show.

    Short Answer

    You may continue to host the radio show “Jack Frost and Friends” with the following caveats:
    You may not communicate or advocate on behalf of your election campaign while hosting your program; and
    You may not communicate or advocate on behalf of any other candidate’s election campaign while hosting your talk show program.
    This restriction includes express communications as well as electioneering communications but does not include issue communications.

    The Alaska Campaign Disclosure Law states that only individuals or groups may contribute to a candidate. Corporations, associations, partnerships and other businesses except a solely owned business are prohibited from contributing to candidates. If you advocate for your election or that of another candidate, your employer – KUDO-AM Radio – would be making a prohibited non-monetary contribution to your or another candidates’ campaign. This restriction also applies to any mayoral candidates who choose to co-host with you during this time.

    Campaign Disclosure Law and Regulations

    Only an individual or group may make contributions. An individual may not contribute more than $1,000 per year to a candidate. AS 15.13.070(a), (b)(1).

    A Corporation, company, partnership, firm or association…that does not satisfy the definition of group or nongroup entity…may not make a contribution to a candidate, group or nongroup
    entity. AS 15.13.074(f).

    A corporation, company, partnership, firm or association that is not a group or nongroup entity may not make an independent expenditure for or against a candidate. AS 15.13.135.

    The campaign disclosure law does not prohibit a person from engaging in educational election-related communications and activities including the sponsorship of open candidate debate forums, participation in get-out-the-vote or voter registration drives, as long as this activity does not favor a particular candidate, political party or political position and the dissemination of the views of all candidates running for a particular office. AS 15.13.150(3), (4) and (5).

    A candidate is an individual who files for election to the state legislature, for governor, for lieutenant governor, for municipal office, for retention in a judicial office, or for constitutional convention delegate, or who campaigns as a write-in candidate for any of these offices. AS 15.13.400(1)(A).

    “Communication” means an announcement or advertisement disseminated through print or broadcast media, including radio, television, cable and satellite as well as the Internet. AS 15.13.400(3).

    “Electioneering communication” means a communication that directly or indirectly identifies a candidate, addresses an issue of national, state or local political importance and attributes a position on that issue to the candidate identified and occurs within the 30 days preceding a general or municipal election. [Emphasis added] AS 15.13.400(5).

    “Express communication” means a communication that, when read as a whole and with limited reference to outside events, is susceptible of no other reasonable interpretation but as an exhortation to vote for or against a specific candidate. AS 15.13.400(7).

    “Issues communication” means a communication that directly or indirectly identifies a candidate and addresses an issue of national, state, or local political importance, and does not support or oppose a candidate for election to public office. AS 15.13.400(12).

  9. Hey Brendan Joel Kelley,

    what do you mean

    "where'd your other blog go? you know, the hate-spewing racist one?"

    this one isn't any different except for the way it's put together.

  10. APOC has been notified.

  11. Brendan Joel Kelley3/30/2008 5:49 PM

    Judith: true enough, but you never know who'll click through a google search about the assembly and assume AlaskaPride isn't the racist/extremist outlet that it is, and that it's sister blog, is. they'll think it's either a genuinely concerned Alaska resident or an Alaskan GLBT site (shouldn't take long for that impression to disappear).
    as for reporting ADN's ignoring minor candidates, get real, ever heard of freedom of the press? we (Anchorage Press) don't endorse, but endorsements don't cost the candidates that win them $$$. APOC may have been "notified" but there's no "there" there.
    Everyone (all five of you that might read this) go vote Tuesday (or before, I already voted) and choose whoever you want, just be informed. if you want a Nativist/wanna-be-immigrant-shooter vote Blankenship (or write in Anchorage Activist).

  12. ADN is defined as a corporation. McClatchy is not a private group or individual. Freedom of Press has its limitations, especially when they openly endorse, and omit specifically due to lack of funds of candidates, that don't meet ADN's criteria of "competiveness". The media has a responsibility to include ALL candidates, and offer equal time and exposure to each candidate. Any reasonable person can see that they create an unfair candidate environment, even if one doesn't like a candidate. Equal time for all, or it IS a contribution. Trust me, there is a "their".

    Karen Rinora

  13. Brendan Joel Kelley3/31/2008 12:16 PM

    Karen - ummm, nope. read your first amendment carefully. doesn't matter that McClatchy owns ADN - if it did, Don Young would be first in line to do something legally about it, he hates 'em. i don't necessarily agree with ADN's policy, but it's not an APOC issue - believe me.

  14. Brendan Joel Kelley3/31/2008 5:05 PM

    oh, and i just got off the phone with Chris Ellingson, acting executive director of APOC, and she cited Administrative Regulation 2AAC50.250A3A - proving my point. freedom of the press.