In a telling editorial last year, the Washington Post railed against Mr Romney’s Secret Bundlers:
Who are these men and women to whom the campaign is so deeply indebted? Mr. Romney has yet to answer — indeed, he has yet to be directly asked — why his campaign will not live up to the standard set by Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain. Why would he hide his roster of key supporters?
A New York Times editorial from the same time, You can’t win if you don’t pay the candidate, argued similarly:
There are big differences between the campaigns, however. Mr. Obama has disclosed his bundlers; Mr. Romney, breaking with standard practice, has refused. He is outraising the president by relying on big donors — only 11 percent of his total has come from contributions of $200 or less. Such small donations have made up 41 percent of Mr. Obama’s total.
Dinner with a lucky grass-roots supporter creates the illusion of populism. But it can’t hide the sleazy commerce going on behind expensive doors.
— Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) May 2, 2013
The Washington Post’s editors even got in a last minute dig, Mitt Romney’s Campaign Insults Voters.
THROUGH ALL the flip-flops, there has been one consistency in the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney: a contempt for the electorate.
How else to explain his refusal to disclose essential information? Defying recent bipartisan tradition, he failed to release the names of his bundlers — the high rollers who collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. He never provided sufficient tax returns to show voters how he became rich.
Again there’s the mention of those infamous “bundlers.” But what’s so important about knowing the bundlers? Presumably it could tell us about the influences the (would be) President would deal with when making policy. Or it could tell us with which well-moneyed interests the President’s policies would align. In other words, knowledge of the bundlers’ identities could be an effective check on poor policies or cronyism or both.
In fact, even though President Obama released the names of his bundlers, it didn’t lead to any increased scrutiny. In 2008 one of his bundlers was George Kaiser. Kaiser was a big investor in Solyndra. So was the federal government. Despite this connection, there was no scrutiny of Solyndra, until it was in financial distress. It doesn’t matter if the reason that the administration invested in Solyndra was due (in part) to Kaiser’s influence or simply a confluence of interests in “green” technology, why weren’t the media curious about where taxpayers’ money was going? The fact that someone who could be assumed to influence the President was investing in a company that the federal government was too, should have raised a red flag. It didn’t.
When the Washington Post and New York Times complained about Romney’s lack of disclosure, they weren’t objecting on principle. They were being cynical. If knowledge of bundlers means anything, it has to be actionable.
The problem of undue influence of contributors isn’t just old news in the Obama administration.
In addition to Penny Pritzker to be nominated as Commerce Secretary (see above) President Obama has nominated Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (Pritzker’s nomination was covered earlier at LI by Anne Sorock. The biggest fault the Washington Post’s Al Kamen has with the nomination is that Obama’s second term cabinet is not shaping up very well in terms of diversity. A New York Times article about Pritzker mentions her closeness to the President and her qualifications, but none of her faults, except that she’s apparently supported by big business. Neither paper offers a serious critique of her record.)
Obama appoints telecom lobbyist, campaign bundler to head FCC > on.cnn.com/15aa8LQ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 1, 2013
How did the Washington Post handle the Wheeler nomination?
“I am skeptical that the former chief lobbyist of the wireless and cable industries will be capable of holding his former clients accountable for their ongoing shortcomings,” said Sascha Meinrath, head of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation think tank.
That range of industry experience, some experts say, shows a diversity of experience that may benefit an agency in need of greater technological and business expertise.
“He can’t be pigeon-holed,” said Gigi Sohn, president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. “He’s had a wide variety of experiences and has worked with competitive companies as well as incumbents. I truly believe he will be independent and thoughtful.”
The commission also is awaiting the outcome of a case before a federal appeals court that could decide whether the F.C.C. has the authority to make sure companies that offer broadband Internet access treat all users equally, rather than favoring some content over others.
That concept, known as open Internet or net neutrality, is a central pillar of Mr. Obama’s technology policy. When the F.C.C. approved its open Internet guidelines in 2011, Verizon sued to overturn them, almost before the ink was dry on the documents.
On Wednesday, Verizon congratulated Mr. Wheeler on his nomination and said it “looks forward to working with him and the commission to shape proconsumer and proinnovation policies in the communications marketplace.”
While both articles pointed out that that some skeptics think that Wheeler might be too friendly with industry to be effective in looking out for consumer interests, neither article pointed out his closeness to President Obama. Notably missing from both articles is the word “bundler.”
This is especially important, because as the New York Times points out (or should I write “hopes”?) the FCC will be ruling on “net neutrality,” a favored policy of President Obama. Net neutrality would be the broadband equivalent of the “fairness doctrine,” and would have a chilling effect on open discourse. Should the government be deciding what is equal treatment of users?
Does Tom Wheeler’s closeness to the President suggest that he will be supporting net neutrality? The Washington Post and New York Times aren’t even curious.
The lack of scrutiny of these presidential appointments by both papers speaks volumes about the MSM’s impartiality. When they blundered about bundlers they weren’t advocating for more openness in politics; that openness is something they can provide, if they want to, by investigating the less savory aspects of a nominees record. Barack Obama disclosed the information and yet neither paper has been fulfilling its civic duty by vetting his supporters when they are rewarded for their support with influential government positions.
I would assume that Romney understood that his own bundlers wouldn’t be treated so indifferently. By disclosing his bundlers he would have been playing by the MSM’s rules, but it wouldn’t have gained him their respect. This gave the Washington Post and New York Times the pretext to act self-righteous about the need for scrutiny. But the tantrums hurt Romney less than the attacks against his bundlers would have.
When these two influential papers complained about Romney, they were more upset that he wouldn’t give them ammunition to damage his campaign further. Their lack of due diligence in vetting President Obama’s nominees exposes their complaint as cynicism, not principle.