I realize that I probably look obsessed due to my many posts about government corruption. Perhaps that is because I saw it first-hand when I worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri. That was back in the late ’80s, when William Webster served as Missouri Attorney General. My job required me to prosecute consumer fraud. That’s not quite how it worked, however. If the target was a significant contributor, I would be given lots of excuses that good cases were “not good cases.” I resisted for many months, documenting my cases as best I could and refusing to close good files–this behavior confused me at first, but then it became all too clear. Ultimately, several substantial cases against major contributors convinced Webster to transfer me out of of the Trade Offense Division. Because I refused his transfer, Webster fired me.
Little did I know that my experiences would become a focus for the 1992 Missouri Governor’s debate. The debate featured Mel Carnahan (the Democrat) versus William Webster (the Republican). Prior to this debate Webster had held a 20-point lead. The election occurred two weeks after this debate, and Webster conceded by 7:30 pm on election night. During the debate Carnahan blistered Webster with accusations much of the night. You’ll get a flavor for this well-deserved barrage if you watch the first 5 minutes–I was discussed beginning at the 3-minute mark. One other Assistant Attorney General also took a bold stand. After it became clear to him that the office was corrupt, Tom Glassberg resigned, immediately driving to Jefferson City to file ethics charges against Webster. Tom wrote a letter defending my reputation and his letter was published by the Post-Dispatch. It was letter I will never forget. A few sentences were read at the Governor’s Debate.
Those were intense times for me, of course. You can’t solve problems like this in a day. It requires immense patience and diplomacy, and bucking the system is risky. When you start resisting, you quickly see who has both a conscience and a backbone. When I see the constant stream of money for political favors stories, I’m disheartened but resolute. Corrupt money and power are formidable, but they can’t prevail where good people organize. I’m sure that my time as an AAG was formative, and it continues to drive me forward.
One last thought is a sad one for me, however. During the Webster scandal, the St. Louis Post Dispatch was an aggressive newspaper that did real investigative journalism thanks to excellent reporting by several reporters, including Terry Ganey. The Post-Dispatch no longer does significant investigative journalism, as is the case with most newspapers. Reporters across the country are being laid off by the hundreds, and this has led to a huge news vacuum. These days, we simply don’t know what is going on in most corners of our government. Many stories don’t see the light of day, and the mass media offer no local alternatives (local TV “news” tends to be a joke). Hence my non-stop interest in media reform through organization such as Free Press. Media Reform and Election Reform need to be fixed before we can meaningfully address any other issues. That has so sadly become apparent.
This article is spot on. If we had a progressive media, we’d hear real news, news like the 15 topics discussed in this article.
Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: Why the proposed Comcast-Time-Warner consolidation is a terrible idea
I have twice heard Michael Copps speak at Free Press national conferences. He is a former FCC Commissioner, a thoughtful and principled man who now has grave concerns about media consolidation, including the latest proposed mega-deal wherein Comcast hopes to buy Time-Warner. Here are Copps’ words on this latest terrible development:
You may wonder why a long-time regulator like me is writing to you. … I worked at the intersection of policy and journalism as a member of the Federal Communications Commission and saw first-hand how my agency’s decisions limited your ability to accomplish good things. Since I stepped down two years ago, the situation has only gotten worse. I want to do something about it. I want you to do something about it, too. Let me tell you what I saw. I was sworn in as a commissioner in 2001. “What an awesome job this is going to be,” I thought, “dealing with edge-of-the-envelope issues, meeting the visionaries and innovators transforming the ways we communicate, and then making it all happen by helping to craft policies to bring the power of communications to every American.” It was a heady time…. New media would complement the traditional media of newspapers, radio, TV, and cable, ushering in a golden age of communications. … The FCC that I joined had a different agenda. It had fallen as madly in love with industry consolidation, as had the swashbuckling captains of big media. The agency seldom met an industry transaction it didn’t approve. The Commission’s blessing not only conferred legitimacy on a particular transaction; it encouraged the next deal, and the hundreds after that. So Clear Channel grew from a 1970s startup to a 1,200-station behemoth. Sinclair, Tribune, and News Corp. went on buying sprees, too, and the major networks extended their influence by buying some stations and affiliating with others. Gone are hundreds of once-independent broadcast outlets. In their stead is a truncated list of nationwide, homogenized, and de-journalized empires that respond more to quarterly reports than to the information needs of citizens.
This article by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is a year old, but it really lays out the national fraud that we call “the bailout.” Here’s an excerpt:
We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.