Intimate Collaboration

March 16th, 2012 · No Comments · budget policy, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

I always complain the Albuquerque Journal imposes its editorial agenda on news decisions, but I never define that agenda. So let’s have at it.

The Journal stands against government.

The paper’s web site used to carry a mission statement that said its basic purpose was to monitor governmental malfeasance. (It may be there still, but I can’t find it.)

That’s great, of course; we’re well served when Journal reporters uncover thievery in government or inefficiency. But the Journal also assaults government institutionally; it’s as if management shares Grover Norquist’s ambition to “strangle it in the bathtub.”

Couple that with the Journal’s refusal to report critically on other institutions, most notably business institutions, and you have the Journal’s fundamental bias – to weaken or supersede government, thereby enhancing corporate power.

I hear you saying, “Duh. What else is new?”

Fair enough. But I state the obvious to arrive at today’s argument, that in pursuit of this agenda the Journal partners with – enjoys intimate collaborations with – at least two other organizations.

If their collaboration was limited to editorials, I couldn’t complain; an owner decides his newspaper’s views. But it infects the Op Ed and news pages, too; while that’s not illegal it’s lousy journalism. And it disserves readers.

Take, for example, the Journal’s hand-in-hand ambles with DW Turner & Company (“Strategies and ideas that win”). Doug Turner, a candidate for governor in 2010 and currently a director of the Rio Grande Foundation, operates the business.

For evidence of their intimacy, let’s revisit a Journal Op Ed column Sunday, Feb. 16 from Gerges Scott of the New Mexico Energy Forum. As I noted here Feb. 29, the editors neglected to point out the Forum is an American Petroleum Institute front.

What I didn’t mention is that Mr. Scott is a vice-president at DW Turner.

So the newspaper and PR firm cooperated to advance a common agenda.

But the Journal’s relationship with the Rio Grande Foundation (on whose board sits DW Turner’s Mr. Turner, remember) appears warmer, even passionate.

How I wish I could tell you how many essays the Journal has published by Paul J. Gessing, president of the RGF or his associates, but I’ve never counted them. Nor can I enumerate how often the paper has published Gessing letters and quoted him in news stories. There are a lot.

As to their tenor and quality, you may derive both from the following observation in Mr. Gessing’s Sunday, March 4 Journal opinion piece:

“Simply put, it is time for political leaders of all parties here in New Mexico to understand that economic development must be driven by the private sector.”

That, if it happened, would be a first.

As you will not read in the Journal (except, perhaps, from Winthrop Quigley, ever mired in reality), in the American system, government drives and defends enterprise, finances infrastructure and much R&D. It always has.

As the N.Y. Times’ economic conservative Tom Friedman put it March 13:

“America’s success for over 200 years was largely due to its healthy, balanced public-private partnership — where government provided the institutions, rules, safety nets, education, research and infrastructure to empower the private sector to innovate, invest and take the risks that promote growth and jobs.”

Let me make that concrete. Government’s high tariff walls protected our maturing commerce and industry in the 19th century.

Government bankrolled transportation from the Erie Canal to railroads first, subsidized highways and commercial aviation next and is jump-starting space today.

Government paid for communications, too, post offices, electrification, the Net. And energy. And education. And … stop me, please, before I write a tome.

This is elementary. It’s Dick and Jane material. A Pete Domenici conservative understands. So does a local Chamber of Commerce member.

How somebody from the home of Sandia National Laboratories doesn’t get it, well, the mind boggles.

But the laissez-faire sect writes its very own sacred books.

Forgive my digression. The problem isn’t that the Journal provides a platform for libertarian fiction, but that it publishes so little non-fiction.

And – in a magnificent rebuke to journalism – the Journal exempts its intimate collaborators from journalistic scrutiny. Gessing and other “free marketers” are sacred cows; it makes me nostalgic for when the editors worshiped St. Pete.

We’ve noted before (including Feb. 6) the Journal doesn’t report on the RGF.

Well, that amnesty holds for RGF relatives, too, like the American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC), the Koch Brothers-funded lobby that recently invited every state legislator to dinner at the pricey Old House restaurant in Santa Fe’s Eldorado Hotel.

Do you know how many education bills in the 2012 Legislature originated as ALEC “model legislation” or which New Mexico state legislators are allied with ALEC?

Not from the Journal, you don’t. Emanuele Corso’s informative March 8 post at supplies some answers.

And the Journal’s determination to ignore news that doesn’t fit its editorial agenda just reached a new height.

Yes, the very same Koch Brothers starred this week in an extraordinary national drama. And – big surprise – the Journal editors passed.

Poor editors, lacking the space to tell readers the billionaire Kochs sued to capture, control and discipline their own creation, the CATO Institute.

CATO, as you may know, underwrote New Mexico’s own RGF, so maybe the Journal deep-sixed the news to preserve the privacy of an intimate collaborator.

But I wonder.

You see, when Charles and David Koch sought 51 percent or more of the CATO Institute, its president, Ed Crane, retorted, “hostile takeover.” He and Charles Koch founded CATO in the 1970s.

Crane says Koch would “transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda.”

What’s it all about, Alfie? Well, the Koch brothers may be unhappy that CATO, a trusted ally on “libertarian” economics, breaks ranks on foreign policy.

After all, that segment of Corporate America known as the military-industrial complex (thanks, Ike) spends big bucks on both parties to promote global military adventures that demand their products and services. And CATO demurs; it’s non-interventionist, at least rhetorically.

Perhaps the Journal’s distaste for the story reflects a deeper fear – that dissension within far-right ranks could spur probes of corporate America’s propagation of “free market think tanks.”

There was a plot, you know, a quiet, well-organized effort by affluent individuals out to reshape politics, an effort of which most Americans were (and remain) unaware.

To find its origin, just Google Lewis F. Powell’s seminal 1971 memorandum. Next, follow the money, watching as corporate Johnny Appleseeds plant hundreds of “think tanks,” which evangelize for the secular religion of “laissez-faire.”

Sorry to task you with that, but the Journal certainly won’t do it. Its curiosity disappears when the subject is (what I call) the American Corporate Party and its subsidiaries, partisan and nonpartisan.

I’m not sure exactly how our daily’s intimate collaboration – or is it a love triangle? – with DW Turner and the Rio Grande Foundation ties into that. While the paper preaches transparency for others, it cloaks its own interests.

No matter. It’s that very secrecy as well as the stories it won’t cover that together make the case – the Journal’s editorial agenda drives its news judgments.

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  • Emanuele Corso

    Thanks for the kind mention. I just now sent off a short piece to Stephen Klinger at Light of New Mexico about Skandera’s plans to evaluate teachers (SF New Mexican – Robert Nott 3/15/12) in spite of those pieces of legislation being turned down by the legislature and about Gessing’s new role as the head of the New Mexico Connections Academy – a for profit charter school system. Just for your amusement though a little story about Gessing: I exposed just about all of his “donors” in a piece I wrote a while back for NM Politics. Shortly after it was up I received an email from Heath saying that Gessing had complained asserting he had no relationship whatever with ALEC. What proof had I of this? So, I sent him a photograph of Gessing and the president of ALEC standing on-stage in a spotlight looking like their next move was going to be a smooch. End of complaint. And, thanks again for the mention .. ec

  • Mark Ropel

    Mr. A.A., Thanks , nice work.

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