NY13 Blog; Retaking NY-13 from Rep. Vito Fossella

Following the corruption, ineffectiveness and hypocrisy of Rep. Vito Fossella.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why does media coverage of this race have to suck?

I have been mulling over this post for quite some time now. I had to step away from it for a while because I quickly becoming non-objective in my approach which is something you will see I am having issues with. Before I jump into the depths here I think a good question to ponder is how would the media coverage of this Congressional race and others in the city differ if all the seats were swing districts and competitive year after year?

There have been a few articles recently (a month ago at this point) talking about fundraising levels and the implications of those numbers on DCCC involvement in this race. I am going to focus on two articles by Tom Wrobleski of the Staten Island Advance. In the most recent article on this topic Tom interviews Jay O'Donovan, 1988 candidate for this seat.

Jay O'Donovan;

"If you raise $500,000, they might think about giving you money."

anonymous DC political source;

She said that there's no "golden" fund-raising threshold that the national Democrats look for before getting involved, but said they instead consider a candidate's overall fund-raising and ground strength, among other factors.

Jay O'Donovan;

"To get them interested, you have to be very well-connected, with money in the bank. That's all the DCCC wants to see. They not concerned with issues. They're concerned with polling and fund-raising."

I pull these quotes all from the same article to illustrate a couple of points. First look at how inconsistent those comments are. So the DCCC wants candidates to raise $500,000 or there is no threshold. The DCCC only cares about fund-raising or ground strength and other factors. These two sources seem to contradict each other yet there is no mention of this. Never is the question posed why the discrepancy is comments. So one of my first questions then is what is the direction of this piece and intent. Does Tom want to show this is a money race by interviewing a candidate who ran for this seat 20 years ago? Or is Tom showing that money is important but that the DCCC has changed its views and now judges a race on several factors? I don't know those comments were just left out there to stand on their own for what ever reasons.

A second point of contention I have with this and similar articles is this anonymous DC political source. We have no indication that this source is credible or that they have any knowledge on this matter other than Mr. Wrobleski including them in this article. Is this source a staffer for Rep. Fossella? Are they a consultant or entity on the payroll for Fossella, Harrison or Recchia's campaign? A yes to any of these would put doubt on their comments but we have no way of knowing the answer. This isn't the first time anonymous sources have made their way into his articles, see my previous post Candidate speculation: Cusick. It is understandable that sources can not always be named for various reasons but there rarely is a reason why their knowledge can not be justified by explaining where or whom they work for. Unless you see this you should instantly be asking questions about the validity of these individuals as experts and never take them too seriously.

If we go back a few days prior to the above piece to Tom's piece Funding the House he tries to take a shot at Harrison and Recchia's fund raising by pointing out they are not one of the top ten challengers in terms of fund raising totals;

Sort of puts the $326,000 or so combined raised by Democratic congressional hopefuls Domenic Recchia and Steve Harrison in perspective, huh? When national Democrats and Republicans talk about raising "big money early" for a congressional race, these are the kinds of numbers that will get their attention.

The kinds of money raised that gets attention in his comment is referring to ten challengers that had at a minimum of $800,000 in contributions (going up to 1.24 million). This again is a problematic statement and potentially now a third threshold of fundraising but we seemed to debunk this above. Certainly having nearly a million dollars for a campaign will do wonders, but it did not do much for a candidate like Jack Davis in NY-26 in terms of getting DCCC support in 2006. Further Tom never attempts to mention that all ten of these challengers have thus far out raised Vito Fossella. Sort of puts Fossella's fundraising in perspective huh? Mentioning that would potentially ruin the point of his article so it is understandable why it was overlooked.

The CQPolitics article continues beyond the total contributions comparison to look at cash on hand which is probably a better metric. One can raise a lot of money, but if they spend it before the election gets underway then those figures are almost meaningless. Take a look at Rep. Doolittle (CA) and Rep. Young (AK) who have drastically cut into their cash on hand in costly legal expenses. Again Vito Fossella would not match up to the challengers on this top ten list in terms of cash on hand. Vito Fossella's $250,000 cash on hand is a little more than half of that of the number ten candidate on that list, Dean Andal with $471,000. This is actually an area where Fossella and his challengers are much closer with Domenic Recchia at $206,000 cash on hand. Again there is no mention of this in the article.

If we are talking about what entices the DCCC to take a look at getting involved in a race why overlook cash on hand? The financial cost to the DCCC would just be $50,000 to $150,000 to put the Democratic challengers ahead of Fossella in terms of cash on hand that they could use to compete. If Fossella was better at fund raising the cost for the DCCC to even out spend would be three or four times higher.

All in all this is starting to become very concerning to me. There is a perceived bias against the Democratic challengers with this theme of fundraising continuing to be pushed with selective comments and metrics. Throughout there is no attempt to compare Vito Fossella to the same standards of fundraising prowess that Steve Harrison and Domenic Recchia are being held to. Maybe my expectations are too high, but this is a Congressional race so can expectations ever be too high?

This should not be read as sole criticism of Tom, it just so happens he actually covers the race on occasion and had two questionable pieces in a short time frame that raised a few red flags. Keep reading on but I recommend you question what you are being told because our media appears to have limited standards expected in their coverage and all too often report that way.

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