You’d think the mainstream media would practice what it preaches. But no. They’d rather do the spin dance and be intellectually dishonest about free speech.
Media corporations have long operated under the free speech protections of the First Amendment. Even though they are for-profit corporations, news organizations are able to endorse political candidates, lobby, and take positions on ballot issues, free from campaign and election finance laws.
Yet when other corporations try to influence political outcomes and give money to candidates, editorial boards are quick to shriek that we’re “buying elections”. The press smugly says “Ain’t it awful”, and “We’re protecting the public” from these evil corporations because they are influencing elections, and spending money on lobbying.
But how is it right to censor political speech for all kinds of businesses except for media businesses? Political contributions are a form of corporate political free speech. Newspapers spend major resources to endorse issues and political candidates they like, and hammer those they don’t, yet they insist that other corporations corrupt the process when they do the same, or when they lobby.
As the Wall Street Journal says, “The media spend millions of dollars each year on news stories about candidates and editorials endorsing them. This press is worth a lot.” But we have yet to see an editorial which advocates limiting the funds that media companies spend to elect or defeat political candidates.
The only accurate description for this media practice is double-standard hypocrisy.
No media company lurks higher on the hypocrisy scale than the Palm Beach Post. The Post has one of the most well-developed political agendas in this region, always trying to influence political outcomes. They aren’t particularly good at it, but they try.
What is not generally known is that the Post lobbies its own political agenda, and its owner, Cox Enterprises, lobbies for its own financial gain. Cox, and nearly all newspapers, regularly engage in lobbying efforts and pay lobbyists to look out for their own financial and business interests. Cox engages in influence peddling just like any other big corporation. It spends money to influence legislation nationally and in Florida, and Cox and the Post have participated in a number of organizations that lobby for newspapers or that promote the business interests of the newspaper industry.
Cox lobbies to strengthen the Newspaper Preservation Act, which protects newspapers from anti-trust violations, an Act considered by many to be socialistic.
Since the Post and other newspapers do not want the public to know that they retain lobbyists to work at the Federal and state levels, often they camouflage it by hiring law firms to do their lobbying. In this way, such expenses can be logged as “legal services” business expenses.
Florida citizens must be vigilant to protect the right of free speech, whether by media corporations or other businesses. It’s wrong for the mainstream media to tell us to put a cork in it, when the business community should have the right to spend our own money freely to influence politics, just like newspaper corporations do.