No, not us.
An editorial in the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal [subscription required]:
9/30/2012 6:29:00 PM
Newspaper says no to political letters
Each October – in a presidential election year, especially – voters naturally want to tout the virtues of the virtuous candidates they support and eviscerate the miserable demon spawn whom they oppose, which leads from the obvious to this point: The Daily Star-Journal does not accept endorsement letters, and does not accept condemnation letters, regarding candidates.
Just as TV and radio stations cannot give up valuable – meaning worth money – time for what amounts to free advertising for or against a candidate, neither can the newspaper. The fact is, if a candidate through his supporters’ letters can get the milk free, why would he buy the cow? To be direct, a letter of endorsement, no matter how heartfelt, amounts to free advertising….
Uh, one big difference is that the public actually owns the airwaves. Or we used to. It’s still a federal regulation that broadcasters must give qualified federal candidates preferential rates (something not available to SuperPACs).
The editorial continues:
….Obviously, if the newspaper prints one endorsement letter, more will follow. The same is true with allowing letters to slam candidates – with letters written in defense of or to rebut the nasty comments. Which, again, amounts to free advertising….
Why, if the proponents or opponents of a candidate or a ballot issue are particularly erudite that could elevate the level of our political discourse, don’t you think? If not, what’s the downside of an ignoranimus voluntarily exposing themselves to public view? Either one could increase readership and maybe even subscriptions ($!).
Whatever happened to acting in the public interest? Instead, we get a paean to Citizens United:
….When some politicians all but ignore newspapers, the one medium that people rely on, actually pay for, to receive their news and advertising, newspapers have no reason to print free political endorsement letters.
As a result, if a person feels strongly that Barack Obama should be re-elected or Mitt Romney should become president, then take out a small ad in the newspaper – better yet, a big one – and say so.
But to expect The Daily Star-Journal – which has but one way to make money, by selling advertising space – to give away space is not a sensible business model.
Wait we’re confused. If you have subscribers and advertisers isn’t that two revenue streams? You see, we’re kind of aware of that distinction because around here we have none of the former and few of the latter.
We’re assuming that a full page ad in the local paper costs more than five hundred dollars. If you do that you just might have some paperwork to fill out:
Missouri Revised Statutes
Campaign Finance Disclosure Law
(15) “Expenditure”, a payment, advance, conveyance, deposit, donation or contribution of money or anything of value for the purpose of supporting or opposing the nomination or election of any candidate for public office or the qualification or passage of any ballot measure or for the support of any committee which in turn supports or opposes any candidate or ballot measure or for the purpose of paying a previously incurred campaign debt or obligation of a candidate or the debts or obligations of a committee; a payment, or an agreement or promise to pay, money or anything of value, including a candidate’s own money or property, for the purchase of goods, services, property, facilities or anything of value for the purpose of supporting or opposing the nomination or election of any candidate for public office or the qualification or passage of any ballot measure or for the support of any committee which in turn supports or opposes any candidate or ballot measure or for the purpose of paying a previously incurred campaign debt or obligation of a candidate or the debts or obligations of a committee. An expenditure of anything of value shall be deemed to have a money value equivalent to the fair market value. “Expenditure” includes, but is not limited to….
….(e) “Expenditure” does not include:
a. Any news story, commentary or editorial which is broadcast or published by any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical without charge to the candidate or to any person supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot measure….
Uh, it’s a campaign expenditure if you pay a newspaper to publish something supporting or opposing a candidate or a ballot measure.
Missouri Revised Statutes
Campaign Finance Disclosure Law
Reporting noncommittee expenditures.
130.047. Any person who is not a defined committee who makes an expenditure or expenditures aggregating five hundred dollars or more in support of, or opposition to, one or more candidates or in support of, or in opposition to, the qualification or passage of one or more ballot measures, other than a contribution made directly to a candidate or committee, shall file a report signed by the person making the expenditures, or that person’s authorized agent. The report shall include the name and address of the person making the expenditure, the date and amount of the expenditure or expenditures, the name and address of the payee, and a description of the nature and purpose of each expenditure. Such report shall be filed with the appropriate officer having jurisdiction over the election of the candidate or ballot measure in question as set forth in section 130.026 no later than fourteen days after the date of making an expenditure which by itself or when added to all other such expenditures during the same campaign equals five hundred dollars or more. If, after filing such report, additional expenditures are made, a further report shall be filed no later than fourteen days after the date of making the additional expenditures; except that, if any such expenditure is made within fourteen days prior to an election, the report shall be filed no later than forty-eight hours after the date of such expenditure. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to a person who uses only the person’s funds or resources to make an expenditure or expenditures in support of or in coordination or consultation with a candidate or committee; provided that, any such expenditure is recorded as a contribution to such candidate or committee and so reported by the candidate or committee being supported by the expenditure or expenditures.
Uh, if you spend more than five hundred dollars (not in campaign contributions) in support of or in opposition to a non-federal Missouri candidate or a Missouri ballot measure you have to file a campaign finance report with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The world we live in. If you have plenty of money you can take out an ad in the local paper expressing your support for a particular candidate or issue. If not, well, you’re out of luck.
Is it really an argument distilling the role of the newspaper in our First Amendment protected public discourse down to advertising revenue? John Peter Zenger weeps.