3. Censored Election Year Issues

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Sources: (1) Common Cause Magazine, 2030 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, Date: April/May/June 1992, Title: “George Bush’s Ruling Class,” Authors: Jeffrey Denny, Vicki Kemper, Viveca Novak, Peter Overby, Amy Young; (2) Washington Post 115015th Street NW Washington, DC 20071, Date: January 9, 1992, Title: “A Profound Silence on Homelessness,” Author: Mary McGrory; (3) The Progressive, 409 E. Main Street, Madison, WI 53703, Date: May 1992, Title: “Deregulatory Creep: Dan Quayle Clears the Way for Industry,” Author: Arthur E. Rowse; (4) “This World,” San Francisco Examiner, 110 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, Date: October 11, 1992, Title: “46,900 Unspectacular Deaths,” Author: Mike Royko, Chicago Tribune Columnist; (5) Unclassified, 2001 S Street NW, Ste. 740, Washington, DC 20009, Date: February/March 1992, Title: “The Mena, Arkansas, Story,” Author: David MacMichael – (Note: References to these articles are noted in bold face numbers in the following synopsis.)

SYNOPSIS: While the candidates and the media had us focusing on alleged infideli­ties, family values and rap-music lyrics, other far more important issues were ig­nored or underreported during the 1992 election year. Here are just some of the stories that played second fiddle to Gennifer Flowers, Sister Souljah and Murphy Brown:

-George Bush and Iran/contra. Unan­swered questions still lingering from the 1988 campaign remained unanswered and largely ignored by the mainstream media before election day. It was not until Octo­ber 30, four days before the election, that Caspar Weinberger’s “smoking gun” memo, implicating Bush in the arms for hostages intrigue, was widely publicized.

-Bush’s Team 100. A series of articles in Common Cause Magazine documented how major campaign contributors to George Bush were given ambassadorships and federal advisory committee appoint­ments, and how federal regulatory issues that adversely affected members of “Team 100” were toned down. (1)

-Homelessness. Despite a critical sta­tus report by the National Conference of Mayors that showed 25 cities suffer a seri­ous problem with homelessness, and re­porting an average 13 percent increase in requests for shelter, the presidential can­didates barely mentioned it and the press did not pursue it. (2)

-Dan Quayle’s Council on Competi­tiveness. Many a questionable (and unpublicized) action stemmed from this committee, whose intent was never really made clear. One of the most egregious dictates mandated in the Clean Air Act would allow polluters to increase emis­sions if the appropriate state agency did not object within seven days. After these revisions were enacted, it was discovered that 11 big air-polluting firms donated $788,270 to Bush and to Republican com­mittees. The media muted the event. (3)

-An Unpublicized Result of the Iraq War. The death rate of Iraqi children rose dramatically in the months after the Gulf War, largely because of an outbreak of diarrhea caused by disabled water and sewage systems. In the first seven months of 1991, about 46,900 more children died than would have been expected, accord­ing to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. (4)

-Where Was Bill? Covert operations run from a clandestine airfield at Mena, a small town in western Arkansas, included guns, drugs and other activities related to the Iran/contra travesty. Even though this trafficking occurred during Bill Clinton’s administration as governor of Arkansas, and could not have happened without his knowledge, it attracted little attention from the mainstream media.(5)

SSU Censored Researchers: Blake Kehle,  Kimberly S. Anderson, John Faiola, Kim Kaido

COMMENTS: If there is a cyclical pattern to Project Censored, it centers around the quadrennial spurt in censored political issues coinciding with presidential elec­tion years. The Project Censored Year­book for 1991 documented two decades of critical issues that might have affected presidential elections but did not because of the lack of media coverage. Critical underreported presidential election year issues cited included the following:

-1972 Richard Nixon and Watergate

-1976 Jimmy Carter and the Trilateral Commission

-1980 Ronald Reagan and “The Octo­ber Surprise”

-1984 Ronald Reagan and Three Unreported Stories About Paul Laxalt, Edwin Meese and Charles Z. Wick

-1988 George Bush and the News That Wasn’t Fit to Print, a compilation of 15 serious questions about Bush’s qualifi­cations to be president that were not asked by the major news media during the cam­paign.

Thus, it is not surprising that a similar collection of issues went underreported during the 1992 election. As noted in the synopsis above, Project Censored focused on just five articles concerned with some of these issues. Here are comments by some of the authors:

Common Cause Magazine: Peter Overby responds on behalf of the authors of the potentially explosive Common Cause cover story about George Bush’s campaign financing:

“`George Bush’s Ruling Class’ investi­gated favors bestowed by the Bush admin­istration on members of Team 100, the 249 wealthy donors who gave at least $100,000 each in `soft money’ to the 1988 Bush-Quayle effort. Soft money-huge cam­paign contributions that are channeled through a legal loophole, in effect violating federal election law-has been perhaps the most underreported aspect of national politics during the past four years. In that time, few publications had the resources and time necessary to report on soft money donors and their influence on govern­ment.”

Overby believes it is important for the public to be more aware of this issue: “The $100,000 contributions and the influence we traced to their donors signal that government is for sale. Even Bush spokesman Marlin Fitzwater conceded, ‘It’s buying access to the system, yes.’ Spotlighting such abuses will increase public pressure to close the soft money loophole.”

The people who benefit from the lack of coverage given this issue, according to Overby, are the soft money players, both donors and recipients, who have “much to gain by keeping the public in the dark. George Bush, for one, vetoed a bill that would have banned soft money just days after the President’s Dinner, which raked in some $9 million in soft money. He signed the veto statement on a Saturday night while White House reporters were being entertained at a semi-official dinner for the press corps.”

Overby also notes that although Bill Clinton has expressed support for cam­paign finance reform, the Democrats raised more soft money than the Republicans during the last campaign.

 The Progressive: Arthur E. Rowse, author of “Deregulatory Creep,” which fo­cused on the quid pro quo of campaign financing, provides an additional insight into the electoral abuses cited above:

“As the article pointed out, the main­stream media showed little interest in the way Quayle’s Council on Competitiveness was assaulting the health and safety of Americans by blocking the implementa­tion of federal laws. They were even less interested in correlating campaign contri­butions with companies benefiting from the regulatory slowdown. News coverage of the regulatory process — where laws are often negated after passing Congress-have routinely been minimal.

“A few of the larger newspapers occa­sionally tracked Council actions on wet­lands and air pollution. But, true to form, it was a personal angle — when Quayle’s top aide was caught feathering his own nest­that got the most attention. Quayle’s own conflicts of interest stirred no journalistic follow-up of Congressional charges. Evening news programs dismissed almost everything. While campaign contributions to Congress were receiving broad cover­age, the White House angle was ignored.

“When the article came out, I thought it might stir some further reporting in the major media, especially on the relation­ship of campaign contributions to regula­tory relief. But nothing happened. After another small magazine showed interest in pursuing the topic, I tried to obtain copies of Vice President Quayle’s detailed itinerary for leads on contributions that might be linked to specific regulatory ac­tions. But the itinerary was not supplied, despite numerous calls to his office and many other likely sources. The possibility of finding incriminating quid-pro-quos was there, but the election killed the idea.”

Ironically, despite the criticism of Rowse and many others, in mid-January 1993, Quayle, in a moment of extreme chutzpah, warned Bill Clinton that he would make a terrible mistake if he were to abol­ish the Council on Competitiveness. Unclassified: David MacMichael, edi­tor of Unclassified, published by the Asso­ciation of National Security Alumni in Washington, says that the expose of Iran/ contra activities in Arkansas received prac­tically no coverage except for investigative stories by Alex Cockburn in The Nation and a smear article in Time.

“This story illustrates how bipartisan involvement in U.S. government covert operations influences not only national but state and local politics, and corrupts law enforcement and the judicial process. There is a general conspiracy of silence that masks criminal activity under the guise of ‘national security.’

“The Clinton campaign avoided hard questioning about Governor Clinton’s tol­erance of illegal contra support activities in the state of Arkansas-with accompany­ing possible narcotics trafficking during the 1980s. The Bush campaign was also spared questions about the activity in the district of one of Bush’s key congressional supporters-John Paul Hammerschmidt.

“Information on this was provided to all Democratic primary candidates, but none used it. The Brown campaign said they would use it only if major media played it first.”

MacMichael believes that the major media weren’t interested, since they looked upon the issue as an Iran/contra leftover and basically went along with the Democratic campaign decision that Iran/ contra was a dead issue.

Noting that “nobody wanted to touch this story with a pole,” MacMichael says he received no calls from any major news media in the U.S. about the issue. Ironi­cally, on December 29,1992, he was con­tacted by a major media outlet — the French National Radio -for comments about the Caspar Weinberger pardon.