Monday, May 22, 2006

It's A Myth

In addition to the myth of the honest mayor who's politically naive, there's another myth (namely that Landrieu vastly outspent Nagin) about the campaign that the press has helped perpetuate after Nagin used half-truths and (apparently) illegal secrecy to create an illusion:

Does not include any contributions from Chicago fundraiser on May 8 because Nagin did not file that report within 48 hours as required by law.

Maybe it wasn't illegal after all, according to a later update to the above:

Finance list note challenged: A footnote to a list in Saturday editions listing contributors to New Orleans mayoral candidates stated that the data didn't include contributions received by Mayor Ray Nagin during a May 8 fund-raiser in Chicago despite a state law requiring candidates to report contributions to the state ethics officials within 48 hours of receipt. On Saturday, Nagin's campaign treasurer, David White, noting that the law requires reporting contributions when they are "in hand," added, "There is no way we could report on contributions we have not received." White didn't return earlier calls about the fund-raising event, which according to Chicago Sun-Times reports netted $500,000. (5/14/2006)

In addition to the fact that he used a legal technicality to create a false impression, Nagin stated in a debate (between 5/08 & 5/14) that the fundraiser didn't raise that much money. Even though the election's over it still matters, as I'll explain.

I can't find a print or internet source for how much each candidate spent, but I heard (or thought I heard) on the Friday night news that Landrieu outspent Nagin $3.5M to $2.5M. I assumed that I heard incorrectly because, even though a million's a lot, but it's not vastly out spending or outspending several times over like Nagin kept saying and the media kept not just repeating, but emphasizing.

The numbers seem to add up. From today's Picayune:

In the three months leading up to the primary, Landrieu and Forman were able to raise more than $2.2 million apiece. Combined, they pulled in more than three times the $1.3 million that Nagin raked in during the three-plus years preceding the primary.

Nagin's fund-raising picked up in the runoff, but Landrieu easily outdistanced him. As of May 12, Nagin had reported bringing in $542,000 since the primary, compared with $3.3 million for Landrieu.

That adds up to more than $1.8M before the Chicago fundraiser. The first paragraph was typical of the reporting on the issue during the campaign, if anything it was understated.

Oddly, the Picayune was happy to report on the "tremendous" amount that Landrieu spent:

Saying he had been grossly outspent and outgunned in the political arena by his challenger, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, the mayor likened his plight to that of a modern-day David.

"I know what it's like to go up against Goliath," he told the congregation gathered inside St. Peter Claver Catholic Church on St. Philip Street, "with five smooth stones."

Nagin returned to that theme later when he addressed a phalanx of news cameras. Asked what the bruising campaign experience had taught him, he said: "I learned that the David and Goliath story was real. And a well-placed slingshot is very effective."

Given up for dead months ago by critics who savaged his stewardship of the city's spotty post-Katrina recovery, Nagin defeated Landrieu, the son of a former mayor who spent a staggering $3.5 million on his bid to oust the incumbent, by a comfortable margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. Nagin spent about half as much as Landrieu.

There are several reasons, that I'll get to, for including the entire quote. Amazing that the T/P assigns two reporters to a story, yet neither one is capable of doing simple math, or at least checking facts.

Even that million dollar difference is misleading. There were several mitigating factors. The advantages of incumbency were evident in the frequent airing of the commercial (in the last week of the campaign*) announcing the fact the city was prepared for a hurricane. Whether intended that way or not, the organized transportation to bring evacuees to the polls amounted to a third party get out the vote effort on Nagin's behalf. And Nagin certainly seemed to have much greater third party spending on his behalf. Not all of it was legal.

One reason (a minor one) that it still matters is that I expect Landrieu to be portrayed as a pathetic loser because he couldn't win even though he outspent his opponent "several times over." It's not just about Landrieu, the state GOP would love to make the entire Democratic leadership look ridiculous.

More importantly, one has to wonder why Nagin continues to make such misleading statements, just to make himself look good at his opponents expense, after the election is over. In addition to the fact that he just can't help being a p****, there is a practical benefit. The more formidable he makes himself appear, the less likely any potential opponents (on or off the council) will be to challenge his continued right to emergency powers--to grant landfill permits and award city contracts, without the normal bidding process or city council approval.

Also, it's time that the local media starts taking a serious look at some of the mayor's statements-- not just how they'll play elsewhere, but whether they're actually true. If we're going to "unite behind the mayor," somebody needs to examine his statements. I'm not very confidant that our media will start very soon. I had planned to post on the media's coverage of the election, but I see that Adrastos already has. Not sure how much there was deliberate bias (if only to compensate for the endorsements) and how much Nagin benefited from the fact that modern political reporting favors the candidate more willing to mislead, or from the media's refusal to abandon its preconceived notions. The media needs to see past that honest Ray Nagin image.

Finally, it's been almost nine months since Katrina, need to unite behind or mayor or not, it's past time to start asking how long the mayor should have emergency powers. If he can't be bothered to state the facts in an honest, straightforward manner, I would say not very long--certainly no longer than mid-October, the effective end of hurricane season. Considering the fact that the mayor seems to the open, democratic leadership style of a Morial, with the effectiveness of a Barthelemy and the integrity of an Edwards, I would strip him of those powers as soon as possible.

*It might be interesting to see how much air time the city purchases (or uses out of its free PSA time) for the hurricane, now that the election is over.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Old Favorites
  • Political Boxing (untitled)
  • Did Bush Take His Ball and Go Home
  • Teratogens and Plan B
  • Foghorn Leghorn Republicans
  • Quote of the Day
  • October's News(Dec.1)
  • untitled, Nov.19 (offshore revenue)
  • Remember Upton Sinclair
  • Oct. Liar of thr month
  • Jindal's True Colors
  • No bid contracts