Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twenty Stories the MSM Missed in the Special Election

The mainstream media (MSM) did a sparse job in covering the District 4 special election, a swing-vote race with implications for next year. Here are twenty stories they missed ranked in order of ascending importance.

20. Leventhal vs. Klumpp
When County Council Member George Leventhal invoked the memory of Marilyn Praisner in advocating for Nancy Navarro, Mrs. Praisner’s daughter, Alison Klumpp, struck back with an essay entitled, “I Really Know Marilyn Praisner.” Both blog posts were unsolicited submissions to MPW. Neither probably decided many votes, but they sure were entertaining!

19. Help Save Maryland’s Electoral Activity
Help Save Maryland, a group that opposes illegal immigration, did not yet exist during the 2006 elections. But they became active this time, distributing a questionnaire, passing out a flyer against Ben Kramer and mobilizing against Navarro. The MSM missed this, but MPW readers know to expect more from the group next year.

18. Marilyn Praisner’s Authorship of the Special Elections Law
After Don Praisner called for an appointment to replace him, MPW revealed that his wife was a driving force in creating special elections for County Council vacancies. The irony of Mr. Praisner’s recommendation against one of Mrs. Praisner’s greatest achievements was lost on the MSM, which did not report it.

17. State Board of Elections Problems
The Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) was slow to release the first batch of campaign finance reports, taking 11 days to post one of Navarro’s. We organized a four-candidate letter to urge them to release the reports on a timely basis. You would think that the MSM would have been as interested in getting the financial information as we were but they did not cover the story.

16. Implications for Council President
Even the MSM knows that there is an informal 4-4 split on the County Council. If Kramer had won, Vice-President Roger Berliner would have been Council President in 2010 and Duchy Trachtenberg would have been President in 2011 (assuming she is re-elected). Now that Navarro has won, Council Members Nancy Floreen and Valerie Ervin may be President instead. We reported that on May 6 but the MSM has not talked about it.

15. More Illegal Robocalls Against Navarro
Navarro’s enemies seem to love illegal robocalls. They used them in 2008 and used them again in 2009. Last year, the Gazette ran with the story after we broke it but no MSM showed any interest this time around.

14. History Between Kramer and Lamari
Ben Kramer and Cary Lamari have been stepping on each other’s toes for a long time but you would never have known that from the MSM. We investigated the subject of one of their most contentious disputes – the Georgia-Norbeck intersection – but we could have written even more about these old enemies.

13. Navarro’s Micro-Targeting
Eric Luedtke wrote about Navarro’s micro-targeting, one of the most important tactics of the 2009 race and one sure to be copied next year. The Gazette hinted at this but did not grasp the full impact of it. The Post just ignored it.

12. Ficker’s Violation of the Law
In March, we broke the story about Robin Ficker’s illegal flyers, which were replicated on his website. His frequent handouts of the flyer was a repeated violation of Maryland election law and no one else caught it. The MSM also totally missed his suspect residency in the district. Weeks after we questioned Ficker’s eligibility, the Post is still pretending that he lives in District 4.

11. Board of Elections Plan to Close Precincts
Near the beginning of the campaign, the Montgomery County Board of Elections proposed closing half the precincts in District 4, a plan that would have had a disparate impact on Navarro. The plan did not pass even though the MSM was silent.

10. Lack of Coattails for Ike Leggett and Rona Kramer
We reported that even with Ike Leggett’s endorsement, Ben Kramer lost ten of the eleven precincts with a black population percentage of 30% or more. And even with his sister, Senator Rona Kramer (D-14), appearing on his mailers, Ben Kramer lost thirteen of the sixteen precincts in both Council District 4 and State Legislative District 14. He even lost his sister’s home precinct. Where is the MSM’s analysis?

9. Post Office Fumbles Absentee Ballot Applications
The Postal Service’s failure to deliver 314 absentee ballot applications by the Board of Elections deadline could have been an even bigger story than it was if Kramer had used it as grounds for a court challenge. Curiously, we learned about this from the Pew Center’s Election Line, which did excellent work on this story even though it was never spotted by the local MSM.

8. Kramer’s Record in Annapolis
Our research on Ben Kramer’s record as a state legislator found that he was the lowest-ranked Montgomery Delegate by Progressive Maryland and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and tied for the lowest-ranked by Equality Maryland. That provided a nice foil for Navarro, who has always run from the left, and gave her a basis for her negative mailings. That tactic would not have worked against a more liberal primary opponent. No one in the MSM made that point.

7. Role of the ICC
District 4 is home to most of the Intercounty Connector’s alignment. The ICC was a subject of concern for Kramer, who lost the precincts along its route by 17 points despite trying to mitigate its traffic impact. Only one MSM source picked up on this: Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser, who cited MPW. If the Sun identified the ICC’s role in the race, then why didn’t the Post or the Gazette?

6. Rise of the Blogs
We don’t have to tell you how heavily the blogs covered this election. Just Up the Pike set its record month in March while MPW set its record in April, more than doubling conservative blog Red Maryland’s visit total that month. In terms of Google searches, the blogs totally overwhelmed the MSM. But if you only read the MSM, you would have no idea that the blogs even existed. The Post ran an excellent article on blogs in the Virginia Governor’s race, but its Maryland reporters seem to not know what a blog is. For example, take Ann Marimow’s short reference to MCGEO’s “Boy King” flyer in which she does not bother to mention that its content is almost entirely derived from this blog. Or her reference to Drew Powell’s campaign finance statistics with no mention of where they were first published: MPW.

5. Disrespect of Cary Lamari
Lamari had lots of things going for him: decades of community service, a stint as President of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, prior experience running for County Council and strong support from the civic activist community. More than anyone, he was associated with the growth restraint message used by County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council Members Duchy Trachtenberg, Marc Elrich, Roger Berliner and Phil Andrews in 2006. And yet none of these politicians supported him. Throw in the Post’s omission of his candidacy from its coverage and the Boy King’s unrepentant spin on his views and you have to wonder what the poor guy has to do to catch a break. More importantly, civic activists everywhere have to wonder just how much the county’s establishment truly respects their work.

4. Duchy Trachtenberg’s Rupture with Progressives
In 2006, at-large County Council candidate Duchy Trachtenberg was supported by a wide range of progressive groups including the Sierra Club, Progressive Maryland, many unions and – as a President of Maryland NOW – the state’s women’s rights movement. In 2009, almost all of these groups backed Navarro while Trachtenberg sided with Montgomery County’s least-progressive Delegate. This is going to have a heavy impact on next year’s at-large County Council race.

3. Park and Planning Lobbies District 4 Candidates
Folks, this is a BIG scandal. Park and Planning is not supposed to get involved in political races at all. But it made an exception this time, lobbying the District 4 candidates for its North Four Corners soccer field. Where is the same MSM that investigated Park and Planning’s conduct in the Clarksburg debacle? More importantly, where are the state authorities?

2. Kramer’s Broken Pledge
While the Post originally reported Kramer’s pledge not to take developer money, they totally missed his failure to follow through. Our readers now know the excruciating details of Kramer’s taking money from Josh Rales, the Bernstein Companies and the Maryland Realtors PAC even while repeating his broken pledge at Leisure World. Where were the MSM’s watchdogs?

1. Sources of Campaign Finance
This was the biggest story of all. No matter which candidate you supported (or opposed), you could find some aspect of the money chase to get jacked up about. Whether it was Navarro’s heavy reliance on union money, Kramer’s heavy reliance on himself or even Lamari’s receipt of a check from a child sex offender (which he returned), this race had something for everybody. The Post reported none of this in its lone, skimpy article on the subject on March 25. Campaign finance is an eternal issue in politics – any kind of politics – and voters must have a press that can keep an eye on it.

Lord have mercy on us if the MSM coverage of this race is a preview of 2010!