Charlie Leonard: Inalienable Rights
June 28, 2012
What a difference four years make. Around this time in 2008, Sen. Barack Obama was well on his way to shattering every campaign fundraising record on the books. Before his campaign was over, the great reformer from Chicago decided public campaign financing wasn’t so great after all – and he passed it up in favor of accepting almost three-quarters of a billion dollars in contributions.
But for a handful of muted good-government voices, the entire political left celebrated Obama’s fundraising as proof of his extraordinary support and mass appeal. When it was over, the president-elect outspent his political opponent, John McCain, by more than 3-to-1.
Fast forward to 2012 and Mitt Romney’s first month of out-fundraising the president, notwithstanding the fact that Obama has spent more time fundraising, by a factor of two or more, than any incumbent president in history. All of a sudden, the news is awash in the left’s concerns about unregulated campaign fundraising.
Twice in the past week, in fact, The New York Times editorial page singled out Republican fundraising efforts as a serious threat to our democracy.
In the more sanctimonious of its two editorials, the Times railed against Sheldon Adelson, a wealthy casino owner who gave $20 million to Newt Gingrich in his unsuccessful bid to capture the Republican nomination and now has pledged millions more for the Romney campaign effort.
Apparently blind to its own reporting that Adelson’s money did virtually nothing to help Gingrich, the Times is now in a state of panic that Adelson’s money could upset the balance of the fall campaign. Even worse – for the Times – the editors wrote that Adelson was “attempting to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs.”
Really? Exactly what agenda does the Times expect citizens to pursue if not their own personal, ideological and financial agenda? Isn’t that what the Times does every day in its reporting and editorializing?
It gets better. The Times also scolds Adelson – a Jew who is married to an Israeli Jew – for opposing a Palestinian state and for wanting to “keep his billions intact,” by opposing higher taxes.
Whatever your views about the establishment of a Palestinian state (personally I think it’s probably a necessary evil), it’s certainly a legitimate political view for Israel and its friends to hold, given their history with Palestine.
As for “wanting to keep his billions intact,” by opposing higher taxes, I think it’s fair to say that Adelson is not “wildly at odds with the nation’s needs,” at least not for taxpayers who believe they already pay their fair share and a whole lot more.
But the real kicker for me was the Times criticizing Adelson for paying only 9.8 percent in corporate taxes on his casino operations, despite a “statutory rate” of 35 percent in the United States. The Times did not accuse Mr. Adelson of tax evasion, but it did snidely imply that there is something fundamentally wrong with his taking full advantage of the legitimate deductions and expenses in the tax code.
Just for fun, I thought I would pull The New York Times Co.’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings to find out what the paper’s effective corporate tax rate was over the past few years.
As it turns out, as recently as 2009, The New York Times paid an 8 percent corporate tax rate – after legally taking advantage of all its exemptions and deductions – despite our “statutory rate” of 35 percent.
What is worse than the Times’ hypocrisy about its own tax bill, however, is the paper’s apparent willingness to call for limits on Adelson’s free speech for no other reason than the fact that his opinions are sharply at odds with those of the Times’ editorial writers.
The Times makes a feeble effort to argue that unlimited campaign contributions result in one individual gaining too much influence in our political process. Again, I have to ask, “Really?”
Through its ownership of 19 of the leading daily papers in the country, The New York Times Co., and the Ochs Sulzberger family that controls it, has greater influence over the nation’s political agenda than any other family in the land.
Instead of criticizing Adelson, you would think the Times should be writing editorials defending our precious freedoms, including our rights to unlimited free speech and unlimited freedom of the press.
And, in the event a few more editorials add to the Times’ cost of doing business, I’m quite sure that the paper’s accountants would have no trouble taking the additional deductions on their next tax return.