Thursday, November 03, 2011

TV Transparency: Stations Asked To Pony Up Political Ad Info, Plus: Jim Belshaw Ponders And A Hit On ABQ's Heroin Habit 

Despite the ascent of "new media," nothing dominates the modern political landscape like television. Nothing. Yet, when we try to tell you exactly how much the candidates are spending on their ubiquitous and often annoying TV ads we run into a roadblock. The information the FCC requires the TV stations to keep--their "public file"--can only be viewed in person at the TV station. In years past, we've had Alligators scurrying around town to each station trying to figure it out for you, but now comes a long overdue proposal. It could finally make accessible on your laptop the most valuable financial info behind today's campaigns:

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed requiring television stations to post online information about their political advertisers. That information, currently kept in paper files at the stations, includes the names of candidates or groups requesting to run an ad, the reason for broadcasting the ad, the time and placement of the ad and its cost. Moving that information online to a website that would be run by the FCC has provoked concern from the National Association of Broadcasters...

The broadcasters, who make millions each election cycle from these TV ads, complain that it would cost them extra cash to make the TV info easily available on line. Not very persuasive.

Will any of the executives at New Mexico's leading TV stations--KOB, KRQE and KOAT--break with their national brethren and start posting the information that is the lifeblood of modern politics? That would be news.


This political system is besotted with cash. With a recent controversial US Supreme Court ruling, the green stuff is going to come raining down like a deluge in 2012. Good luck keeping up with who is spending what. And as for Congress drifting too far from the positions of their financial backers, another "good luck."

NM Dem Senator Tom Udall comes with a long shot proposal at long overdue reform, but one supposes a long shot is better than no shot. The details:

...The proposed Constitutional amendment would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including "independent expenditures" by groups not formally connected to campaigns or political parties. The amendment would allow states to regulate such spending at their level.

He said the amendment wouldn't impose any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges.

How can Dems or R's stand for Wall Street and other regulatory reform when the beneficiaries of that system have so much power over their re-elections? It was not a problem FDR faced when he dealt with the last great business collapse. Isn't that why he was able to come with an elephantine response to the flaws in our system? And isn't huge campaign cash one reason why today even pea-sized change is met with so much resistance?


Will someone please shut off the panic button that is going off at the Educational Retirement Board (ERB) offices in Santa Fe? The retirement fund that state educators pay into and which then pays out retirement checks is not about to go under. Not now and not ten years from now. Not even close. One change is needed to ensure the fund's long-term stability and one change only--a minimum retirement age--say 60--before a retiree can get a check. In the past, the Legislature has looked skeptically at other measures that would make retirement even more challenging for educators. They should do so again and quiet that panic button that ERB staffers seem so anxious to push,


Former ABQ Journal columnist Jim Belshaw wonders:

Whatever happened to those 64,000 cases of possible "voter fraud" that Secretary of State Dianna Duran made so much noise back in the early summer? I know the State Police said "thanks, but no thanks," and then it fell from the radar. Where did they go?

Well, Jim, back in June the state police actually did accept the responsibility of going over those 64,000 records, but then said they did not have the resources to investigate all 64,000 cases of alleged voter fraud. They are now acting in an "advisory" capacity. And you can bet a fresh batch of green chile that in the end this fishing expedition will end with an empty hook.

If state police boss Gordon Eden(or SOS Duran) find even six cases of fraud that end in a conviction in court--never mind 64,000--we're buying them a plate of enchiladas at a restaurant of his choice.

(Hey, Gordon and Dianna. If the miraculous happens and we have to buy the enchiladas, we do prefer Barelas Coffee House).


"I've seen the needle and the damage done."---Neil Young

The city is struggling with a heroin infestation in its public schools that has made for grim headlines of teens overdosing. We've been watching how Mayor Berry responds. His office now says:

...$100,000 for funding in association with Mayor Berry’s Working Group on Heroin and Opioids has been recommended for approval by the Albuquerque Business Education Compact (ABEC). The ABEC is a partnership of business, education and local government, charged with overseeing and recommending funding for “at-risk” youth programs...The group will create a general awareness campaign about the use of heroin and misuse of prescription drugs...The funding will also be used to address the longer term goal of creating better local treatment options.

An awareness campaign is a start, but the Mayor and city council will be under increasing pressure to expand those sometimes expensive treatment options.

And in related news:

According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, New Mexico leads the nation per capita in drug overdose deaths. New Mexico's overdose death rate is 27 per 100,000 people. The national rate is 11.9. Nebraska has the lowest rate of 5.5 per 100,000 people.

But we'll end on another kind of high that can't hurt:

...Virgin Galactic has picked its first commercial astronaut pilot to help fly a passenger-carrying space plane to the edge of space and back. The company has tapped U.S. Air Force pilot Keith Colmer as its newest pilot for SpaceShipTwo, a private spaceliner designed to launch (from New Mexico's Spaceport America) on commercial flights into suborbital space. These voyages will zip up to about 62 miles, considered the boundary of space, without making a full orbit around the Earth.

Good to hear. Frank, take us outta here...

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