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Top journalists and political strategists debated the role of the media and money in politics and offered straightforward assessments of the 2012 presidential campaign during an Institute of Politics panel discussion on Aug. 26 prior to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. The Institute is producing a series of onsite events at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as part of its Election 2012 programming.
“Politics & the Media: Bridging the Political Divide in the 2012 Election” featured New York Timesexecutive editor Jill Abramson, 2008 Obama for President national press secretary Bill Burton, Republican political strategist and fall 2001 IOP Resident Fellow Mike Murphy, 2008 Romney for President chief financial officer and counsel Charles Spies and was moderated by Bloomberg NewsWashington editor Al Hunt.
The rise and influence of Super PACs – entities allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money gifted from various individuals, organizations and associations and the advertisements they run – was a key focus of the panel’s discussion attended by more than 125 convention guests and members of the national media.
Burton praised the role of such outside groups to engage in an election in a way that “gives voters new information about the people running.” However, Burton said he and Spies and political strategists of both parties all acknowledge that engagement is governed by specific controls: “we would all agree – there are rules, and you follow them.”
Murphy, a veteran campaign strategist unaffiliated with a presidential campaign this cycle, underscored negative advertising’s strange paradox, “everyone condemns it, but people also love it. The new campaign argument has become, ‘I’m right, and you’re evil.’”
The Times’ Abramson pointed out that despite all the focus on money in politics and its role in shaping the 2012 race historically, it’s nothing new.
“Money is the mothers milk of politics, big money always finds a way,” said Abramson. “Years ago we called it ‘soft money,’ now we are talking about Super PACs.” As always, the influence of money in politics is always debated and redefined, Abramson said. “Sometimes money is said to buy access, other times it’s pitched as merely ‘a way to be heard.’”
In the end, however, she stressed the importance of assessing a campaign’s tone and its effect on the electorate and voter turnout. “More money than we have seen in a long time is filtering through our system – how voters view that is really important and is often overlooked.”
The even was co-sponsored by Bloombergand the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The event’s discussions are available on Bloomberg’s web site.
Picture (L to R): Al Hunt, Bloomberg News Washington editor; Jill Abramson, New York Times executive editor; Mike Murphy, Republican political strategist and fall 2001 IOP Resident Fellow; Charles Spies, 2008 Romney for President chief financial officer and counsel; and Bill Burton 2008 Obama for President national press secretary.
“Money is the mothers milk of politics, big money always finds a way,” Jill Abramson, New York Times executive editor.