LAT hit piece on Obama tracks Clinton smears

Dan Moran must have been pretty hard up for a story.

Dan Moran of the LA Times runs an astonishingly dishonest “gotcha” story &#8212 which might have been transcribed from Clinton campaign TV spots &#8212 on the issue of Barack Obama’s stand on corporate money in campaigns.

Obama’s stance is clear, and has never been violated: he takes no money from corporate PACs or from federal lobbyists. (No one running for federal office can legally take money directly from corporate coffers.) PAC money isn’t, legally, corporate money, but the PACs are controlled by the companies and the “donations” from employees that fill PAC coffers are often only semi-voluntary. Federal lobbyists are people paid to influence people like Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, in their current jobs an in the job they’re seeking. So refusing to accept money from PACs and federal lobbyists is a sensible way to insulate the candidate from financial pressure on his policies.

Obama does accept money from individuals who work for energy companies. Why not? Is drilling for oil a disgraceful activity that makes money earned from it dirty money? And he accepts money from people who are registered to lobby at the state level, since they aren’t legally in a position to ask Obama for favors, now or later.

Clinton’s position is equally clear. She wants money from whoever will give it, including PACs and federal lobbyists. That’s legal, of course. But there is a difference between the two candidates, and one voters might care about. In particular, Obama has promised that he won’t staff his Administration from the ranks of corporate lobbyists, as GWB so extensively has. Clinton has made no such pledge.

Clinton has been doing her best to obfuscate the difference, and to challenge Obama’s integrity, by pretending that his open acceptance of money from oil-company employees and from people registered as lobbyists at the state level “contradicts” his stance on corporate and federal-lobbyist money. It doesn’t.

Moran’s story, if you read it closely, makes the relevant distinction. At one point, it says “Obama’s ad is factually correct.” (Someone will have to explain to me the difference between “factually correct” and “correct.”) But Moran, by pretending that the distinction is somehow artificial, creates a story where there was no story. Rather, it converts a story that should be about Clinton’s vulnerability to special-interest manipulation and her campaign’s mendacity into a story that questions Obama’s truthfulness.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: