Published on Thursday, September 14, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Ah, the cesspool.
That would, of course, be Congress.
Aka Capitol Hill.
We caught a whiff of the cesspool the other day when a group of corporate liberals announced that they were going to launch yet another "newspaper" to cover the cesspool.
Millionaire media mogul Robert Allbritton and journalist Martin Tolchin have teamed up to launch something they will call The Capitol Leader.
The Capitol Leader will begin publishing on November 21 and will join an already crowded field consisting of Roll Call, The Hill, the National Journal and Congressional Quarterly.
Allbritton succeeded his father, Joe L. Allbritton, as chief executive at the Washington, D.C.-based Riggs Bank. Riggs, you may recall, was sold in 2004 after it pled guilty to criminal charges related to illegally operating bank accounts for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and routinely ignoring evidence of corrupt practices in managing more than 60 accounts for the government of Equatorial Guinea.
Junior is now runs Allbritton Communications Co. -- which owns two local DC television stations -- and is set to be publisher of the Capitol Leader.
Tolchin is a former New York Times correspondent who co-founded the Hill in 1994.
"There is so much going on up there that there's definitely room for another publication, and probably many more publications," Tolchin told the Washington Post. "I don't think we'll be the last."
Indeed, it won't.
And although there's surely a lot of fodder for investigative reporting on the Hill, that's not why.
It's about corporate advertising.
These Capitol Hill publications are fundamentally high-priced corporate issue-ad delivery devices to our anesthetized elected representatives. Members and staff on the Hill read the publications, so corporations know that if they take out ads in them, they reach a very select audience.
Let's look at the September 12, 2006 44-page issue of Roll Call.
It ran 19 full-page ads -- 16 of them from corporate sponsors. (The other three were ads by TIAA-CREF, Roll Call itself (promoting a Congressional basketball game), and the Alaska Wilderness League.)
The 16 full-page corporate advertisers were:
* National Cable & Telecommunications Association
On September 11, 2006, Roll Call carried a special 40-page B section titled "What's Next -- Guide to Congress." (The newspaper itself for that day was itself 40 pages).
This "What's Next" section carried 10 full-page ads -- nine from corporate sponsors and one from George Washington University.
Here were the corporate ads that ran in the aptly named Guide to Congress:
* Federalist Group -- An Ogilvy PR Worldwide Company ("From Capitol
Hill to Main Street -- Getting Your Voice into the Conversation is
Critical to Success.")
Today's 36-page The Hill (September 24, 2006) newspaper carried 13 pages of corporate ads. They are:
* National Cable and Telecommunications Association ("Cable Delivers
Today. Why Wait?")
While these papers do an admirable job covering the nuts and bolts of the legislative process, including how big business influences policy-making, they have actually become part of the influence game itself.
Roll Call has a circulation of 18,000.
A full-page ad in Roll Call costs $10,175.
Unless you want the back page in color -- then you are talking about a premium.
But don't ask about the back page. It's booked for the foreseeable future.
That's why Marti Tolchin and Robert Allbritton are salivating.
Not because they want to recreate the next I.F. Stone's Weekly.
But because they want to run another K Street Weekly.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
Copyright © 2006 Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman