Citizens United

This Media Coverage Chart Shows Why Hillary Clinton Should Be Thankful for the Citizens United Decision

If Trump gets the nomination, she's going to need the independent spending.

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Trying to cover anything this winter other than Donald Trump's campaign at any point when he is in full ownership of the news cycle is an exercise in futility and frustration. I've been the person blogging the Apple vs. FBI encryption fight for Reason, and I can tell whether something I write is going to hit or miss based on how much oxygen is being consumed talking about whatever latest stunt or outrage has come from Trump or his supporters.

This is not a complaint, per se. The media is a business, and its job is to serve its customers' needs. The customers want Trump, either to idolize or demonize, and he is the front-runner for the Republican nomination. It would be media malpractice (and bad business) to not report on him extensively. Hillary Clinton complaining to Chris Matthews at MSNBC that they keep covering him is pretty damn rich, given that she may well be facing him at the polls come November.

The New York Times with the assistance of media firm mediaQuant has attempted to calculate exactly how much more Trump has "benefited" from media coverage and the numbers are yuuuuuuuuge, as they say these days. They're big enough that no doubt Trump himself will point them out at an upcoming rally, while still complaining about how badly he's treated by the media.

Chart
New York Times

Trump has purchased only $10 million in media advertising in through February. But if you calculated all media coverage of Trump as through it were paid ads, he has gotten the equivalent of $1.9 billion in publicity. That's more than twice what Clinton has gotten ($746 million) and more than six times the coverage of any other Republican candidate.

As Times' analysis points out, this doesn't necessarily mean positive news coverage, though given the way Trump manages to spin every negative story about him as some sort of unfair attack, it doesn't necessarily matter. I would be curious to see if it's possible to determine the ratio of "positive" to "negative" coverage for the candidates, though.

When Clinton looks at those numbers, rather than complaining about how unfair it is that Trump is getting more media coverage than she is, she should take the opportunity to perhaps rethink her position that Citizens United should be overturned.

Reason
Reason

The Citizens United decision, widely despised by the left, makes it possible for organized, unlimited spending on behalf of candidates through political action committees (PACs). Clinton hates it and wants to use overturning it as a litmus test for Supreme Court candidates partly for the extremely petty reason that the case was about a film that was very critical of her.

Presumably (though perhaps we shouldn't assume this is the case) any attempt to restrain political speech by corporations, groups, or unions would naturally exclude media outlets' own speech, as doing so would be a clear First Amendment violation. So had the Citizens United decision gone Clinton's way, it would likely have had no significant impact in the amount of attention Trump is getting and the skewed media dynamic currently in play.

Assuming Clinton and Trump get the nominations, here's the irony: Clinton is the one who needs the precedent set by the Citizens United decision, not Trump. And there is going to be a lot of independent money in play from people who really, really want to make sure that Trump will not be president. If this media dynamic continues to play out, Clinton would be the one hamstrung. Maybe that would have perhaps convinced her (and others on the left) that political spending actually is speech that can help counter imbalances in media coverage, but more likely we'd end up with more complaining about how unfair it is that Trump is getting so much more attention and perhaps calls for the government to have the authority to make it more "fair."

As an additional aside, note that second highest ad spending in the race, after the massive failure of the Gov. Jeb Bush campaign, comes from Sen. Marco Rubio, whose make-it-or-break-it moment is today. If he doesn't win Florida, he's toast. It's yet another reminder that money doesn't buy elections.

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  1. Independent spending is bad when the other guy does it, but not when she does it. Principals over principles.

    1. Amazing how Barry got a free pass on all of this, even though he spent more than either of his opponents.

  2. Free advertising. That’s something you just can’t buy.

  3. “hey’re big enough that no doubt Trump himself will point them out at an upcoming rally, while still complaining about how badly he’s treated by the media.”

    You can be treated badly by the media while still getting enormous amounts of media exposure. He’s on T.V. constantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s because people are saying nice things about him.

    1. It’s trump… doesn’t matter – more people will vote for Trump based on his media exposure, good or bad, then had ever even heard Rand Paul’s name

    2. There is research showing that the candidate who appears in Google News the most will win.

  4. I can tell whether something I write is going to hit or miss based on how much oxygen is being consumed talking about whatever latest stunt or outrage has come from Trump or his supporters

    Solid. Gold. Dumpster fire.

  5. That’s more than twice what Clinton has gotten ($746 billion)

    More than a billion- a million!

    1. A billion here, a million there — pretty soon you’re talking Scrooge McDuck cartoon money!

  6. Given her negatives and the rather large collection of skeletons in her closet, I wonder if perhaps Clinton would consider that a good tradeoff. It might have been worth it to her if she could have used it to stifle stories she doesn’t like.

  7. Does anyone seriously think benefiting from Citizens United will have any limiting effect on Hillary’s vendetta against it? Benefitting from CU will probably cause her to double down and give her position some teeth so no one can use CU against her.

  8. Jesus, hasn’t Hillary Clinton ever earned anything?

    1. That is a pretty loose use of “earned”, isn’t it?

  9. As “Enjoy Every Sandwich” notes above =

    Hillary’s “Free Press” is not nearly the same as Trump’s “Free Press”… in either content or effect. and I sincerely doubt she wants *any* of it, much less ‘more of it’.

    She wants to control 100% of what’s said about her.

    Trump on the other hand *benefits* from most of the media criticism he gets because of its superficiality. Clinton’s coverage is generally either fawning bullshit which no one believes, or its perfunctory coverage of the multiple ongoing FBI investigations.

    I think the press avoids her out of courtesy. On WaPo’s “Politics” page, Clinton appears in 1 out of 24 top-listed stories today. And it to simply help spread a rumor about her opponents, naturally.

  10. Will this (and JEB!’s crash and burn) finally put to rest the lies about “buying” elections and TEH EVULZ of campaign spending and Citizens United? Of course not.

    1. No. Its freaking absurd.

      Trump has spent almost *nothing* compared to the combined spending of his peers. Jeb! spent *the most* of anyone and was running dead last.

      The fact is that candidates are succeeding for reasons which have little to do with funding or their media spending. The “big money” donations dont precede a candidate’s rise in the polls – they chase it.

      I have seen absolutely nothing in the media which bothers to note that every aspect of the “money controls politics” narrative is utter horseshit.

      Wither the Koch bros? The retarded political media seems to presume that they desired Trump all along. How else could he have prevailed?

      1. Similar to David Brat in Virginia a couple years back. The guy unseated the House Majority Leader, and did it with a campaign chest of about $100,000. The number one cited reason for voting out Cantor was that he was unresponsive to his constituents.

        Campaign finance laws benefit incumbents and the two-party system. People are not going to vote for a candidate because a commercial funded by KKKOCHTOPUS told them so. The notion is ridiculous on its face.

        1. “People are not going to vote for a candidate because a commercial”

          What makes you so sure? There is an entire industry based on the premise that advertising does influence people.

        2. People are not going to vote for a candidate because a commercial funded by KKKOCHTOPUS told them so. The notion is ridiculous on its face.

          I ask people who say that candidates buy elections how much a Republican (it’s always a Democrat who claims it) has to spend to get them to vote Republican. The response is always that they can’t be bought? it’s always someone else who’s bought.

          It doesn’t dawn on them that ads can’t convince someone to vote for someone they dislike.

          1. “ads can’t convince someone to vote for someone”

            What can ads do for a candidate with a lot of money to spend? I think many candidates, pundits, consultants, advertisers etc believe that spending money on advertising helps with the campaign.

            1. You cut out the two most critical words ? “they dislike”.

              1. “You cut out the two most critical words”

                I thought they were the least critical words. Elections campaigns hinge on a small percentage of “undecided” voters. Election campaigns do not hinge on changing disliking voters into liking voters. You have a curious view of how elections are run and won. It’s true when you say: “It doesn’t dawn on them that ads can’t convince someone to vote for someone they dislike,” but what you’re missing is that the ads aren’t intended that way. They’re about capturing the small percentage of voters who could go either way.

    2. The I-fucking-love-science crowd still hammers on about buying elections even when studies show that doubling the amount of spending on an elections only increases votes by 1%.

      1. You have take into consideration that they define science to mean “anything that reinforces my predetermined worldview.”

      2. This is the same internet group that believes CO2 is a more potent greenhouse gas than water vapor. Idiots.

  11. “spending on an elections only increases votes by 1%.”

    An increase for A means a decrease for B. Zero sum.

    1. Not if turnout goes up.

      1. “Not if turnout goes up.”

        In which case we’re saddled with the likes of Obama and Bush.

  12. “Earned” is a pretty strong word.

  13. “I would be curious to see if it’s possible to determine the ratio of “positive” to “negative” coverage for the candidates, though.”

    Divide their totals by their unfavorability rating?

  14. . . . . The U.S. democracy died quietly from 1790 – 2010 and C.U. was the bookend opposite the “permanent” Reapportionment Act of 1929. U.S.citizens felt incapable of self-rule after the first World War and accepted leadership by unfamiliar corporate oligarchs in the House Representatives. Gradually it took more and more “corporate support” to become a Representative. The colonial one Rep./ 30,000 white male voters would have been one Rep. per 75,000 voters if women and Negros were counted at the time. The House of Representatives was supposed to be composed based on State population. This meant precisely [75,000]/Rep. was infinitely more reflective of individual citizen desire. See http://thirty-thousand.org/

    . . . . The current ridiculous electoral F-R-A-U-D is not the beginning of the end of the United States! No; the “corporate failure” of democracy began in 1790 with Noah Webster misspelling the ritual for ordered corporate copying of books as [sic] “copyright” instead of the copyrite it should have been.

    By 1929; This had resulted in citizens becoming too scared to trust themselves to govern based on individual voters. Calvin Coolidge was replaced by Herbert Hoover in 1929 and had a Supreme Court with three New York citizens and two Jews.

  15. Trump basically had 2 hours of free advertising a night on Fox.

    Lou Dobbs just slobbers over him for an hour. So does Hannity.

    And then O’Reilly constantly has Trump on, like every night, for a 15 minute heart to heart chat with no tough questions.

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