WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 – Network news broadcasts seldom mentioned campaign finance reform during a period when the Supreme Court gutted limits on how much millionaires may spend to influence elections and Congress considered a constitutional amendment to undo the court decisions, according to a Media Matters for America study that Sen. Bernie Sanders called disappointing but not surprising.
“There is a reason why confidence in the American media is declining. More and more people say the media is not paying attention to the issues of real importance to the American people. This study confirms that,” Sanders said. Sanders cited a recent Gallup poll that found Americans' faith in television news and newspapers is at or tied with record lows.
The sparse coverage of money and politics, in the words of the Media Matters report, “is part of a larger pattern in which the networks have largely underreported the rolling back of campaign finance reform and the unprecedented influx of billions of dollars into the federal election system.”
Said Sanders: “To my mind, the single most important issue facing our country today is that, as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, we are allowing billionaires to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who will represent the wealthy and powerful rather than the needs of ordinary Americans. This is an issue of enormous consequence. I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the study’s finding that the major networks barely covered the issue of money in politics.”
The study tracked coverage on network evening newscasts and Sunday shows since February of 2013 when the Supreme Court agreed to take up McCutcheon v. FEC, a case that a 5-4 majority eventually used to further gut campaign laws that already were shredded by a 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
During that 19-month period, each commercial network devoted less than one minute per month to campaign finance reform, according to the study. The PBS NewsHour stood apart with more coverage on campaign finance reform, money in politics and the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions than all the other networks combined.
The Senate last week debated an amendment that would restore the authority of Congress and state legislatures to regulate campaign spending. During that four-day debate, there was not a single mention of the issue on network newscasts, according to Media Matters.
Last Sunday, after Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of the constitutional amendment, the issue was mentioned on two Sunday shows. “This Week” showed a brief clip of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggesting that the amendment would subject the “Saturday Night Live” creator to jail. And during his first ever appearance on “Meet the Press,” Sanders mentioned Citizens United. He said it “will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever” and has put the nation on a path toward oligarchy.