US Election Notes:

4 November 1998

A torrent of corporate cash

Michigan Republican candidate calls teachers union "Nazis"

Christian Coalition spending $2.7 million on election effort

Justice Department warns against videotaping voters

Sharp rise in television ads

Arkansas Republican says rape victims less likely to get pregnant

 

A torrent of corporate cash

Between January 1, 1997 and September 30, 1998 the Republican Party raised $100 million and the Democratic Party $76 million in so-called "soft money," according to a study carried out by the Campaign Study Group. The amount of "soft money" any one contributor can give is not subject to any limit, but the money is not supposed to be used to back a particular candidate. In practice, the rule is often bypassed.

The most generous corporate donor was Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, which contributed $1.8 million to the Republicans and $418,000 to the Democrats. AT&T provided the Republicans with $560,000 and the Democrats $280,000; RJR Nabisco, the food and tobacco conglomerate, gave the Republicans $669,000 and the Democrats $280,000. Bill Gates's Microsoft, fighting an antitrust suit, donated $284,000 to the Republicans and $90,000 to the Democrats, the first time the firm has made a substantial contribution to either party.

By sector, the financial services industry led the pack, donating $16.6 million to the Republicans and $7.6 million to their Democratic rivals. Energy and mining companies gave the Republicans $7.3 million and the Democrats $2.3 million; agriculture, forestry and fishing split their cash, $6.2 million for the Republicans and $2.1 million for the Democrats.

Labor unions contributed $5.6 million to the Democrats and $342,000 to the Republicans. Lawyers gave the Democrats $5 million and the Republicans approximately $1 million.

The entertainment industry remains a bastion of support for Clinton. Two exclusive fundraising dinners were held this fall in the hills above Hollywood, the second at the Bel Air home of Warner Bros. co-chairman Robert Daly; singer Barbra Streisand introduced the president. USA Today notes that Clinton has been spending so much time with Dream Works studio chiefs Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen "that rumors have refused to die that he'll move west after the presidency to work for the upstart studio."

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Michigan Republican candidate calls teachers union "Nazis"

Paul DeWeese, a Republican candidate for the Michigan state legislature in the 67th House District near Lansing, called members of the Michigan Education Association "Nazis" during a cable-television broadcast last week. DeWeese has close ties to the Mackinac Center, a right-wing think tank, and Teach Michigan, an organization that promotes vouchers and other schemes to privatize public education and views the teachers union as its major obstacle.

During a call-in segment to DeWeese and his Democratic opponent Bill Keys, one viewer asked the Republican about his support for Teach Michigan. DeWeese became angered and blurted out that "MEA people are Nazis." He later refused to apologize for his remarks.

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Christian Coalition spending $2.7 million on election effort

The fundamentalist Christian Coalition asked donors this fall to contribute $2.7 million to its election fund. The fundamentalist group planned to spend $1 million on printing and distributing voter guides and congressional scorecards. It hoped to distribute some 40 million voter guides, mostly through churches on the Sunday before Election Day. An additional $1 million went for get-out-the-vote efforts for right-wing candidates.

A group critical of the Coalition, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, contacted some churches before the election asserting that their distribution of voter guides was illegal. The group threatened to report the churches to the Internal Revenue Service for violating their tax-exempt status if they gave away the guides. Americans United's director, Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister, has asked the IRS to investigate a Baltimore Baptist Church that reportedly promised to support Maryland Governor Parris Glendening's reelection in return for state economic help.

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Justice Department warns against videotaping voters

The Justice Department warned November 2 that videotaping voters at or near polling places violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Department was apparently responding to Democratic Party charges that Republicans planned to send representatives to predominantly minority areas to question, photograph or videotape voters.

The Justice Department indicated it was sending 141 federal observers to five states to help ensure that there was no intimidation of minorities on election day. The areas included districts with heavy Indian and Chinese-American populations.

Republican officials in two North Carolina counties announced plans to videotape people, ostensibly to prevent voter fraud. Similar methods, involving so-called poll-watchers, were used in the segregated South before the civil rights movement to intimidate black voters. In the more recent period the "monitoring" of voters began in conservative Orange County, California in 1988 when uniformed security guards were placed in mostly Hispanic precincts. Minority voters were threatened with severe consequences if there were any problems with voter records.

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Sharp rise in television ads

According to Rocky Mountain Media Watch, which surveyed 128 newscasts from 25 states on the weekend of October 20-22, paid political advertisements outnumbered actual political news stories on local television news programs by better than four to one.

The news shows analyzed contained 693 paid political ads and 171 political stories. The latter most often concerned developments in the Clinton sex scandal.

The Television Bureau of Advertising reports that political ads on television are up 35 percent over the last mid-term election in 1994. Those figures only covered ads aired through August, before the largest concentration began.

In Georgia Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Mark Taylor has filed a $1 million slander lawsuit against his Republican opponent, Mitch Skandalakis. Taylor claims that a Skandalakis television advertisement falsely suggests Taylor entered a drug rehabilitation clinic and has a cocaine problem. Taylor has admitted that he used the drug in his twenties.

The commercial shows a man in robe and slippers walking down a hallway that could be a hospital. A voice-over says, "Mark Taylor has some more problems to clear up before he runs for any office." The advertisement later shows a rehabilitation clinic. "Taylor, of course, has admitted he had a problem years ago. And we all wish those problems had been cured," the announcer intones.

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Arkansas Republican says rape victims less likely to get pregnant

The Republican candidate for the US Senate from Arkansas, Fay Boozman, asserted recently that rape victims were less likely to become pregnant. Boozman, an eye surgeon, said that an adrenaline rush triggered by fear causes hormonal changes that block a woman's ability to conceive during a violent attack. He denied a newspaper report that he had attributed the phenomenon to "God's little protective shield."

Confronted with the remarks, Boozman commented, "I'm not saying there is a protection against a young lady being impregnated during a rape. I didn't say that. I said it was rare for that to happen." His Democratic opponents released statements from physicians refuting his assertions.

Boozman is an anti-abortion zealot, who supports a ban on the procedure except in cases of rape and incest. He is also a proponent of abolishing the federal tax code.