Cross-posted from my North County Times blog
In the manipulative world of politics, interest groups with stealth agendas often name themselves for the opposite of their true intent. So if you see a press release from a group named “Committee to Save Baby Seals,” it might well be lobbying for fewer restrictions on killing baby seals.
So when I got a press release from a group named Small Business Majority, describing itself as representing “nonpartisan small business voices” my first thought was to wonder what minority political interest it represented.
The press release says small business owners are more likely to offer health insurance to their employees thanks to the health care overhaul legislation passed in 2010. It knows this through polling it conducted.
What the press release didn’t say is that Small Business Majority is actually strongly linked to the Democratic Party and pushes Democratic ideas on health care reform, environment and other issues.
Let’s start with the founder of Small Business Majority, John Arensmeyer.He is a board member of the Bay Area Democrats and a regular contributor to Democratic candidates.
According to Arensmeyer’s bio by the Bay Area Democrats, the Small Business Majority “promotes progressive 21st century solutions to small business needs, with a particular focus on the health care crisis faced by America’s entrepreneurs.”
Of course, the group doesn’t bill itself as “progressive” when describing itself to reporters. It describes itself as “non-partisan.”
Oddly for a group whose name implies that it represents a “majority” of small businesses, the Small Business Majority has no members. It’s staffed with Democratic insiders and uses a Democratic-friendly polling firm, noted New York Times small business columnist Robb Mandelbaum in his column, The Agenda.
“We should be clear here: The Agenda has no problem with a pay-or-play mandate. But the Small Business Majority has all the hallmarks of a shadowy interest group, starting with a name that conceals more than it reveals. Of course, that’s business as usual in Washington. But The Agenda yearns for the world as it should be, a world where organizations that purport to advocate for small firms are upfront about their own agendas and whom they represent.”
But in the real world, politically-motivated groups such as the left-leaning Small Business Majority will continue to describe themselves as non-partisan to fool the public and gullible reporters. So it’s the responsibility of journalists to point out these stealth political connections.
But from what I’ve found from Googling their references in news stories, reporters generally don’t do that.
Whether it’s through gullibility, laziness or bias, reporters who don’t identify a group’s stealth political leanings are doing their readers a disservice.
This blog item and the message it delivers should be tattooed on the forehead of every reporter and editor. Well, figuratively speaking. I’d settle for requiring reporters to daily recite the message before starting their shifts.
“Nonpartisan” is a meaningless term when describing a group. It is a tax treatment designation — nothing more.
But for the public, “nonprofit” infers objectivity — with no political bias. Of course, for most such groups (including many I support), such is not the case.
The problem is that most reporters fully understand that — when they report on Reason, Heritage, Cato, HJTA, etc. — they should (and do) include the philosophical leanings of such groups.
But somehow when they quote propaganda from liberal and progressive nonprofits, the groups’ agendas are too often not reported — leaving only “the nonprofit” label to fool too many readers too many times.
Is it media bias? You bet!
But sometimes it’s the blithe bias of the press to think that left wing groups spouting liberal bilge reflects what (almost) all the press “knows” to be true, so it’s not really that biased in their collectivist eyes.
Well done, Brad.
OOPS! Just noted that I said the wrong thing above:
— “Nonpartisan” is a meaningless term when describing a group. It is a tax treatment designation — nothing more. —
Of course, I meant to type NONPROFIT.
Of course, the term “nonpartisan” is also meaningless. It means that the outfit is not DIRECTLY tied to a single political party. After all a liberal nonprofit is indeed nonpartisan — they represent the viewpoints of the Democrat, Green, Peace &Freedom, Socialist and Communist parties — among others. Talk about diversity!
Thanks for the kind words, Richard. I’d have responded earlier, but I’ve been under the weather with a code in my doze (3 MB MP3) and am now just recovering. a-CHOO!
I’ve made a game of checking out the politics of groups described as non-partisan. In every case where there’s a bias, it’s left-leaning. And the biggest culprits are the editors who allow this deceptive practice to continue. Instead of bemoaning the Internet or raging against fickle readers as reasons for journalism’s woes, the editors should look in the mirror. They allow their reporters to work as enablers for stealth advocates, which ultimately undermines the credibility of journalism itself.