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Election Day in Wisconsin is less than two weeks ago. Early voting is underway. And the Democratic Party is nowhere in sight. 

The DNC issued a tepid response to the recent outcry of their lack of monetary support by stating that Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz would head to Wisconsin “by the end of the month” to hold a fundraiser.  From what I hear, they need money, not a visit from Debbie!

After attempting to call the DNC offices earlier this week (I got no answer), I sent an email in which I promised to re-register with No Party Affiliation (or possibly even going over to the Green Party) if the DNC didn’t come through with enough financial assistance to make a difference.  I got the following email in response:



Thank you for contacting us with your concern. The Obama Campaign and the DNC are fully committed to helping Mayor Barrett win next month’s recall election in Wisconsin, which will be an important victory for working families across the Badger State.

Governor Walker has turned his back on the middle class and on Wisconsin workers, wholly embracing Mitt Romney’s failed economic philosophy – one which says that if we provide even more tax breaks and giveaways to the wealthiest few, paid for by slashing critical investments in health care, education and job creation for hardworking Americans, then everyone will be better off.

It’s the same tried-and-failed approach that has allowed Walker’s millionaire and billionaire backers, like the Koch Brothers, to keep doing phenomenally well while leaving the middle class in the lurch.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has spoken to Mayor Barrett and has pledged the DNC’s support for his successful election next month.

She will host a fundraiser for Mayor Barrett later this month, and the DNC will utilize both its substantial network of activists, volunteers and supporters and extensive online resources to assist in building the ground game that will win on Election Day.

In addition, we continue to work with the Wisconsin Democratic Party and the Barrett Campaign to determine how we can be a key partner in taking back the governor’s office for Wisconsin Democrats and giving middle-class families across the state a much-needed fresh start.

Cheryl Green

Democratic National Committee

Really? That was the best they could do.  And when I attempted a follow-up all yesterday, I couldn’t get any further than the receptionist who, when I asked her if the DNC had given any money to the Wisconsin recall effort, answered that she was not able to give me any information.

Today, I send a Direct Message on twitter to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (yes, she does follow me).  I wrote:

@DWStweets: people are very upset that DNC has not contributed $$ to Walker recall. I’m in for Randi Rhodes tomorrow. Will you come on with me?

No answer as of yet… But I will be filling in for Randi Rhodes tomorrow, so tune in to find out if she ever responded…

Money isn’t the only area in which the Dems in Wisconsin are at a disadvantage. The other is time on the publicly owned airwaves.  This morning, I spoke with Sue Wilson, director of the documentary Broadcast Blues, and founder of the organization Media Action Center who has been monitoring the airwaves in Milwaukee and concluded, based on five local talk shows on two radio stations, that Media in Milwaukee is totally unfair and unbalanced.  The Scott Walker Recall Talk Radio Project‘s findings were pretty astounding (though not unexpected):

 …based on the first seven days of the recall campaign, we are finding that WISN is airing an average of about 80 minutes, and WTMJ about 88 minutes, per day of Pro-Walker/ anti-Barrett and pro-GOP anti-Democrat messages.  On the pro- Barrett side, we have identified a total of just six and one-half minutes of pro-Barrett messaging over the seven days on WISN, and 13 and a half minutes of pro- Democratic messaging on WTMJ.   

There’s a lot more, and I encourage you to read their findings thus far.

I know many people believe that, since the Fairness Doctrine was abolished once and for all last year, there’s nothing we can do about this. Those people would be wrong.  There is still such a rule on the books known as the Zapple Doctrine that deals with political elections.   As explained in the wake of the Fairness Doctrine’s demise, 

What remains unknown about yesterday’s announcement from the Chairman is just how far this repeal goes.  While certain corollaries of the Doctrine – including the political editorializing and personal attack rules – have been specifically mentioned in press reports as being repealed, the one vestige of the doctrine that potentially has some vitality – theZapple Doctrine compelling a station to provide time to the supporters of one candidate if the station provides time to the supporters of another candidate in a political race, has never specifically been abolished, and is not mentioned in the Chairman’s statement.  Zapple, also known as “quasi-equal opportunities”, has been argued in in various recent controversies, including in connection with the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, when Kerry supporters claimed that they should get equal time to respond should certain television stations air the anti-Kerry Swift Boat “documentary.”  We have written about Zapple many times (see, for instance, here, in connection with the Citizens United decision).  What would be beneficial to broadcasters would be a determination as to whether Zapple has any remaining vitality, as some have felt that this doctrine is justified independent of the Fairness Doctrine.  Perhaps that clarification will come when the full text of the FCC action is released.

While this action has been greeted by some as confirmation that we will not see the Fairness Doctrine revived by the Commission, that jubilation seems a little unwarranted.  If there was a future FCC that decided that they wanted to impose some degree of Fairness obligations on broadcasters, they still would have ways of doing so.  After all, broadcasters are subject to an overall obligation to operate in the public interest, a standard that has, over the years, changed as Commissions change their interpretation of what it means.  As we’ve written before, some would like to put more teeth into the standard, which could include some Fairness-like requirements.  Section 315 of the Communications Act, dealing with equal opportunities for political candidates, itself has language that implies that there is some sort of Fairness obligation of broadcasters, at least in connection with their news coverage:

Nothing in the foregoing sentence shall be construed as relieving broadcasters, in connection with the presentation of newscasts, news interviews, news documentaries, and on-the-spot coverage of news events, from the obligation imposed upon them under this chapter to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.

 That’s what Sue Wilson and the Media Action Center are pushing for – a declaration from the FCC on just what an “obligation to operate in the public interest” actually means, and a ruling on how the Zapple Doctrine should be upheld.  To be continued….

In the second hour, I got to tell John Fugelsang just how much I enjoyed seeing Guilt: A Love Story last weekend here in Ft. Lauderdale, and what a great job he did filling in for Eliot Sptizer last night on Current TV.  He’s in again tonight, so catch him there, and on Stephanie Miller’s show tomorrow morning.

And don’t forget, I’m in for Randi Rhodes again tomorrow afternoon, 3-6pm ET.  Talk to you then!