The mainstream media’s glee in reporting that public sector unions have likely succeeded in drumming up enough signatures to force Wisconsin governor Scott Walker to face a recall election betrays their thinly-veiled sympathies for the effort.
The day began with a National Public Radio report that told listeners of the “festive” mood among organizers of the petition drive, contrasting enthusiastic man-on-the-street opposition to Walker with the institutional voice of the embattled state GOP.
The NPR story was careful to note that “the governor continues to take advantage of a state law that allows recall targets to raise unlimited amounts of money during a recall period.”
Scott Bauer–whose November photograph (above) of a smiling Democrat donor accompanied NPR’s story on its website–followed the same line at the Associated Press, reporting that Walker was out of the state raising money to defeat Democrats’ effort to unseat him. But Bauer added a sinister–and false–insinuation that Walker was raking in federal bailout money:
Walker has been raising money at a furious clip. He was hosting a $2,500 per-person fundraiser in New York City along with Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the founder and former CEO of American International Group. AIG was one of the world’s largest insurance companies that nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008 at the height of the financial crisis and received about $180 billion in bailout aid from the government.
Hank Greenberg left AIG in 2005–three years before the bailouts–under pressure from New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer threatened, but never filed, fraud charges against AIG. In 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission was forced to settle related claims against Greenberg, prompting the Wall Street Journal to observe: “the federal government has decided that it cannot even make a civil case for fraud against Mr. Greenberg, never mind a criminal one.” It was after Greenberg’s departure that AIG bet big on insurance policies on subprime mortgage-backed securities.
Greenberg is not to blame for the AIG bailout, nor did he benefit from it directly. Yet Bauer suggested that some of that $180 billion from federal taxpayers is finding its way to Walker’s campaign, via Greenberg and by virtue of his tenure as AIG’s CEO.
Neither NPR nor the AP reminds voters of the millions that unions are spending in the recall effort–up to $70 to $80 million, according to an NPR interview with Walker in November. It’s union “volunteers” versus Walker’s bailed-out billionaires.
Journalists will always cheer a good fight. But NPR, the AP and other mainstream media outlets are going much further, cheerleading for the campaign to recall Scott Walker and to reverse the outcome of a recent democratic election that has been twice affirmed since Walker took office.