‘Hog tight, horse high and bull strong’

Those are the words a prominent cable industry political reporter, Ted Hearn, used to describe the core criteria for “stories that claim a financial quid pro quo.” He then concluded that at least one element of a recent WaPo story on John McCain “had just the bull.”

Hearn summarizes his dispute with the WaPo (and other media reporting similar allegations) as follows:

The claim in each story was this: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) performed political “favors” for Cablevision Systems chairman Charles F. Dolan because Dolan gave $200,000 to a McCain-backed political foundation called the Reform Institute.

And the Cablevision money flowed McCain’s way, so the stories go, entirely because Dolan and McCain were political allies on the a la carte sale of cable channels like ESPN, Disney and C-SPAN as an alternative to the mega-packages consumers are offered on a take-it-or-leave it basis.

Yet each story was fundamentally flawed for at least one reason: McCain wants Congress to pass a law, or the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a regulation, that would force cable operators to provide every cable channel on an a la carte basis.

Dolan, a cable industry pioneer who helped launch HBO, has never supported cable a la carte by government fiat.

Disclosure #1: I’m employed by the cable industry, the same industry Ted Hearn covers, the same industry that despises McCain’s position on a la carte cable programming. Disclosure #2: I like McCain as a potential U.S. president and have donated to his campaign. (Shhh! Don’t tell my boss.)

Even at Steve Benen’s blog — a proudly Dem-favoring site with Dem-favoring readers — when Steve commented on the WaPo/McCain story a number of his readers took him to task for making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Sure, there are plenty of grafters and graftees out there, but after two decades of dealing with the Washington establishment, and the last three dealing with it on a regular basis, I can tell you with assurance: If you think you can buy your way to favor, you’re wasting your money. Despite all the cash flowing into it, our system still works and it still works because of the integrity of key individuals like McCain and others, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Author: PETE ABEL

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