Jeffrey Katzenberg contributed $2 million to Priorities USA Action, the independent organization set up to counter the flood of campaign money GOP operatives and wealthy donors.
Priorities was formed several months ago by two former White House advisers, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney. When it was announced, Katzenberg was listed among the Democratic donors who would support the organization and help raise money. Priorities and other orgs, like the conservative American Crossroads, can raise unlimited sums from donors, but must operate independently from a candidate's campaign.
According the reports filed today with the Federal Election Commission, Priorities USA Action also raised $500,000 from Fred Eychaner, $500,000 from the SEIU, $50,000 each from director-writer J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, and $25,000 from Lawrence Fish. Priorities also has a sister org, Priorities USA, that can collect sums from donors without having to disclose their identities.
Combined, the two Priorities groups raised more than $5 million in the first half of 2011, including $3.16 million for Priorities USA Action.
In addition to raising money for Priorities, Katzenberg is a bundler for President Obama's reelection campaign, as is his political consultant, Andy Spahn.
Priorities and several other Democratic independent expenditure orgs announced on Friday that they had raised a combined $10 million in the first half of the year. Similarly structured groups supporting GOP candidates are expected to outpace them in fundraising. American Crossroads, for instance, is aiming to raise $120 million for the 2012 cycle.
In an e-mail, Burton said that "Priorities USA Action spending reflects our goals of countering Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers and holding Republican candidates accountable. We've invested in early advertising to highlight Republican proposals to end Medicare and to counter Karl Rove's $20 million in deceptive ads."
He added that they have been focusing on "targeted local expenditures" and have conducted research across the country to "ensure that we are most effectively communicating the Republican agenda of ending Medicare and slashing education to provide tax breaks for the wealthy."
In May, Priorities made its first media buy, an ad targeting Mitt Romney on Medicare. Burton said that the spot ran for one weekend in South Carolina, but said that the free media attention it got helped boost its impact.
"In responding to Karl Rove's $20 million in negative ads on the economy, we choose to invest in only swing states and, within those states, the most efficient television markets," Burton said.
Priorities USA Action spent $723,901 on ads during the period.
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Matt Damon spoke at a rally on the Washington Mall today to protest cuts to teacher salaries.
He told those gathered at the Save Our Schools march, "So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything."
Damon also spoke to Think Progress, and told the site that he supports the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who signed legislation that stripped teachers of collective bargaining rights in that state. In an interview, Damon talked of the demonization of teachers, connecting it to a larger "war on unions over the last decade."
The interview is below.
Here's my latest story for print Variety on the impact that a U.S. default would have on the entertainment economy. Like every other industry, it's not good.
Democrats are making a big push in 2012 to raise money for independent committees, which can raise unlimited sums and, with a group backed by Karl Rove called American Crossroads raising millions, proved a big boost for GOP prospects in the midterms.
With that in mind, a number of Democratic groups have sprung up, and on Friday four of the orgs announced that they had raised a combined $10 million in the first half of the year. That's expected to trail the efforts of GOP groups, with he Rove-backed American Crossroads vowing to raise $120 million for next year.
Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Hollywood donors are making a mark. Producer Steve Bing, right, among the most prolific donors to Democratic causes, gave $150,000 to American Bridge 21st Century and $250,000 to Majority PAC.
American Bridge is the org created by David Brock, a former conservative activist who founded the media watchdog org Media Matters. Also giving to the group was J.J. Abrams, $37,500, and his wife Kathleen McGrath, who also gave $37,500.
Majority PAC, set up to raise money for Senate candidate, also has collected $250 from Garrison Keillor and $250 from writer-producer Allan Burns.
Yet to come are donor figures from Priorities USA, the group set up by former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, political strategist Paul Begala and White House aide Sean Sweeney. Jeffrey Katzenberg and his political consultant, Andy Spahn, have been raising money for the group.
Like American Crossroads and other conservative groups, the Democratic activists have set up separate organizations that can also collect money in which the donors do not have to be identified. Priorities raised a total of $5 million the first half of the year: $3.16 million came from Priorities USA Action, in which donors are disclosed, and the rest went to Priorities USA, in which givers do not have to be named.
The groups operate outside of campaigns and the parties themselves, and, as such, have proven to be a potent way to get around federal election restrictions. With the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year, independent orgs are much less constrained in when and how they can run ads for or against candidates. Priorities already has been up with spots attacking GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
If President Obama wants a break from the wrenching effort to avert a debt crisis, he may want to do what some of his predecessors have done: Watch a movie. Here's my story from the print version of Variety on what may be the most prestigious venue for studios to screen their movies: The White House Family Theater.
Steven Spielberg recently revealed a choice detail from a screening some three decades ago of "E.T." at the White House. He told Aint It Cool News that after the film was over, President Ronald Reagan got up and told the small crowd of dignitaries, "There are a number of people in this room who know that everything on that screen is absolutely true."
He was joking -- Spielberg thinks -- but it gave extra fuel to UFO conspiracy theorists.
That the choice anecdote has endured also speaks to what may be the most prestigious place for a filmmaker to get a film shown: a former narrow cloakroom in the East Wing of the White House that is now the 40-seat Family Theater.
Few other venues have quite the same cachet, or even the potential to create memorable tidbits for the history books. To get a movie screened there, especially one that is turned into an event, not only is an ego boost to filmmakers but can bring extra attention to a project and perhaps give it a boost at the box office.
The occupants of the Oval Office have cherished the screening room as a prized perk, with all of Hollywood serving as their own personal Netflix. In a tradition started years ago under then-MPAA chairman Jack Valenti, studios make their films available to the First Family upon request.
"I was just delighted. I was just like 'This is fantastic,'?" says John Schultz, director of Relativity Media's "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer," which the White House requested just days before its June debut. Presumably, the print was for President Obama's daughters Sasha and Malia, but Schultz took it as a good sign for awareness of the movie. "It just speaks to what a wide reach our work has in the world. ...The idea that the president or the president's family is watching it, in such a historic spot, that is pretty amazing."
Other movies that have screened during Obama's term include "Star Trek," "Julie & Julia," "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Slumdog Millionaire," but the White House is somewhat reluctant to reveal a list of what was watched and when.
Notable screenings during the terms of past presidents have included "Midnight Cowboy" (Jimmy Carter), "Patton" (Richard Nixon) and "Thunderball" (Lyndon Johnson).
Because the screening room -- officially called the White House Family Theater -- is considered part of the private residence, White House press reps won't comment. But the administration hasn't been shy about publicizing events at the screening room that have stature: The documentary "Nuclear Tipping Point" is publicized; summer tentpoles are not.
If many in the media rushed to judgment about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, are they doing the same to his accuser? After allegations that her statements to authorities have been inconsistent, she went public this week to defend herself in a round of media interviews.
Our guest on the latest Wilshire & Washington on the Radio is Elizabeth Blackney, aka Media Lizzy. Join Maegan Carberry, Kristen Soltis and myself for our latest show, which you can listen to on the link here or in the embed below.
Variety's Jon Weisman reports from today's TV Critics Press Tour that National Geographic Channel landed an interview with George W. Bush about 9/11 that is timed to air just weeks before the 10th anniversary.
Bush says that when he first learned of the attacks, just as he was visiting a children's classroom. "My first reaction was anger: Who the hell would do that to America?" And then I immediately focused on the children, and the contrast between the ferociousness of the attack and the innocence of the children made clear ... my job was to protect.
"A lot of times a president is placed in a bubble or a capsule. This time, I was able to see the reactions of my fellow citizens."
Executive producer Peter Schnall, who conducted the interview, told the press today that "the President, in perhaps more detail than he has ever done before, spoke about, hour by hour, day by day, the events he went through both as President and Commander-in-Chief and as father and husband."
The interview will be shown on Aug. 28.
It's hard to know what the departure of Mark Rosenthal says about the channel's hiring of Keith Olbermann and its move to a format that has a closer resemblance to cable news.
Rosenthal spent two years as CEO, having been hired from MTV Networks.
The cabler says that co-founder Joel Hyatt will step into Rosenthal's role.
Variety's Andrew Wallenstein reports that Current issued a statement that read, "During Mark's tenure, Current has become a focused cable network with a world-class leadership team, a new brand identity, a move towards long-form, ratings-driven factual programming, and a solid foundation for growth."
Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock will perform at an Aug. 3 fund-raiser in Chicago for President Obama's 50th birthday.
Tickets to the Aragon ballroom event start at $200 and run to $35,800 for a dinner and briefing at Obama's reelection headquarters, the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports.
Also performing will be OK GO.
The question is whether Obama will be there or if he'll be engaged in a debt crisis if the U.S. defaults on Aug. 2. He turns 50 on Aug. 4.
There are some parallels to Obama's 50th and that of the last Democrat to hold the White House, Bill Clinton. The latter held a giant fundraising gala for his 50th at the Radio City Music Hall on Aug. 18, 1996, with Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Tim Conway, and Aretha Franklin appearing. Just as Obama faces wariness from the left over massive cuts to popular programs, Clinton faced protesters to his recent signing of a welfare reform bill. Video of Clinton's event here.
Bradlee Dean, a heavy metal rocker who runs a conservative Christian ministry, filed a $50 million defamation suit against Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, NBC and the Minnesota Independent over a series of stories that he said implied that he advocated killing homosexuals.
But his suit seems to be more about pointing out liberal media bias against presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who has supported Dean. Dean charges in his complaint that they “maliciously set out to and did harm not only the Plaintiffs but by extension also the presidential campaign of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.”
The Independent published stories about a statement that Dean made on his May 15, 2010 radio show, in which he said, “Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”
“If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that,” Dean continued. “That is what you are seeing in America."
Dean later issued a statement in which he said that his ministry "never and will never call for the execution of homosexuals," and the Independent published a followup story on his remarks. Dean said that his original remarks "may not have been as clear as we would have otherwise planned it to be."
Maddow picked up on the story on Aug. 9 of last year in a segment on Dean's ties to Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. She referenced Dean's original remarks but also his disclaimer. But Dean's suit contends that the disclaimer was "disingenuous, insincere, false and meaningless."
The suit was filed by Larry Klayman, founder of conservative org Freedom Watch. "This case is filed as a matter of principle," Klayman said in a statement. "We need more Bradlee Deans in the world and hateful left wing television commentators must be made to respect not only his mission but the law."
The suit calls Andy Birkey, the MN Independent reporter, "a secularist and/or atheist and gay activist with a politically left ideology who despises people of faith, included but not limited to the Congresswoman Michele Bachmann" and calls Maddow "also of a leftist political ideology, who as a committed and also proud lesbian is active in the so-called gay rights movement."
MSNBC says of the complaint: "This suit is baseless and we stand by our reporting."
Maddow's segment, via Mediaite, is below.
CNN host Piers Morgan again issued a denial today that he was complicit in phone hacking when he was the editor of British tabloids. His statement came after a blogger posted a 2009 interview that's been interpreted as Morgan having knowledge of hacking when he was editor of two of Rupert Murdoch's British tabloids.
"As I have said before, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone," Morgan said in his statement, per ABC News.
Morgan said in the interview, "I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market." But Morgan says that the statements he made do not mean that he had knowledge of the hacking and other activities when he edited the papers.
Going to 'Town': Ben Affleck is mystified as to why Republicans used a clip of his movie "The Town" to encourage members to back John Boehner's debt plan. In the clip, a bank robber asks his friend to take part in a revenge attack.
"I don't know if this is a compliment or the ultimate repudiation," Affleck said in a statement to the Huffington Post. "But if they're going to be watching movies, I think "The Company Men" is more appropriate."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) jumped on reports that the clip was used as a motivational tool.
“In the scene they chose to inspire their House freshmen, one of the crooks gives a pep talk to the other right before they both put on hockey masks, bludgeon two men with sticks and shoot a man in the leg,” Schumer said, per ABC News. “Literally, in the movie the protagonists say, people are going to get hurt, but they have to go ahead and do it anyway.”
Savage 2: In a Funny or Die video, Dan Savage warns Rick Santorum that he "won't redefine 'Rick' if you don't attack gay people during your campaign."
Warren's Warning: Rick Warren, who gave the invocation at President Obama's inauguration, rails against taxes on Twitter then retracts the comment. (Wonkette)
Cool to Warming Ad: Newt Gingrich now says that an ad he did with Nancy Pelosi for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection was "misconstrued." He said he "was trying to make a point that we shouldn't be afraid to debate the left, even on the environment." although the spot is clear that Gingrich and Pelosi are calling for bipartisan action on climate change. (Politico)
President Obama should walk to the Capitol to try to meet with John Boehner. If he doesn't meet, then go home. But play it to maximum coverage. (via Vanity Fair).
Three same-sex couples got married after the Broadway performance of "Hair" on Monday night. While legit played a big role in getting marriage passed in the Empire State, attention will next turn to California, with a benefit performance in September of Dustin Lance Black's "8."
Here's video from last night's event.
Place your bets: What day this week will at least one of the cable news networks start a countdown clock for the debt ceiling crisis?
As the U.S. heads perilously close to a self-imposed default, there is no shortage of dire warnings of what would result. But despite the media saturation and the multiple warnings of President Obama (and last night's admonishment of a "three-ring circus") along with a bevy of experts, the markets have yet to erupt.
Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in the New York Times, "Despite warnings that a deal would need to be brokered by Sunday night before the Asian markets opened, stocks merely stumbled on Monday — the type of weakness usually associated with soft corporate earnings instead of an economic apocalypse."
That doesn't mean the markets won't collapse. Recall the moment in the HBO adaptation of "Too Big to Fail," when then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is relieved at the initial market response to letting Lehman Brothers fall off the cliff. His confidence was short lived before all hell broke loose.
Al Gore writes that the failure to strike a deal to the dysfunction of public discourse, played out in the media, that has parallels to the ignorance of climate science. He writes, "Dramatic changes in the way we communicate with one another about issues affecting the common good have diminished the role of reason and fact-based analysis, encouraging ideological extremists to construct their own alternative version of reality and defend it against fact-based reasoning."
Jon Stewart says the debt debate is playing out like a passive-aggressive breakup. "My question to Congress, and, I think, a question many Americans may be sharing as of tonight, is this: do you want out of this relationship so bad, but don't have the balls to leave, so you've all decided to act like such giant assholes you force us to break up with you? Because if so, just get the fuck out."
Footnote to the T-bill: Broadcasters are wary that a debt deal will include plans to auction off the airwaves, and are scrambling to make sure that any such provision contains protections for stations. Sure, it's a "footnote" in the grand scheme of things, says Gordon Smith of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, but one that is the "life and death" of the industry.
Smith, a former Republican senator from Oregon, said on a conference call with reporters that when he voted to raise the debt ceiling, he'd try to explain it to his constituents, but the legislative manuever would just get more unpopular.
Update: The NAB released this statement this morning on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's debt proposal, which counts on revenue from the auctioning off of spectrum.
Spokesman Dennis Wharton says, "NAB is deeply concerned about provisions currently in Senate Majority Leader Reid's legislation that would threaten the future of a great American institution -- free and local television. We will work with him as the process moves forward in hopes that our issues can be addressed."
Alphabet Soup: Ron Brownstein, editorial director of the National Journal Group, is joining ABC News as an election and political analyst. He'll also be a senior political analyst at CNN.
Legal Honors: Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal eagles leading the effort to overturn Prop 8, have won the American Bar Assn.'s highest honor, the ABA Medal. "Our courts are being starved for lack of funding," said ABA president Stephen N. Zack. "Through their leadership on the Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, David and Ted have effectively worked to protect the third co-equal branch of government and our constitutional democracy.”
With lawmakers struggling to come up with a solution to an impasse on raising the nation's debt ceiling, President Obama has scheduled a primetime speech for tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
The White House says that the president will address "the statemate in Washington over avoiding default and the best approach to cutting deficits."
It means that the networks will have to rejigger their lineups, although the middle of the summer months isn't exactly peak viewing time.
Update: The biggest impact will be on the penultimate episode of ABC's "The Bachelorette," which will be pushed back until Obama's speech and John Boehner's response are over. Otherwise, it's just reruns.
Plans were announced on Sunday for a rollout of the Sarah Palin documentary "The Undefeated" on pay-per-view and video on demand, as well as a DVD launch with a special edition for Walmart stores.
The movie, distributed by ARC Entertainment, is in the midst of a limited theatrical release, with plans to be announced this week for more screens in a run through August and September, said the film's director, Stephen Bannon.
The movie will be available on pay-per-view and video-on-demand starting Sept. 1, with such cable and satellite companies as DirecTV, DISH Network and Time Warner Cable, with the film available in about 75 million homes. ARC said that the release will be backed by a "multi-million dollar marketing campaign," but the movie also has benefited from extensive free-media coverage.
It will make its homevideo debut on Oct. 4, with an initial unit shipment of about 250,000, according to ARC Entertainment. Walmart will be selling a "special edition" version of the film.
In its opening weekend July 15-17 in 10 cites, the film averaged about $6,500-per-screen, which is not a sensation but also not a box office wipeout. Distributors were pleased that the results were solid enough to expand to five more cities including Milwaukee, Vero Beach, Fla., Ontario, Calif., Charlotte, N.C. and Tucson, Arizona. The film is being distributed digitally through Cinedigm.
Bannon said that the movie's theatrical rollout has enabled it to receive extensive free-media coverage, which will in turn help the PPV release. That is one of the reasons that they decided to go for a release on home screens earlier than expected, he said.
"With the audience response, we want to strike while the iron is hot," he said.
Max Page, the 6-year-old child actor who played mini Darth Vader in the VW Superbowl spot, is planning to visit Capitol Hill on Monday to lobby against possible cuts to Medicaid that covers some 30 million children.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who profiles Page on CNN's "Sanjay Gupta MD" this weekend, calls the child actor especially "resilient," as he has a story that reflects the need for specialized medical care for children. Page has a rare congenital heart condition that has required him to have several pacemakers, and although he is covered by his family's private medical insurance, their premiums run higher than their mortgage and car payments combined.
Although the Pages did not receive Medicaid supplements, "a lot of people you might be surprised are dependent on Medicaid," Gupta says.
He also says that Page's story points to another problem: Threatened cuts to the Children's Hospital Graduate Education Program, which helps train pediatricians and specialists. That's critical to the country's 56 children's hospitals, a relatively small figure that nevertheless are necessary for the kind of specialized care that Page and others need. The children's hospitals train 40% of all pediatricians in the country, and Gupta fears that the investment won't be made in the profession without the government commitment.
Gupta says that deficit reduction proposals tied to raising the debt ceiling, like the House Republicans' Cut, Cap and Balance legislation and the so-called Gang of Six plan, relied on Medicaid cuts. The problem is that relatively little attention has been paid to the impact of potential Medicaid cuts on children.
Page, who will be lobbying along with the National Assn. of Children's Hospitals, plans to meet with lawmakers such as Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Gupta says.
"He's very mature," he says. "Kids who have been in serious medical situations tend to be mature." Page's condition also may have helped him be comfortable on a set. "His mom says that his entire life, he's been under lights --- for the tests and the doctors, and in the kind of organized chaos of a hospital. So he's make that all work for him."
Clips from Gupta's segment are below.
Voters with only a cursory interest in the current debate over raising the debt ceiling are likely to see games of political brinksmanship, not compromise. In fact, one of the problems in coming up with a deal is that "compromise" has become a sign of weakness in the current discourse. On the latest Wilshire and Washington on the Radio, we talked to Jonathan Miller, one of the founders of the group No Labels and the former state treasurer of Kentucky.
On Wednesday, Tim Pawlenty unveiled a new ad that featured footage from the U.S. hockey team's victory against the USSR in the 1980 Olympics --- referred to in the annals of sports history as the "miracle on ice."
Today, ABC is objecting to the spot, claiming that it violates copyright and proprietary rights, according to the Des Moines Register. An ABC executive said she also planned to inform the agent of Al Michaels, the announcer who did play-by-play during that historic game.
Pawlenty was not a member of the hockey team, but he hails from the same state, Minnesota, as many of its members. The footage was used in a spot called "American Comeback" that touts Pawlenty's record in going up against the odds.
His spokesman, Alex Conant, indicates that the campaign's use of the footage complies with "fair use" doctrine. This has been the argument of campaigns in the use of music and other types of video footage, often with limited success. Fox News sued Missouri Senate candidate Robin Carnahan's campaign last year after it used footage of an interview her Republican rival, Roy Blunt, gave on the network.
The rules of what specifically falls under "fair use" were never defined by lawmakers and have been left to the courts to determine. While many media organizations take it to mean short clips, there are no hard and fast rules on what is fair use and what is not.
In contrast to Carnahan's ad, Pawlenty's use of footage is rather fleeting, but long enough to stir up ABC legal. Often it depends on how far a campaign wants to take a legal battle, so if the ad below suddenly disappears, we'll know who prevailed.
A few quick takes this morning...
Dan Savage, the gay columnist who appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday and apologized for saying of Republicans --- "I wish they were all f--king dead" --- isn't backing away from other comments he made about Rick Santorum.
"I sometimes think about f--king the shit out of Rick Santorum......he needs it. So, it's not, it's not just women we're talking about f--king. Like, let's bone that Santorum boy."
Now Santorum is using Savage's comments in fund-raising appeals. (Talking Points Memo).
Colbert, Bettered: Stephen Colbert is the latest personality to do a spot for Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign. (Towleroad)
Playing Palin: Julianne Moore, who recently shot HBO's "Game Change," says of playing Sarah Palin, "It was hard, it was really, really hard. I had a great director, Jay Roach who was incredible. I adored him, [he was] so supportive and so smart. I did a lot of research and worked really hard on it, but It's hard to play someone who is very present in people's minds, who's on television, who's incredibly idiosyncratic. I did my best. We'll see, I hope I pulled it off." (Politico).
Apology? Not Quite: Louis C.K. regrets making graphic insults about Sarah Palin, but he's not apologizing for them. In fact, he's saying a few more. (Mediaite).
Last night Cenk Uygur posted this YouTube video of why he left MSNBC and even turned down an offer for another project. The long and the short of it: The network wanted him to "play ball" with the establishment, he says. Uygur plans to appear tonight on Current TV's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." (Hey, yesterday I just guessed this would happen.)
A row of closed storefronts in a decaying mall complex in North Hollywood were Mitt Romney's backdrop for a press conference today in which he pointed to the vacant strip mall as evidence of the languishing economy under President Obama.
The intent of the event was obvious: To get a visual image closed shops in California, a bluer than blue state where Obama's popularity still remains high. As such, Romney's rhetoric was slightly less pointed than other recent campaign appearances, including a recent photo op at a closed Allentown, Pa. steel plant.
From a searing asphalt parking lot before a dozen or so reporters and a couple dozen supporters, Romney noted that a massive revitalization project for the mall, Valley Plaza, fell through because of the dire economy.
"Obviously the challenges here are not all the result of the current administration," he said. "A lot of the economic woes that you see around you and around the country are the result of errors that have been made over a long period of time. But what has happened in the last couple of years has not helped."
Romney also cited a campaign appearance by John F. Kennedy at Valley Plaza in 1960, when it was one of the most vital shopping districts in the region.
"The president is fond of saying that he didn't cause the recession, that he inherited the recession and that's true," he said. "But he made it worse. And he also made worse the recovery."
He said that the president's policies "almost without question" have caused the recession to be "deeper and longer" that it could have been. He also backed the "cut, cap and balance" proposal recently passed by the House to cut the deficit.
This was Romney's first public event of the 2012 race in Southern California, where candidates in both parties traditionally trek to raise money from a goldmine of well-heeled donors. Romney was planning to attend several fund-raising events today and Thursday. One of his early supporters from Hollywood, Harry Sloan, said that plans are in the works for an industry-centric fund-raiser soon.
Some supporters carried signs that read, "Obama isn't working." Several chanted "We want Mitt" as the Los Angeles city councilman for the area, Paul Krekorian, held a rebuttal press conference in the same location after Romney left.
Krekorian and Eric Bauman, Los Angeles Democratic Party chairman, pushed back on Romney's notion that Obama bears some of the blame for the shuttered shopping district. Although the plans for a $333 million redevelopment of stores, restaurants, shops and even studio soundstages fell through, Krekorian said that the mall's eventual demise took place "during the eight years of the Bush administration" and that the owner is at work on new proposals for the site.
"I am disappointed that he chose to use my neighborhood and one of my top economic priorities as essentially a movie set for his production today," Krekorian told reporters.
Bauman, meanwhile, called Romney a "failed governor," and an aide handed out copies of a Bloomberg News story detailing job cuts at companies controlled by Bain Capital while he ran the private equity firm.
Update: A rep for developer J.H. Snyder Co., which gave up redevelopment rights to the property in April, told the Daily News that they "don't place blame on Obama or his policies" in the project falling through.
My video from the press conference below.
The host of "MSNBC Live" is leaving the news channel after the network "decided to make a change at 6 p.m."
"It's unfortunate that Cenk has declined our offer to have him develop and host a program for another timeslot," a network spokesman said.
Uygur is planning to "discuss the truth surrounding his departure" on Thursday, which sounds pretty cryptic. Current TV-bound?
On the same day that Mitt Romney appeared in North Hollywood where he slammed President Obama for his handling of the economy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry also was in Los Angeles today to court potential donors and supporters should he run for president.
Sources say that he appeared at an event in Century City this morning that was coordinated by Rene Croce, a top professional fundraiser for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson in their gubernatorial bids. Perry appeared at meet-and-greet in Century City, at an event where co-hosts included Michael Fourticq, partner in investment firm Hancock Park Associates.
Perry then trekked to Fresno to meet with business leaders there, and has set up meetings in San Francisco and San Jose on Thursday.
A spokesman for Perry said that "no decision has been made" on whether he will run. But the courting of potential donors in California --- an ATM for both parties --- is like a rite of passage for presidential prospects.
Two Capitol Hill lawmakers are now pressing Dow Jones’ editorial oversight committee to give assurances that no News Corp. senior executives “were aware of or complicit in any wrongdoing” in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the special committee that was formed after News Corp. purchased Dow Jones & Co. in 2007.
In their letter, they focus on the role of Les Hinton, who served as executive chairman of News Intl., the parent of News of the World, before becoming publisher of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones in 2007. Hinton resigned on Friday. Rockefeller and Boxer are urging the Dow Jones special committee to conduct a broader investigation.
The two senators stated in their letter, “We were pleased to learn that the Special Committee will take steps to ensure that no illegal activity took place at Dow Jones & Company publications. But we were surprised that the Committee’s statement appears to foreclose any further investigation, despite the fact that the former chief executive officer of Dow Jones and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal served as the top official at News International while illegal phone hacking occurred at its newspapers.”
They say that evidence recently discovered “raises questions’ about Hinton’s testimony before Parliament in 2007 and 2009, in which he said that the phone hacking was limited to one of the News of the World reporters, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. They noted that Hinton “admitted that he authorized payments to both Mr. Goodman and Mr. Mulcaire after both had been sentenced for their role in illegal phone hacking.”
In his statement upon resignation, Hinton said that his testimony before British lawmakers was “given honestly.” “If others had evidence that wrongdoing went further, I was not told about it,” he said.
The two senators want the Dow Jones special committee to answer questions about whether it investigated Hinton’s knowledge of the alleged criminal activity before or after he was hired as the publisher of the Journal.
“The information will help give Americans confidence that the illegal activity that appears to have taken place at News Corporation in the United Kingdom did not spread to News Corporation entities in the United States,” they wrote.
Last week, Rockefeller and Boxer called for the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to look into allegations that News Corp. may have violated anti-bribery laws, and allegations that the phones of 9/11 victims were hacked. In their letter to the Dow Jones Special Committee, the two senators noted that the DOJ has acknowledged it has started an investigation. The FBI also is looking into the claims of phone hacking of 9/11 victims.
Rockefeller is the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
A parliamentary panel looking into the phone hacking scandal at News of the World is charging that News Intl., the News Corp. subsidiary, attempted to "deliberately thwart" the original investigation. It also finds fault with the original inquiry conducted by police.
"There has been a catalogue of failures by the Metropolitan Police, and deliberate attempts by News International to thwart the various investigations," MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, said in a statement. "Police and prosecutors have been arguing over the interpretation of the law.
"The new inquiry requires additional resources and if these are not forthcoming, it will take years to inform all the potential victims. The victims of hacking should have come first and I am shocked that this has not happened."
Their full report is here.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron said that a judicial inquiry into the scandal will be widened to include broadcasters and social media.
Gore Weighs In: Former Vice President Al Gore, long a critic of the state of the media, writes on Huffington Post that "there is also a need for a broader conversation about how the media has fallen down on its responsibilities -- not by tapping the phones of celebrities, politicians and victims of crimes and terrorist attacks -- but by failing to insure the public is truly informed about the most pressing issues of the day." With Keith Olbermann at the helm, Gore's Current TV has had extensive coverage, including live streaming of the Murdoch testimony on Tuesday.
Stewart's Take: Wendi Deng's counter-hit at Rupert Murdoch's pie-assailant wins over Jon Stewart.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Mitt Romney will appear Wednesday afternoon at an aging Valley Plaza shopping mall for a press conference, where he's expected to attack President Obama's handling of the economy.
I'm pretty certain that Romney is the first 2012 GOP candidate to make a non-fundraising appearance in California, although he will be raising money at other events during the day.
His locale at a mall that has fallen on hard times is intended to highlight the poor business environment and lack of job creation during Obama's term, which is a central theme of his campaign.
It also is near the spot where another Massachusetts politician, John F. Kennedy, campaigned in 1960. Back then, he gave a stump speech in the parking lot at Sears at Valley Plaza and then rode in a motorcade down Laurel Canyon Boulevard. But Valley and Laurel Plaza, another nearby shopping complex, have become an "economic black hole," in the words of Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian. Developer J.H. Snyder recently abandoned plans to redevelop the area.
Krekorian, who represents the region, plans to hold his own press conference to report on the progress made in revitalizing the area.
Martin Sheen testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing today to call for federal funding of drug courts, an alternative means of trying nonviolent offenders that offer them substance abuse programs rather than prison terms.
Advocates say that drug courts have proven effective in reducing recidivism rates. Sheen told reporters that the issue was "deeply personal," as he has long been an advocate of social justice causes and his son, Charlie, has long battled addiction.
Sheen appeared on the invite of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
The Justice Department is launching a "preliminary inquiry" into whether News Corp. violated anti-bribery laws if News of the World reporters or representatives paid bribes to British police for information, ABC News says.
As I wrote about last week, the question is whether News Corp. ran afoul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 statute that bans giving foreign officials anything of value to obtain or gain work or secure an unfair advantage. The law traditionally has been applied in cases where contracts try to win lucrative contracts from foreign governments, but federal regulators have been more aggressive in pursuing other claims. It seems that if the Justice Department were to move forward in prosecuting News Corp. or its senior executives, it would first have to establish that the bribing was systemic and not a series of isolated incidents.
Meanwhile, another group of shareholders have filed a class-action suit against News Corp., claiming mismanagement.
And CNN's Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror, is denying that he ever hacked phones, after a Conservative member of Parliament claimed that he had done so while she questioned Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch today.
Rupert Murdoch told members of Parliament that this was "the most humble day of my life," and while he again apologized for the phone hacking scandal that has riveted Britain, he said that he was not considering resigning nor did he accept responsibility for the mistake and inactions of his lieutenants.
He had moments of defiance and gave terse answers, but his appearance before a government body was a contrast to the aura that has surrounded him all of these years, the all-powerful figure whose influence reaches all corners of the globe (and iconic enough to inspire a James Bond villain played by Jonathan Pryce). Instead, what we got on Tuesday was a rather contrite CEO and a reminder that he's not young. His son James often stepped in to reinforce a point in their defense. When the pie-thrower lunged toward him, his wife Wendi leapt to his defense and struck the attacker. It almost immediately inspired Tweets that that one incident did more to help give sympathy to Murdoch than all of his crisis communicators could have. Members of Parliament apologized to him and thanked him for staying after a short break.
Nevertheless, it didn't obscure the fact that Murdoch is walking a fine like between claiming to be unaware of the hacking and the faulty internal investigation and seeming just plain out of touch.
"I may have been lax in not asking more, but it is such a tiny part of our business," Murdoch said.
With ongoing police investigations, an FBI inquiry and more Parliament hearings. very few questions were answered. More revelations are sure to come. Murdoch and James Murdoch largely deflected notions that the company bought silence from celebrities and others hacked via hefty settlements. There may be greater talk of a succession plan, his image may no longer be the invincible figure of the past, but Murdoch has a pretty firm grip on the board of News Corp. And while this may have been the most humble day of his life, that's not the same as being humbled.
Asked why he wouldn't step down, Murdoch said, “Because I feel that people I trusted — I’m not saying who, I don’t know what level — have let me down. I think they behaved disgracefully, and it’s for them to pay. I think that, frankly, I’m the best person to clean this up.”
Golden State Gold: About one-fourth of the money President Obama's reelection campaign raised from high dollar donors came from California, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mitt Romney, who has raised more than any other GOP candidate so far, may have a problem in drawing on his donors for more: A big chunk of his contributors have already maxed out.
Conor Friedersdorf went to a screening of "The Undefeated" in Orange County that was scheduled for a 12:01 a.m. showing on opening day, but no one showed.
He wrote about it, and the result has been a furor from bloggers on the right, in the form of nasty Tweets and a conspiracy theory that the whole screening was arranged by AMC employees and the mainstream media to discredit the film.
Today Friedersdorf wrote a followup, shell shocked not only at the attention that his post got, but at the personal nature of the attacks on him. He notes that other screenings throughout the weekend sold out, but his critics, like Andrew Breitbart and William Collier, seem miffed that so much of the mainstream media picked up his news of the empty theater.
Friedersdorf tries to give the whole thing some perspective:
He writes, "The year is 2012. Al Gore and Michael Moore release a big budget polemic/documentary together. The subject doesn't matter. Theaters are permitted to start showing it on a Friday, and eager to get a jump on things, a movie house in Berkeley screens it at 12:01 am. Three conservative journalists attend together: Bill O'Reilly for Fox News, James O'Keefe for the Breitbart sites, and a third for Human Events. Upon arriving, however, they find they're the only ones there. In Berkeley, California, no one showed up to the debut! Here's the question, critics of mine: Do you think that would be a story? Would they cover it? Would they refrain from making larger speculative assertions about what it meant for the success of the film, as I refrained from doing in my Palin piece?"
Friedersdorf wrote about what was going on at the Orange theater complex: Fans flooding in to see the final Harry Potter. The makers of "The Undefeated" were well aware going in that what they were doing was a risk, not only because they were trying to make a mark against the zoo of the summer box office but that they were trying to do so with a documentary about a polarizing political figure. They've been pretty skill full at drawing all sort of free media, including coverage of a premiere screening in Iowa and the cover of Newsweek. Far from ignoring the movie, the mainstream media is actually intrigued by it. But the summer is the summer. So far, the box office results for "The Undefeated" aren't a bomb, but they aren't a bonanza either.
Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti will reprise his role as the mayor of Los Angeles on an episode of TNT's "The Closer" tonight.
Garcetti is expected to run for the real mayoralship of Los Angeles, as the term of Antonio Villaraigosa expires in 2013.
Garcetti's father, former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, is a consulting producer on the series.
"The Undefeated" ended up grossing $65,132 on 10 screens, according to Box Office Mojo, of a per-screen average of $6,513. The movie didn't fizzle, but it's not a breakout sensation, either. Obviously, it went up against the Harry Potter juggernaut, but an opening weekend is traditionally a high water mark for many releases.
As I said yesterday, documentaries, particularly politically charged ones, are not as easy to predict. As the distributor plans to roll the movie out in more cities, a key factor in growing the audience may be in word of mouth and more free media. The challenge is to get that in an ultra-competitive marketplace, where your competition isn't so much the big summer blockbuster but the array of other issue-oriented documentaries also looking to be counter-programming.
Joshua Green of The Atlantic writes of how political documentaries usually open with no where to go but down, but that this project could confound expectations, largely because of the motives of moviegoers are harder to predict when it comes to partisan politics.
Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for "Milk," has written a new play on the Prop 8 trial that will be performed at a stage reading on Broadway and then head out to a number of college campuses. The play, "8," is based on transcripts, interviews and Black's own observations when he attended the trial last year. The reading will take place Sept. 19 at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. Black is a member of the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that is challenging Prop 8 in the federal courts. (New York Times).
More Intrigue: Michael Wolff sent out a tweet over the weekend claiming that Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth Murdoch was overheard saying that James and Rebekah f---ed the company." The quote is being dismissed by reps. (Guardian).
Fonda Furor: Jane Fonda says that QVC dropped her appearance to promote a new book after viewers complained.
React from the Right: As progressive groups and public interest orgs weigh in on the News Corp. phone hacking scandal, Accuracy in Media, the conservative watchdog org which tracks liberal media bias, called for restraint.
Its senior analyst Roger Aronoff said in a statement: “While clearly some of the practices of News Corp’s News of the World involving hacking into emails and cell phone messages were quite despicable, leading to the paper being shut down, it is premature to assume individual criminal liability, or that Rupert Murdoch media properties in this country engaged in similar practices,” Aronoff said. “We were reminded in the DSK case that the presumption of innocence still matters in this country, despite the charges.”
“The Left smells blood, and would love to see Fox News in particular somehow implicated and weakened by this scandal,” added Aronoff. “But it should be remembered that Murdoch has done much to counter the weight of the liberal influence in the mainstream media by allowing conservative voices a platform, which has helped shape the debate on many issues in this country, and for that he should be applauded. Beyond that, we should reserve judgment until the facts are known.”
Media Matters for America, among the most persistent critics of Fox News, has been nonstop in its coverage of the scandal. Today, the org took on the Wall Street Journal, in particular the paper's defense of Les Hinton, who resigned as publisher on Friday.
Eric Boehlert of Media Matters writes, "The editorial, which is being eviscerated online, as well it should, represents just one example in recent days of Murdoch’s American properties trying desperately to come to their owner’s aid by offering up the unseemly combination of fabrications and self-pity."
Producers of "The Undefeated" say they are very pleased with the initial returns over the weekend, with a $5,000-per-screen average in 10 cities through Saturday night, according to distributor ARC Entertainment.
Documentaries are a tough sell in any market, and producer Steve Bannon noted that they not only opened in summer, but marketed almost entirely through social media and word of mouth. That's in contrast to say, a Michael Moore documentary which traditionally comes with a large advertising campaign.
The film opened in 10 markets on Friday: Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Orange, Calif.
Trevor Drinkwater, CEO of ARC Entertainment, said in a statement that they "expect word-of-mouth to kep ticket sales strong and we will definitely expand the film to a wider audience." He said plans will be announced soon for a wider rollout.
The $1 million documentary saved distribution costs by opening on digital screens in conjunction with Cinedigm. Glenn Bracken Evans, co-founder of Victory Film Group, said that in some markets the film will hit the $10,000 per screen average, including Phoenix and Orange County.
It's tricky to compare the opening weekend of documentaries in limited release. It's all relative. Bannon's "In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed," opened on six screens in 2004 with a per-screen average of $7,829, according to Box Office Mojo. Also in 2004, "Celsius 41.11: The Truth Behind the Lies of Fahrenheit 9/11," posted an $801 per screen average on 116 screens. Last year, "I Want Your Money" opened in 537 theaters for a per-screen average of $464.
Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," the highest grossing documentary of all time, opened in 2004 in 868 theaters and a per-screen average of $27,558, according to Box Office Mojo.
Update: Rotten Tomatoes survey of reviews show the movie getting panned.
So far, Hollywood is shelling out big for President Obama's reelection, way ahead of any of his Republican rivals. The totals will be in soon, but a Variety survey of the latest campaign contributions makes it apparent that the industry will be a prime source of donations for his campaign.
Among the stars who've given to the Obama Victory Fund, which collects for his reelection and the Democratic National Committee, are Jennifer Garner, Ellen Degeneres, Jane Lynch, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, David Hyde Pierce, James Taylor, Eddie Murphy, Rita Wilson Will Ferrell, Kate Capshaw, Yeardley Smith, Carl Reiner, Dave Koz and Dennis Haysbert.
Studio chiefs and senior execs that have contributed include Warner Bros.' Jeff Robinov, CBS Films' Any Baer, HBO's Michael Lombardo and Sue Naegle, Universal's Ron Meyer, The Walt Disney Co.'s Robert Iger, Sony's Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, and MGM's Roger Birnbaum. Also among the exec ranks: NBC U's Rick Cotton, CAA's Kevin Huvane, David O'Connor and Richard Lovett, Comcast's Jeff Shell, David L. Cohen and Ralph Roberts Sr. and WME's Ari Emanuel.
Also contributing were Alan Ladd Jr., George Stevens Jr., John August, author Gregory Maguire, Marcy Carsey, Peg Yorkin, Michael Patrick King, Brian Grazer, Peter Chernin, Edgar Bronfman Sr., Wallis Annenberg, Skip Paul, John Matoian, Bradley Bell, John Langley, Berry Gordy, Clarence Avant, Roland Emmerich, Gerald Breslauer, Susan Harris, Peter Morton, John Wells, Joss Whedon, Sarah Timberman and Paul Junger Witt.
By contrast, only a handful of Hollywood figures are going for GOP candidates so far. Mitt Romney has collected contributions from former MGM chief Harry Sloan and former Disney executive Gary L. Wilson, along with such So Cal notables as Jenny Craig, Jackie Autry, Gordon Crawford, Tim Leiweke and Gary Winnick. Michele Bachmann collected a $500 contribution from actor-writer Ben Stein. And former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, who endorsed Obama in 2008, has given to two GOP candidates, Romney and Tim Pawlenty.
Update: More stars giving to Obama, via Politico: Michael Douglas, Gwenyth Paltrow, Sharon Stone, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Tony Shalhoub, Scott Bakula, Richard Dean Anderson, Vanessa Williams, Anthony Edwards, Brenda Strong and Jennifer Morrison.
The Obama campaign raised $86 million in the most recent quarter, $47 million for Obama's reelection bid and $38 million for the Democratic National Committee. Politico estimates that 40% of the month came through campaign bundlers, which include Katzenberg and political consultant Andy Spahn as well as the two Southern California finance co-chairs, John Emerson and Ken Solomon. The campaign released a full list of bundlers on Friday.
There's more to come: Spahn and Katzenberg have been raising money for Priorities USA, an independent expenditure group formed by two former Obama aides that can raise unlimited sums from individual donors. The official campaign is limited to donations of $2,500 per person for the primary and $2,500 per person for the general election. The DNC also can raise up to $30,800 per person.
Rupert Murdoch created some furor when it was disclosed that the company donated $1.25 million last year to the Republican Governors Assn., triggering calls for an investigation by its Democratic counterpart.
With shareholders raising concerns, the company in April put a new disclosure policy in place, and on Friday they unveiled a centralized rundown of all of their corporate-level giving for the first six months of the year.
The biggest single contribution was a $25,000 donation made to the Democratic Governors Assn. via Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corp. Also receiving money through its affiliates were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Many of the sums were via the Fox Group, the division that includes 20th Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting.
A full rundown is here.
The Obama 2012 campaign has released a list of campaign bundlers, the key figures who are doing more than just writing checks but tapping their wide circle of contacts to do so.
A number of former boosters of Hillary Clinton's 2008 race are now raising substantial sums for Obama. Those who've raised more than $500,000 include Comcast's exec VP David Cohen and Los Angeles finance consultant Noah Mamet, as well as John Emerson, chairman of the Los Angeles Music Center. Emerson raised for Clinton in 2008 and then quickly joined the Obama team for the general election. Also raising more than $500,000 were DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg and his political consultant, Andy Spahn, both of whom raised big sums for Obama in the last cycle. Also among the group: designer Michael Smith and fashion editor Anna Wintour.
Among those who raised between $200,000 and $500,000 are Ken Solomon, CEO of the Tennis Channel. Solomon and Emerson are 2012 Southern California finance co-chairs.
The list of $100,000 to $200,000 fundraisers includes venture capital investor Mark Gorenberg and producer Wendy Wanderman, publisher Michael Kong, attorney Michael Lawson and wife Mattie Lawson, and Sony's Michael Lynton and his wife Jamie, Also on the list are two Clinton fundraisers from 2008, political consultant Chad Griffin and music executive Clarence Avant. In the last cycle Avant's daughter Nicole was a key Obama fundraiser and was then tapped as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas.
On the list of $50,000 to $100,000 bundlers are Ari Emanuel and Yolanda "Cookie" Parker, both returning Obama supporters.
So far, Obama's bundlers from media and entertainment have helped him raise more than $3 million. He already appears to be garnering a wide range of support from Hollywood. Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Phillippe, Drew Barrymore, Vanessa Williams, Portia de Rossi, George Clooney and Tom Hanks are among those who've attended fund-raisers for his campaign. Also contributing: Dave Koz, Carl Reiner, Alan Ladd Jr. and Tom Ortenberg.
Update: The News Corp. PAC gave $200,000 to New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
Compared to its competitors, Fox News has been relatively quiet about the News of the World "phone hacking" scandal that has been besetting News Corp. This morning, "Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy had on business communications expert Bob Dilenschneider, who complained that the media's attention should be focused on the hacking problem in general, noting that many other companies have had security breaches but did not get nearly the same coverage. Doocy complained that the media was "piling on" News Corp. and Murdoch. And he even suggested that the coverage has been at the expense of coverage of the debt talks, which are far greater importance to the country because as it risks default.
I've written about my doubts about the 9/11 hacking claims, which would widen the scandal to this side of the Pond. But the line of defense on "Fox & Friends" is just plain bizarre.
While this scandal involves hacking, it's really a journalism scandal, with serious questions about who knew what and when, whether there was a systemic pattern at the Murdoch U.K. papers and why a prior internal investigation may have failed to reveal the full breadth of the hacking. Moreover, major banks and Sony and other companies were victims of hacking; their employees were not the alleged perpetrators of it.
While privacy and hacking are certainly elements of the story, the story is the crisis at a major media company. Nine people have been arrested, Parliament has opened inquiries, shareholders are suing and members of Congress, including one Republican, have called for investigations including one that has been launched by the FBI. You can be guaranteed that if the same thing were happening at Comcast or Time Warner or Viacom, Fox News would be all over it.
And as big a story as this has been this past week, making the cover of Time, there's hardly been a drought in coverage of the debt talks in D.C. It's dominated coverage.
Murdoch himself will apologize this weekend in ads set to run in U.K. papers. On Thursday he was defensive of the company's handling of the matter; in the new statement, he's contrite. In fact, he acknowledges "serious wrongdoing." The shift in tone may be due to news that News Corp. has hired P.R. Edelman to help it navigate through this, and I doubt that accusing the media of "piling on" is in the crisis communications playbook.
"The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.
"We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.
"We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realize that simply apologizing is not enough.
"Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.
"In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us."
Update: Les Hinton, who was the head of News International at the time the hacking occurred, resigned as CEO of Dow Jones today. Rebekah Brooks, current chief of News Intl., also exited.
Hinton's statement: ''I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story has unfolded. I have seen hundreds of news reports of both actual and alleged misconduct during the time I was executive chairman of News International and responsible for the company. The pain caused to innocent people is unimaginable. That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp. and apologize to those hurt by the actions of News of the World.''
Can a two-hour movie rewrite a political narrative? The Sarah Palin documentary "The Undefeated," which opens today, argues that the former Alaska governor has been misrepresented by the media and that much of her record has been obscured by a vicious political and pop culture landscape.
On our latest Wilshire & Washington on the Radio, we talk to "The Undefeated" director Steve Bannon, as well as to Daily Caller contributor Matt Lewis, the author of the new tome "The Quotable Rogue."
Join Maegan Carberry and myself for our latest podcast, which you can listen to here or via the link below.
Tonight at Outfest in Los Angeles will be the screening of "With You," a documentary about the life of Mark Bingham, a gay PR executive who along with several others lead an effort to prevent terrorists from crashing United Flight 93 into the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001.
Bingham was a supporter of John McCain, and the Arizona senator spoke at his memorial service several days later.
At a recent preview screening, Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV talked with Bingham's mother, Alice Hoagland, about McCain today, as he was one of the leading opponents of efforts to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Ocamb writes that she was "taken aback" that Hoagland was so gracious.
Hoagland told her, "I think Sen. McCain – like Mark and like me and like many people – is on a journey, he’s on a quest and he is evolving in his attitudes and his convictions, just as we all are. I think Sen. McCain will – I hope – ultimately come to embrace the gay community and realize that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender deserve every freedom and right and privilege that the straight community has enjoyed all these decades."
More here. The trailer from the project is below.
The FBI is investigating allegations that employees of News Corp.’s News of the World sought to hack into the phone records of 9/11 victims, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Quoting a law enforcement official, the AP said that the FBI had opened the investigation, although it was unclear whether they were responding to calls from Capitol Hill lawmakers including Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) to launch an inquiry.
The Daily Mail, a rival to News of the World, reported earlier this week that a New York police officer had been approached by News of the World journalists for phone information about the 9/11 victims, but he refused the reporters’ payments. The Daily Mail’s account was based on an unnamed source.
A spokeswoman for News Corp. said the company had no comment.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said, "The department does not comment specifically on investigations, though anytime we see evidence of wrongdoing, we take appropriate action."
Rep. Pete King (R-New York) is the latest D.C. lawmaker to call for federal authorities to investigate claims that the News Corp. News of the World scandal has extended beyond the U.K. to the U.S.
King sent a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller on Wednesday, citing a report that ran in the Daily Mail that News of the World employees solicited a New York police officer to gain access to the phone records of 9/11 victims from the days leading to the attacks.
"It is revolting to imagine members of the media would seek to compromise the integrity of a public official for financial gain in pursuit of yellow journalism," King wrote. "The 9/11 families have suffered egregiously, but unfortunately they remain vulnerable against such unjustifiable parasitic strains." We can spare no effort or expense in continuing our support for them."
king is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Several Democratic lawmakers have called for SEC and DOJ investigations not just of the 9/11 victim claims, but of whether News Corp. violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The caveat is that the claims about hacking of 9/11 victims appear to be based almost entirely on the Daily Mail report, which quotes a source as saying that an unidentified former New York cop was approached by News of the World journalists. In other words, so far the evidence that has been reported about 9/11 victims being targeted is pretty sketchy.
"The Undefeated" debuts in 10 cities on Friday, and the box office results will be closely watched and scrutinized as indicators of Sarah Palin's popularity and the viability of a political documentary.
While the project from director Stephen Bannon is unabashedly pro-Palin, painting her as a mischaracterized figure in the media warp, elements of his approach may surprise, and will surely lead to further debate about what was featured and what was left out.
1. Bannon is not Michael Moore. The growth of conservative documentaries has largely been in response to Michael Moore's success, particularly the runaway returns for 2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11," the highest grossing documentary of all time. While some right-leaning filmmakers have deployed Moore's tactics in presenting themselves as the Moore alternative, Bannon is not one of them. He's extremely biting to the Hollywood left and liberals, even comparing Palin critics in imagery to wild dogs. But he doesn't deploy the ambush antics of Moore, and rather relies on a bevy of archival footage, quick cuts and flattering words from Palin backers like Andrew Breitbart and Tammy Bruce.
2. This is not "The War Room," "Primary" or Making of the President. Critics have pounced on "The Undefeated" as "propaganda," and they'd be not too far off the mark. The makers of the movie did not set out to produce something on the order of D.A. Pennebaker or Robert Drew, two masters of cinema verite campaign documentaries. Bannon sees his project as a visual form of a politician's pre-launch campaign tome, ala Mitt Romney's "No Apology: Believe in America" or Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope." The difference is that instead of buying books, the bet is that supporters and the independently curious will buy movie tickets.
3. Palin is not interviewed. She has endorsed the project, attended the premiere, and is encouraging everyone to see it, but curiously she is not among the talking heads. Rather, Bannon relied on the audio track from her book "Going Rogue" to provide bits of narration. Most conspicuously, John McCain, the person most responsible for bringing Palin to the national stage, is in very little of the movie, perhaps a reflection of Palin supporters' sentiment that the campaign was severely mismanaged.
4. The left is a target, but big oil is a foe. Almost half of the movie is devoted to Palin's tenure as Alaska's governor fighting against the old boys' network, a collusion between the state's Republican establishment and big oil companies, culminating in her uniting with Democrats to get a better leasing deal for the state's citizens. Big oil is an enemy. In fact, the opening moments of the movie feature shots of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and for one brief moment you'd think you were about to watch an environmental documentary, not one about a persona who once inspired the chant of "drill, baby drill."
5. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell? Two faced. The two leaders of the Republican party have fleeting appearances, but they are far from flattering. As their images are on screen, radio talk host Mark Levin is heard saying, "I still see Republican leaders who are on the so-called right, who are 'business as usual' trying to court deals, who have symbolic votes that don't have any meaning, and then telling the liberal media that we're extremists, we're right wingers." Breitbart suggests that the conservative establishment in D.C. is made up of "eunuchs," who have "run as men but aren't." If Palin gets in the race for the GOP nomination, it's a preview of what is to come.
My story on "The Undefeated" and the cottage industry of conservative docs is here.
President Obama's reelection campaign raised $86 million in the three months that ended June 30, marking the first quarter of his 2012 effort.
Obama's campaign has been raising money jointly through its official campaign arm, Obama for America, which raised more than $47 million, and the Democratic National Committee, which collected more than $38 million.
The campaign said that 552,462 people donated to Obama's reelection campaign, with 98% of the donations at $250 or less, far greater than the campaign's donor pool at this point in 2007. The average contribution was $69. In the last cycle, Obama's amassing of a pool of small-dollar donors was considered a distinct cash-flow advantage over his rivals, as it allowed the campaign to draw on them for additional support as the election neared.
While the campaign's fund-raising puts it well ahead of Republican rivals, in a video to supporters this morning, campaign manager Jim Messina warned that Republicans would pose a big challenge because of expected spending by outside groups like Crossroads, an organization that includes Karl Rove and is already running ads critical of the president and the economy.
"The threat to our success from these determined groups -- acting solely in their own interest, not the public interest -- is real, and it's growing," Messina said. "And it's going to take serious commitment and vigilance from all of us to withstand their attacks while still building the grassroots campaign we'll need to win."
Obama held a series of fund-raising kickoff events at Sony Pictures Entertainment and a Brentwood eatery in April, and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, headlined a series of Los Angeles events last month.
Although the campaign has been critical of the GOP's expected reliance on outside groups, two former Obama aides have launched their own organizations that are raising six- and seven- figure sums from Democratic donors. Priorities USA, formed by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, has the support of Jeffrey Katzenberg and his political adviser, Andy Spahn, who have been helping in the fund-raising.
As left-leaning interest groups call for U.S. authorities to investigate News Corp. amid the phone hacking scandal in Britain, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) is calling for the "appropriate agencies" to investigate to "ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated."
Rockefeller, who is the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement that the News of the World phone tapping "raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated.
"I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans. If they did, the consequences will be severe," he said in a statement.
Rockefeller has been critical of the news media, particularly Fox News and MSNBC with their partisanship, and even mused last year about wanting the FCC to shut the networks down.
Former First Lady Betty Ford was eulogized at a memorial service today in Palm Desert attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter was among those who spoke, telling the mourners, "She was never afraid to speak the truth, including about her own struggle with alcohol and pain killers. Her honesty gave help to others every day."
AP video is below.
The knives are out...
The widening phone hacking scandal in Britain has certainly riveted journalists and politicians, but across the pond some public interest groups are anxious for federal investigators and even Congress to probe the practices of News Corp.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is calling on Congress to investigate allegations that News of the World journalists hacked the voicemails of 9/11 victims. CREW has sent a letter to the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, with CREW's executive director Melanie Sloan saying that “It is becoming increasingly clear this scandal was not perpetrated by a few rogue reporters, but was systematically orchestrated at the highest levels of News Corp."
Another org, Protect Our Elections, sent a letter to the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission, calling for investigations into whether the phone hacking constituted a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Gore's Rebrand: Al Gore announced the launch today of the Climate Reality Project, a new effort to mobilize support for action on climate change. It will start with a global event on Sept. 14 and 15 called "24 Hours of Reality," in which scientists, celebrities, activists and business leaders will (again) try to command the public's attention about the climate crisis. Gore writes, "The climate crisis is a reality, and we are seeing its impacts in extreme weather all around the world. Using the same deceitful playbook as big tobacco used years before to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking, oil and coal companies and their allies are now deceiving the public about climate change. They have nearly unlimited resources to sow doubt, but we have one critical advantage: Reality is on our side."
Album Launch: Candidates have capitalized on the attention from presidential campaigns to launch TV careers, books and even movie projects, and now Herman Cain has done them all one better: he's got a new gospel album. It's not so odd when you consider the music career of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) or, further back, Watergate committee chairman, Sen. Sam Ervin (D-N.C.), who recorded a cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
"Gilligan" on the Floor: Hatch didn't sing on the Senate floor on Monday, but is defending his comments about the poor last week by invoking Jim Backus. Update: Fortuitous? Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of "Gilligan," died this morning.
Conan Conflict: Conan O'Brien took a swipe at Tim Pawlenty, so the candidate came back with a quip about the comedian's hair.
Here's my latest story for print Variety, an expanded and updated version of a previous post.
Michele Bachmann's rise in the presidential polls may be unexpected, but her campaign's being asked to stop playing "American Girl" by songwriter Tom Petty comes as no surprise.
Almost like clockwork each election cycle, politicians get into trouble for unauthorized use of music, which speaks to the power of classic hits to drive home a message.
Bill Clinton had Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" and John Kennedy enlisted Frank Sinatra to croon a customized "High Hopes," but the trouble starts when a candidate adopts a work without first telling the songwriter or recording artist.
The much-publicized Bachmann incident is not the first time that a campaign has run afoul of public performance copyrights, and it wasn't even the first time that Petty has tried to put a stop to it. He balked at George W. Bush's use of "I Won't Back Down" at campaign events in 2000.
That's because artists are not just concerned about copyright law, but false endorsement, or the impression that voters may have that a politician has received permission by a songwriter or a singer, and therefore support their political stances.
Petty's manager, Tony Dimitriades, declines to elaborate on the incident.
"The only thing I can tell you is they are not playing it anymore," he says.
Hillary Clinton also used the song in her presidential bid, but "she requested and got permission," he adds.
While campaigns often do have copyright permission to use music in certain venues with a blanket ASCAP or BMI license, the stakes get even higher when a song is used in a commercial or Web video without permission.
In 2008, Jackson Browne, a supporter of then-candidate Barack Obama, sued John McCain for using "Running on Empty" in a campaign ad.
As it turned out, the spot was run by the Ohio Republican Party, but the suit ended in what sources said was a six-figure settlement with the Republican National Committee, along with a public apology.
Last year, Don Henley won a judgment against Chuck DeVore, a candidate for U.S. Senate in California, for using a takeoff of "Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" in campaign Web videos. DeVore had defended the videos as a parody, and therefore a fair use of a copyrighted work. But a federal judge didn't buy it.
Earlier this year, David Byrne reached a settlement with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist after he used "Road to Nowhere" in an advertisement during his campaign for governor. The settlement amount was undisclosed, but part it included a videotaped apology from Crist that had the feel of a hostage reading off a captors' statement at gunpoint.
Democrats do run afoul of artists -- albeit with less of a public blowout. Obama used "Hold on, I'm Comin'" in 2008 campaign events until Sam Moore of the duo Sam & Dave, who recorded the song, requested that he stop.
Given the potential for embarrassment from a campaign, why does it keep on happening?
"They just think music is free like a lot of other people on the planet (do)," says Lee Phillips, senior partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, who represents a number of music clients. A solution, obviously, is to ask for permission, but for many campaigns it's a better risk to use the song and just see what happens than have an artist simply say no.
With "The Undefeated" set to debut on Friday, Sarah Palin is on the cover of this week's Newsweek, another hint that she's turning to the cinema to help recast her image in advance of a possible presidential bid.
The flattering documentary has generated loads of publicity for more than a month now, but her sitdown with Newsweek's Peter Boyer underscores how much it is in her interest to promote the film. As she tells him, she was "just blown away" by the project and for its director Stephen Bannon for "trying to set the record straight."
The risk is that the film will underperform, although there's a low bar for documentary projects and the movie is going into limited initial release in 10 cities.
As for her presidential plans, she says that continued speculation that others like her, Rick Perry and Chris Christie are being urged to run "suggests that the field is not set. Thank goodness the field is not yet set. I think that there does need to be more vigorous debate. There needs to be a larger field. And there’s still time. There’s still months ahead, where more folks can jump in and start articulating their positions.”
Hollywood Left and Right: This fall Oxford U Press publishes Steven J. Ross's "Hollywood Left and Right," a history of the potent symbiotic relationship between politicians and celebrities that extends back to the silent era days of Charlie Chaplin. The book profiles 10 major Hollywood figures who have had some of the greatest impact on the political process, including Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, George Murphy, Edward G. Robinson, Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan, Harry Belafonte, Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But it's most eye opening argument is that despite the perception that entertainment has forever been a bastion of liberalism, the industry has a longer history of conservatism. And it's the Hollywood right that has had more impact on political life, Ross writes. "The Hollywood left has the political glitz, but the Hollywood right sought, won and exercised electoral power."
So Long: Just a block away from where Will & Kate were staying during their L.A. visit, producer Joe Pichirallo and his wife Mary Rainwater were feted on Saturday night at the Hancock Park home of Howie and Susie Mandel. Pichirallo is moving to the Big Apple to chair the undergrad film & TV program in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Among tose there to see the family off: Jean Firstenberg, Roz Wyman, Bill Mechanic, Todd Black, Larry Lyttle, Bob Cooper, Anne Thompson, Mickey Kaus and Sharon Waxman. Pichirallo shared that years ago, while taking a sabbatical from the Washington Post, his intention was to pursue a fellowship at Stanford to study the Reagan administration's policy toward central America. But he didn't get into the program, and instead went to AFI. That launched an illustrious film career in which he has held posts at HBO, Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and Overbrook Entertainment. He also was a key Hollywood supporter of Joseph Biden when he ran for president in the last cycle. Guests ate New York-style hot dogs and listened to a blaring Frank Sinatra version of "New York, New York."
Quotable: "Shut up, you homophobic cow." Ross Kemp to his wife, embattled News Intl. head Rebekah Brooks, several years ago. Kemp, who has since divorced her, was upset that she had made a derogatory comment to Chris Bryant, an openly gay British MP. Bryant recounted the story to the New York Times.
Winner, Blog of the Year 2008, Southern California Journalism Awards.