With the election campaign within the Republican Party going full steam these weeks, it is only normal that journalists, bloggers, and just ordinary people will look more closely into the record of the prospective candidates, especially those that are top tier, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. More information about their past will be discovered and disclosed so that the Republican voters can make informed decisions. In the age of the Internet when the gatekeepers don’t exist anymore, there is nothing that can remain hidden.
Therefore it is not a surprise that the former firm where Mitt Romney worked and was a manager, Bain Capital, received its dose of careful scrutiny. A piece went viral on the Internet these last couple of days, showing alarming information about some of the investment focus of Bain Capital, where Mitt Romney still has a very significant financial and business interests.
It turns out that Bain Capital owns Clear Channel, the largest network of radio stations in the United States; and Clear Channel owns Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates the radio shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and many other conservative radio hosts. Indirectly, Clear Channel also controls conservative radio hosts like Michael Savage and Mark Levin who are not part of Premiere Radio Networks.
To make a long story short, Mitt Romney, who, like all other Republican candidates, needs positive media exposure, is the hand that feeds those that have been sold to the conservative audience as conservative radio hosts. The connections, of course, can be expanded to include Goldman Sachs’s support of Romney (and Obama at the same time).
Now, of course, there is no legal problem with such arrangement. Bain Capital can buy and sell anything they want, and Romney can have as much financial interest in it as he can afford. And there is no legal nor moral problem if conservative hosts like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck are beneficiaries of Bain Capital, and indirectly of Romney’s personal generosity and benevolence.
But there is still a moral problem. And the moral problem is the conflict of interests. Not the Limbaugh, or Beck, or Savage, or Levin should reject Romney’s money. That is fine, it is their own skills and names, and it is his own money, and the money of Bain Capital.
But they should have disclosed this connection to their listeners. They should have made full disclosure of their own financial interests and dependence on Romney. Just as we expect politicians to disclose what money they get from lobbyists or supporters, and for what causes, the conservative radio hosts should have started their shows with the disclosure: “Before you listen to what I say, you need to know that I am paid by Mitt Romney.” Then, being honest to their listeners, they should have left the listeners to decide whether to trust them in their political analysis and commentaries or not.
But they didn’t do it. What they did is to pretend they were independent conservative commentators with no vested interests in any of the candidates. Failing to disclose their dependency on one of the candidates is immoral. Their is a conflict of interests there.
It is things like that that destroy the credibility of the conservative movement in the US. When the liberals accuse us being tools for the big money, we vehemently protest that we are simply the middle class. Then, one day, truth like this comes to the surface. And it is our own celebrities that failed to disclose the conflict of interests in the first place. And the liberals laugh and say, “We told you.”
The conservative audience was betrayed. It is no wonder that Limbaugh’s and Levin’s ratings fell by 30% in the last 6 months; it is to be expected. The greater problem is thought not that Limbaugh and Levin will see a drop in numbers but that the liberals will have more ammo in their attacks against the conservative ideas. And this time it will be our fault, and of our own celebrities.