Veteran broadcaster/broker Larry Patrick is heading up the NAB’s efforts to influence the 2008 elections, and is looking for hard cash donations from broadcasters to that end. Patrick acknowledged that a battle for the White House is going on, but pretty much identified NABPAC’s focus as promoting the fortunes of broadcaster’s friends on Capitol Hill. Key issues include performance royalties, opening white spaces to unlicensed devices, and fighting the possible return of a pair of items: The Fairness Doctrine and archaic FCC localism regulations. The focus of the focus will be the members of key committees: commerce and judiciary, who have the most to say on the Hill about matters of interest to broadcasters.
The NAB is looking for individual donations no greater than $5K, which will go into the hard cash category, allowing it to be freely donated to benefit the industry.
“In a regulated industry, our best weapon is a strong political action committee (PAC) dedicated to making sure that we have friends in Congress,” wrote Patrick. “We can support candidates who understand our industry and who want to work with us. By raising money from broadcasters and contributing it carefully to candidates who stand beside us, we can protect this industry. And, every dime that we raise goes to the candidates. There is no overhead for NABPAC, every dime that we raise goes to pro-broadcaster candidates.”
Patrick noted that broadcasters have some catching up to do – rivals in the CATV, telco and software communities routinely outspend broadcasters.
RBR/TVBR observation: NAB President/CEO David Rehr has been making sure the legislative wing of the organization is well equipped to appeal to members of both parties on Capitol Hill, and likewise, the cash flowing out of NABPAC will likely be spread out similarly. In an ideal world, issues coming before key committees will be decided on the merits, and NAB (of course) takes only meritorious positions and would therefore have an exemplary winning track record. In reality, sometimes the issues are gray, and each side in an industry v. industry rivalry has positive points to argue. Politicians are people too, and it would not be good for broadcaster if key politicians remember donations from everybody but broadcasters.
As such, the focus of an association is very different from one of the national political campaign committees. The parties focus on battlegrounds – seizing the initiative here, mounting an effective defense their. No – the NAB needs to make investments, usually in relatively safe politicians who have a lot to say about issues of interest to the industry.
So don’t think of the money you send to NABPAC as an investment in an exciting down-to-the-wire election night nail-biter. No, it’s much more akin to buying fertilizer – it will make a commerce committee member a little more attentive when we explain how misguided the FCC’s localism initiatives really are.