Today's Papers

Ad Nauseam

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal all lead with upstart Mississippi-based telecommunications company WorldCom’s bid to acquire MCI. The New York Times goes with the latest target of Senate and Justice Department investigators: the alleged Clinton-Gore use in 1996 of state parties as a vehicle for end-running legal spending limits.

The NYT account of Clinton-Gore spending practices is unusually free of legal qualification. It straight-out says “The Democratic National Committee quietly transferred at least $32 million to state Democratic parties in the last election as part of an elaborate plan to spend more money than federal election law appeared to allow on a massive advertising campaign that indirectly helped re-elect President Clinton.” The paper makes it clear that the strategy was directed not independently by the state parties but centrally by the campaign. Dick Morris is among those quoted in support: “It was a charade to say those were ads of the state parties….I never spoke to anyone from any state.”

The story also notes that the Republican Party used similar strategies during the last election, and that the Justice Department is reviewing its spending in this area as well, but doesn’t note this until the twenty-third paragraph. And it’s not mentioned at all in either the story’s headline or subhead.

The Times story has this juicy detail indicating that there were some worries inside the campaign about the scheme’s propriety: During the campaign, senior Clinton aide Harold Ickes pressed for an indemnification clause in the media consultants’ contract that would have forced the consultants to pay any fines levied if the plan was found to be illegal. The consultants refused.

The WorldCom bid for MCI seems to have enraptured the press because of its size–it would be the largest U.S. takeover ever–and because WC CEO Bernard Ebbers, a former junior high basketball coach and motel operator, is good copy. (Both the NYT and LAT report that he told the head of MCI that if he wanted to join WorldCom he’d have to come to work earlier.) The WSJ, NYT, and LAT pantingly describe the fabulous returns enjoyed by WorldCom’s stockholders in recent years, while the WP focuses instead on how the deal might lead to more competition in local phone service.

USAT’s second lead reports that after a landmark study finding multiple SIDS deaths within families was rebuked in the leading medical journal that originally published it, police in Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis have reopened dozens of SIDS cases.

With negotiations on an international global warming treaty coming up in Kyoto soon, the Clinton administration is, according to the WSJ, roiled in internal debate on the U.S. position for the talks. On one side, says the paper, is the president’s economic team, including Robert Rubin and Gene Sperling, saying go slow. And on the other are the greens, including Carol Browner and Tim Wirth. Apparently, Clinton himself has emerged as the enviros’ strongest ally because Al Gore, normally in that position, is distracted by his fund-raising troubles and concerns about not alienating manufacturing states for the 2000 election.

The NYT reports that, as part of the run-up to Kyoto, the Clinton administration yesterday invited more than 100 national and local television weather forecasters to the White House for briefings on climate change in hopes of rallying public support for new measures restricting greenhouse gases. Mike McCurry tells the Times that the weather folks “appreciated being treated as something other than airheads.”