Time for a thought experiment. Imagine that the National Rifle Association (NRA) held a yearly policy event in Oregon that regularly attracted Democrats and Republicans from the entire spectrum of Oregon political life: our Governors, Senators, Representatives, our Attorney General and Secretary of State and many others flocking to show their support. Imagine that the Governor proudly states that support for the NRA is “an article of faith for both political parties” and imagine that an Oregon Member of Congress tells the audience that, when it comes to gun legislation, he goes to the NRA first for all his information. Would you expect the media to cover the event and find out who attended, what was said, and what the NRA was demanding of our leaders? Do you think citizens of Oregon have a compelling interest in learning more about the event?
This is the exact situation we have in Oregon with respect to the hardline pro-Israel lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Politicians of all stripes, local, state and federal, Democrat and Republican flock to Oregon’s annual AIPAC events to show their support. Former Governor Kulongoski really did say in a speech there that “support for AIPAC is an article of faith for both political parties . . . this is as it should be.” Congressman Kurt Schrader really did say “If I want to learn about the Middle East, I know who to go to, I go to AIPAC.” And AIPAC really is trying to drum up support for military action against Iran.
But does Oregon’s media cover it? Almost not at all. Oregonians are not privy to what goes on there or what politicians say there, or what AIPAC is telling them, because our media simply does not cover it. Last year, the only press coverage was a reporter waiting to see if the beleaguered Congressman David Wu had the temerity to show up. He did. Other than Wu’s attendance, the reporter wasn’t interested in all of the rest: wasn’t interested in the fact that Senators Wyden and Merkley were speaking there, wasn’t interested in what they said, wasn’t interested in what AIPAC was telling its fawning audience.
Oregonians have a compelling need to know what our politicians are doing at these AIPAC events, what speeches they make and what they are told by AIPAC’s keynote speakers. It is the simple, democratically sacred duty of Oregon’s reporters to do their job and report it. Given the incredible power lobbies have in our system of government to influence policy, citizens have a right to know and understand how our politicians are influenced by special interest lobbies. All the more when issues of war, peace, and human rights are at stake.
Infamous former AIPAC official Steve Rosen famously once said that “A lobby is like a night flower. It thrives in darkness and withers in the daylight.” The only reason AIPAC operates in the dark in Oregon is because our media refuses so far to work for the public’s interest.
“night flower” quote:
Shocker! Steve Rosen (That Steve Rosen) Backs Bibi, Not POTUS
M.J. Rosenberg, April 5, 2010, http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/04/05/hes_baaaaack_the_gop_embraces_steve_rosen_yes_that_1/
Kurt Schrader quote:
(from audio recording of his speech)
Reporting on David Wu’s attendence:
Janie Har, The Oregonian, March 06, 2011,
Coverage of protest outside AIPAC (but not what is happening inside):
Steve Duin, The Oregonian, April 26, 2010,