Lack of news a campaign contribution?

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Posted 8/28/18 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

Now comes the Michael Cohen plea and the revelation of an alleged agreement between Donald Trump and David Pecker (the National Enquirer) to “catch and kill” negative stories about Donald Trump once he declared his run for president.
This is a different kind of fake news -- no news at all, except what’s locked away in a safe.
Closely following the Cohen plea came grants of immunity for both Pecker and Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg, both of whom apparently have knowledge about hush money payments to two women alleging affairs with Donald Trump. 
Much has been said and written already about whether anyone should care who Donald Trump sleeps with. Just as much speculation surrounds the source of the funds to make the payments. Trump himself now admits the payments -- after months of denials of any knowledge of these deals. He asserts he did nothing wrong because he used his own money to pay the women off.
But none of the points in the previous paragraph are the real issue. Just step back a moment and consider what it means if a candidate can make a behind-the-scenes deal with a mass media organization to pay off people with negative stories. It means no one else can publish those stories either,  because the people already signed away the rights to tell what they know.
If Cohen is to be believed, this enterprise was run at the direction of Trump for the purpose of influencing the election. And that’s what makes it a potential crime, no matter where the money came from.
The argument that Trump made these payoffs for personal reasons might hold water if Trump had already offered a settlement to Stormy Daniels back in 2011, the first time she gave an interview about her claims. He didn’t. 
It wasn’t until a few weeks before the 2016 election that a payoff was offered -- a payoff Trump now freely admits he made. Which makes it look a lot less about concern his family would find out and much more like concern about how the revelations might impact the election.
A second prong of this alleged enterprise -- not proven, but easily illustrated -- is the number of negative (and flatly false) stories about Hillary Clinton in the runup to the election. Some claim Trump had prior approval for these stories.
If true, the twin efforts to quash bad Trump news and splash negative Clinton headlines would amount to  millions of dollars’ worth of “advertising” all aimed at helping Trump, and none of it reported in any campaign finance report.
It matters not that the National Enquirer has virtually no journalistic credibility. It matters greatly that these mini-campaign billboards are displayed at nearly every grocery store check stand in the country. 
Whatever you may think of the Enquirer as a news source, the fact is millions of people buy and read the publication every week and we can’t know how many more were influenced by headlines at the grocery store.
Talk about fake news!
Regardless of whether you supported Trump or Clinton, the idea that any candidate anywhere could have an agreement with a propaganda machine reaching millions of people -- with no campaign reporting required -- ought to concern you greatly. 
Put on a local plane, how would you feel if you learned your weekly newspaper or statewide daily had such an arrangement with a governor candidate, a mayor or a sheriff? 
The whole scenario makes me as mad at national politicians for the deceit involved as it upsets me for the media industry as a whole. 
It robs all media of legitimacy when a supposed “news” outlet takes what amounts to a bribe for favorable coverage.
With last week’s revelations, however, it appears no amount of money can keep the truth hidden forever.