OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Sunday, June 25, 2006 :::

Pork Whitewash

So at long last, the TD runs a front page story on the pork in Virginia's budget.

Excellent...wonderful...the press is finally going to shed some light on what is at best a legally dubious practice.

Then again, maybe not. Jeff Schapiro, Michael Hardy and Pamela Stallsmith expend numerous column inches telling readers where the money is going, and how elated some nonprofit executives are to get it. But as to the legal question surrounding the matter, it's buried on the jump, and then only addressed in the most off-hand manner:

State government veterans say the grants have been available for decades. The Virginia Constitution bans direct aid to charitable organizations, but the legislature apparently gets around the restriction by confining it to cultural groups, museums, tourist attractions and, as budget language puts it, entities "engaged in activity of public interest."

No context, no further explanation, and only the most passing of mentions that perhaps, just perhaps, none of this spending is exactly legal.

Softballs pack more of a wallop.

Perhaps there is a degree of institutional bias at stake here. After all, the paper's editorial page went to the mat repeatedly for one of the grant recipients, the moribund Virginia Performing Arts Center. How is VAPAF's $4.5 million check -- restored to the budget by Gov. Kaine -- treated in the piece? With a single line:

"Pork is in the eye of the beholder," said Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who, in the current budget, stopped a $4.5 million cut in state assistance to a proposed arts center in his hometown, Richmond.

Stunning. "Goodnight Moon" has received more critical analysis.

What the TD's three political reporters succeed in doing here is trivializing legislative behavior that flouts the constitution. Rather than educate readers on the law behind this story, and how and why the legislators feel they must skirt it to fulfill their personal philanthropic goals, the piece merely skims the numbers,wags its finger, and limps to a finish.

That's TD in a nutshell, actually.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 6/25/2006 4 comments


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