Profiles in Muckraking
Saturday, September 23, 2006 :::
By accident last night, I happened to catch a portion of NOW on PBS last night. The topic of discussion was an initiative campaign in Montana, and as it turned out, what evil doers were behind the efforts to cap state spending, defend property rights and institute judicial recall provisions.
Sounded like familiar territory. Back in the day, the press and public broadcasting in particular, took a rather morbid interest in uncovering the Dark Designs of my old employer, U.S. Term Limits. The press was forever interested in unmasking who gave us money, why they gave us money and what our real (evil, dark and dastardly) goals might be. Were they as interested in the lobbyists, labor unions, assorted interest groups and politicians who spent great sums opposing us? Not really. They were good folks. And sources.
Anyway, the patterns in the story were familiar for good reason: the man pulling the levers behind the Montana and other efforts, it seems, is none other than my old boss, Howie Rich.
In the NOW piece, the reporter tries in vain to track Howie down, bombarding him with email requests for interviews, and even taking a page from the old Mike Wallace handbook of trying to ambush him at his New York office.
Needless to say, Howie wasn't playing along. And given the context of the report, this made him appear to be REALLY, REALLY EVIL. Honestly. He must be...he's from New York City...a lapsed Libertarian...and he's wealthy.
Well, yes, he is. He is also a shrewd businessman. And a true believer in limited government. Really limited government. He also gave my wife an I a very nice wedding gift. And he likes Chinese food. And he fancies himself an excellent tennis player (something others will dispute). His favorite movie was Rodney Dangerfield's "Back To School" (that may have changed). His handwriting is almost indecipherable. He can also be generous to a fault...or ruthless if you cross him (after I left USTL, I was "watched" to make sure I said nothing to damage the organization. I found that rather funny).
Anyway, there is now a cottage industry devoted to unmasking Howie and his TRULY EVIL cabal of 'wingers. The liberal BISC has devoted an entire web site to this effort. The title is deeply amusing (Howie Rich From New York City...to the barricades, mes enfants!) There's a page given over to the Howie's new group, Americans for Limited Government and its board -- almost all of whom I know (and one of whom I greatly admire).
Anyway, the BISC pages meander on and on, each one exposing darker secrets that the one before, supposedly. Though the most interesting thing on the entire site is a page where BISC offers to help "progressives" with consultants who can help put their initiatives on state ballots -- using, no doubt -- many of the tactics Howie has long used. But exploring that wouldn't be nearly as fun for the dime store Mike Wallaces at NOW, or very helpful to the cause of the earnest children at the BISC (undermining meta-narratives and all that. Did we forget to mention that Howie is EVIL?).
Having knowledge of some of the personalities in this story, their past activities, and their long-term aims, I found the NOW piece not only less than fair, but downright silly.
Then again, it is PBS. Could I expect anything else? No..thanks to viewers like you.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 9/23/2006