< Time’s Up

Transcript

Friday, October 31, 2008

BROOKE GLADSTONE:
From WNYC in New York, this is NPR’s On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD:
And I'm Bob Garfield. This is it, OTM’s last hour of campaign coverage. Our long national nightmare is nearly at an end. Reporters will disembark the campaign buses and planes, talking heads will cease blathering about the horserace and start blathering about exit polls. TV stations will be without the campaign ads that have kept the troubled industry briefly in clover, and cable news will soon be without dueling sound bites to parse, which means, watch out, we're about to hear a lot more about missing blondes and the war on Christmas.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Yep, after two solid years of posturing and pandering, smearing and smiling, punditry and palaver, we get to choose a president.

Luckily, the news media have been with us every step of the way, so there isn't a single thing, not one single detail about these candidates that we, as an electorate, haven't had a chance to sort out. Journalism has done itself proud – except:
BOB GARFIELD:
Except for a couple of things it wasn't quite able to nail down. Oh, William Ayres and the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the Reverend Wright and totally cute lobbyists, that’s all been nailed left, right and center. But there are a few items that have slipped between the cracks, which has something to do with journalistic failure and something to do with what they call “politics as usual.”

After eight years of maybe the most opaque presidency ever, the two supposed candidates of change haven't been so utterly forthcoming. According to Kenneth Vogel, who rounded up some unanswered questions this week for Politico.com, when it comes to transparency, the times aren't necessarily a-changin’.
KENNETH VOGEL:
That's right, and there is an increased expectation because there’s so much interest in this race and it’s gone on for so long, and they've tried to one-up one another on the transparency front by releasing documents that they aren't required to release, and demanding that their opponent does the same.
BOB GARFIELD:
Well, give me some examples of the kind of material that the press is trying to get that the campaigns have not been forthcoming in releasing.
KENNETH VOGEL:
Well, Barack Obama talks about his time as a civil rights lawyer before he was elected to the Illinois State Senate, and he worked for a firm that, in fact, did do a lot of civil rights cases, but it also did kind of a lot of transactional law, just normal stuff – estates, contracts, stuff like that.

And Obama has not released the list of clients that he represented, though he did, when he was in the State Senate, release a list of all the clients that the firm represented, which leaves us with literally hundreds of clients on these long lists but really not much in the way of information as to which of these cases that he worked on.
BOB GARFIELD:
And now the reason that’s significant is while it’s a perfunctory enough exercise just to release a list of your clientele, if someone’s name on there has some sort of unsavory past or associations, like Tony Rezko, then Obama has still more explaining to do.
KENNETH VOGEL:
That's right. And, in fact, on the list of clients that the firm represented, there are some names that I think would raise eyebrows, including William Moorehead. This is a developer who was convicted of stealing more than one million dollars from public housing projects he managed and developments he co-owned with the partner in Obama’s firm, a former partner, Allison Davis. And some of these thefts occurred while Moorehead was a client of the firm.
BOB GARFIELD:
All right, what else can’t we get our hands on?
KENNETH VOGEL:
McCain’s financial disclosure of tax information has not satisfied certainly Democrats, as well as some reporters who've pointed out that most presidential candidates in the modern era have released substantially more information on their taxes.

And, of course, this is something that has been of interest, particularly because Cindy McCain is the heiress to a beer distributorship fortune worth as much as, some estimates say, 100 million dollars.

And it kind of hearkens back, Democrats say, to Republicans’ demands in 2004 for Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of the Democratic nominee John Kerry, to release more information on her finances.
BOB GARFIELD:
McCain did permit reporters to pore over his 3,000-some pages of medical records but wouldn't permit them to make any photocopies or even to make phone calls to medical experts. Did the nominal release of the information do any reporters any good?
KENNETH VOGEL:
Well, it certainly didn't satisfy a number of medical experts and a number of medical journalists. It should be pointed out that Joe Biden has had some health problems. In 1988, he says, he nearly died from a brain aneurysm. And he also did not actually release his medical records but rather allowed reporters to come in and take a look at them, without the advantage that perhaps more time and more expertise could afford to them in doing an analysis as to whether, in fact, he is healthy.
BOB GARFIELD:
Now, in your story in Politico you refer to a mess of other documents that have been unavailable, including Barack Obama’s Columbia thesis and Sarah Palin’s college transcripts. But maybe the most pertinent missing records are those of Governor Palin’s emails. Can you describe that situation?
KENNETH VOGEL:
That’s right. Sarah Palin conducted state business on a personal – a Yahoo! - account, and that has kind of provoked interest in what she was emailing. So, many media outlets, including the Associated Press, requested that the Alaska state government, under Alaska’s Public Records Law, produce all the emails that Sarah Palin sent and received during her nearly two years as governor.

The Alaska state government came back to the AP and said that they would charge the AP 10 cents per printed page of emails, plus 960 dollars for each state employee’s account. These are folks who may have sent emails to or received emails from Sarah Palin.

Some folks have done the math, and it would come to 15 million dollars to produce these emails. It’s unclear whether any media outlets have, in fact, taken them up on that offer, so it’s kind of an open question that, headed into Election Day, probably unlikely to get an answer to.
BOB GARFIELD:
Well Ken, thank you.
KENNETH VOGEL:
Thank you very much, love the show.
BOB GARFIELD:
Thanks [LAUGHS]. Kenneth Vogel is a reporter for Politico.com.