Saturday, October 27, 2007

BDN Loads The Deck

Friday's Bangor Daily News features a maddeningly misleading article, built on a loaded premise, about Senate race fundraising.

The fog rolls in right in the first paragraph:

Sen. Susan Collins has received more money from her congressional colleagues than any other member of Congress, and Rep. Tom Allen has received more money from out of state than any other House member.
This obscures much more than it reveals.

Allen, after all, isn't running for the House. And his House colleagues aren't running for the Senate. So comparing his fundraising profile to those of his House colleagues sets up a false and unhelpful contrast.

What readers need to know, instead, to determine whether Allen is up to anything unusual, is how his fundraising compares to other candidates for Senate.

Figuring this out isn't exactly rocket science.

So it's extremely hard to understand why reporter Rebekah Metzler would build her story around this red herring rather than looking for a more meaningful measure of Allen's out-of-state support.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

Because for all the article's talk of Allen's out-of-state funds (and there's a lot of it) Metzler apparently couldn't find any space to answer the obvious companion question How much money is Sen. Collins raising outside of Maine?

But the answer to that question saps the article of whatever credibility it has left.

Consider: According to, Sen. Collins received nearly $1.3 million in out-of-state funds between 2001 and 2006. (2006-7 data is not yet available on the site.)

That amounts to more than sixty percent of the funds she raised during the period, compared to less than forty percent in Maine.

Contrast those totals to Allen's $500,000 in out-of-state money, which amounts to "about a fourth" of his total receipts.

And Allen is the one whose out-of-state money is drawing scrutiny? Even though Collins has historically raised far more money--and a higher percentage of it--outside Maine than Allen has in this race? It's enough to make a person's head spin.

Now, perhaps the Collins camp duped Metzler into parroting their charges. Or maybe what we're seeing here is simply sloppy reporting.

But whatever the case, it's disturbing. And it deserves an explanation.

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