Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Total Deference?

As someone who focuses on politics and policy, I've been wrestling for the last couple of days with how to write about Sen. Collins' recent Washington D.C. home purchase.

Frankly, I'm not interested in Collins' personal life. And I think the national political discussion would be more constructive--and just healthier--if elected officials enjoyed a bit more privacy than they can currently expect.

But the Maine press clearly doesn't share these reservations. For years, prominent outlets have covered the junior senator like a member of the royal family, putting her personal story front and center. (How many times have we heard about Caribou?)

And for months now, the state's larger media organizations have been delving unabashedly into another pol's real estate transactions while exploring the shape and structure of his nuclear family.

What's more (and as in the LePage case) there are a couple of legitimate, hard-to-ignore news angles to Collins' home purchase. It may not demand days of wall-to-wall coverage, but surely it's a transaction worth noting.

So why the radio silence from the Maine media? Why the failure, for two days now, to draw attention to a juicy piece of genuine hard news?

The absence of coverage seems to be another vivid example of the state's sainted senators receiving coverage only when they want coverage.

Put simply: Collins would prefer that Maine papers not write about the purchase of a house 800 miles from Aroostook county, so they don't.

The junior senator doesn't want there to be any scrutiny of the fact that she's just made a $705,000 purchase with a lobbyist who helps run a firm that's done work for Kellogg Brown and Root among others, so there isn't.

The Maine media: Cowed, timid, almost comically deferential. Could it be that simple?

Now, maybe the state's prominent outlets are digging deep into the story, preparing exhaustive, carefully-researched articles that will prove me wrong in the coming hours or days.

But I'm not counting on it.


Nancy said...

I don't know if $700,000 is a good or bad price for a house in DC. In my view - as a resident of the County- it's not relevant.

What's interesting to me is Susan Collins' relationship with lobbyist Thomas Daffron. And even that's not all that important except as it MAY relate to her decisions on whatever clients his firm may represent.

There was a legitimate outcry when it was revealed that Chellie Pingree flew on a corporate jet owned by her significant other, Donald Sussman. There should a similar questioning of Collins' relationship with Daffron.

Contrapositive said...

To be clear: I don't think there's anything unseemly or even especially salient about the purchase of a $700K house in Washington D.C. in and of itself.

As Nancy suggests, it's the other details that deserve scrutiny.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Well said. Personally I find Collins consistently disappointing, both as a thinker and as a Senator, but her private life is hers---

And it is not irrelevant. Shame on the news, good for you.