As the Democratic Presidential Candidates gathered for their debate last night in New Hampshire, it is important to remember that most of their time -- day after day -- is spent doing one thing: raising money.
And it is also important to understand that 5 major American corporations are the primary beneficiaries of their efforts.
Yesterday, Air America Radio, made a small substantive, but a potentially large symbolic gesture to end this lunacy.
From October 1 - October 12 Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel will all be handed the Air America microphones, for free, to do whatever they wish.
On my show, CLOUT!, (Mondays - Fridays from 8 - 10 am Eastern), some of the candidates will be "Guest Hosting" their own show for 30 minutes or a full hour. They will be playing radio host, answering questions from the live audience, cueing up clips, playing excerpts of their own speeches or, whatever is their heart's desire.
Others have chosen to record a 2 - 5 minute statement or excerpt. These will run on both CLOUT! and one of Air America's daytime programs.
The final schedule of appearances will be available in the next few days. While Air America will continue to interview candidates from time to time, we thought it timely and important to offer this free time. These ARE the public's airwaves.
All of the Republican Presidential Candidates are being offered the same access to the Air America network and, if they accept, will be using time between October 15 - October 26.
As Air America's President Mark Green has put it, "Beyond this one time-offer, we believe that all radio and TV stations should provide blocks of free time to bona fide public candidates to reach public voters on the public airwaves."
The value of the programming time (not advertising time) donated to the eight campaigns is approximately $80,000. If General Electric, Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Viacom and NewsCorp donated a proportional amount, given their net worth or their revenue or their profits, these 5 corporations could, all by themselves, diminish the obscene role of money in presidential campaigns.
And, frankly, they don't need the juicy :30 second television hit piece money. It would make little difference in their ability to report a nice return on investment for their shareholders. Ironically, as most of the shareholders of these American corporations are American citizens, these shareholders would benefit far more from some good old fashioned corporate citizenship than a few extra dividend dimes.
In the last fiscal year, Time Warner, the world's largest media company had revenues of $11.2 Billion and net profits of $1.2 billion. The Walt Disney Company earned $931 Million in its second quarter alone, with revenues of $8.07 Billion. General Electric's net profits for the second quarter was $5.42 Billion and Viacom and NewsCorp reported similar significant results.
Surely, if small Air America can pony up some quality free time for our Democracy, these corporations can, proportionally, do the same.