Democracy & Media Education Project

The Democracy & Media Education Foundation was created as a non-profit, charitable organization established to support Journalism, Press, and other Media efforts directly and indirectly related to the reporting and other conveyance of information to the American Public, with a particular focus on American Democracy and electoral processes. The Foundation is completely non-partisan and, due to its own charter, is not engaged in any political activity whatsoever (and has intentionally excluded participating in that political activity allowed by law).

The Foundation is organized as a Colorado non-profit corporation as well as under the rules of tax-exempt organizations per Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code . It is supported by gifts, grants, and donations from other foundations, individuals, and corporations. It welcomes support from all possibilities but, by its own charter, does not accept funds from any political or governmental organization. Inquiries and requests for additional information are always welcome.


THE GOALS OF THE DEMOCRACY & MEDIA EDUCATION FOUNDATION

The first set of goals of the Democracy & Media Education Foundation include development and implementation of a non-governmental, non-coercive, non-partisan project to begin the process of changing the relationship between television and politics. The DME Foundation believes it can accomplish this through the support of the "Election 2002" project.

With the specific primary objective of mitigating the current domination of paid 30-second advertisement "spots" on television, the Election 2002 Project will be the primary focus of the DME Foundation in 2002. The mission and current goals of the Democracy & Media Education Foundation are a perfect complement to the Election 2002 Project because the DME Foundation was founded, in part, to support the Election 2002 Project and its non-profit collaborator, Colorado Public Television (Front Range Educational Media Corporation -- KBDI/TV-12).

The DME Foundation also seeks to develop relationships with various campaign reform, election information, and media organizations and will encourage exploration and expansion of such relationships similar to the one established by "Election 2000" with The Denver Post. The DME Foundation believes the "Election 2002" Project should seek the involvement of both commercial and non-commercial radio stations, commercial television stations, daily newspapers and other print media. It expects to see "Election 2002" do all of this as part of the model.

WHAT IS THE NEED FOR ELECTION 2002?

The need for a concerted, media-based effort to provide impartial information to the Media and the Public was identified in the "Election 2000" effort - now a model for the Election 2002 Project. Nationally, this need has been identified for years by numerous organizations such as the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, every political party, thousands of candidates for public office, various local and national commissions, and the American public. Even the federal judiciary recently has expressed its concern about the evolution of "pay to play" campaign contributions.

Reform efforts to date have floundered because they have been coercive in nature, have required public funding, and/or have made demands (e.g., "free broadcast time") on commercial TV networks and stations. All of these solutions have encountered significant resistance and have had difficulty in obtaining the simultaneous support of the executive and legislative branches. Many of them also present constitutional challenges. Other solution require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to state constitutions - all unlikely to happen.

The Democracy & Media Education Foundation is seeking ways to educate people about these issues and support efforts to find ways to make positive changes without requiring constitutional amendments and without using coercive strategies. The Foundation believes "Election 2002" offers a model for positive, non-coercive change.


HOW WILL THE DEMOCRACY & MEDIA EDUCATION FOUNDATION'S SUPPORT OF THE "ELECTION 2002" PROJECT ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF CAMPAIGN SPENDING AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM?


The Election 2002 Project will begin the process of addressing the need to mitigate the dominance of 30-second paid (commercial) television spots in the American democratic process. In the Election Cycle culminating in the 2000 General Election, political campaigns in the United States directly spent $3 billion. Of this total, two-thirds ($2 billion) was spent on television advertising alone. Although the overall average of 67% was high for all campaigns, for federal races (i.e., the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the Presidency), the percentage was even higher.

As a result, campaigns are not just dominated but are consumed with fundraising, primarily to raise dollars for television "time buys." This has corrupted the American political process in the following ways

  • Many candidates now spend a majority of their time fundraising
  • Political parties often select candidates most able to fund their own campaigns,
  • Businesses and businesspeople contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to campaigns in order to gain access and get favorable trea™ent, and
  • The time of public officials, once in office, can be disproportionately dedicated to major donors and prospective donors.

 

The first stage of the Project will be a sophisticated, state-of-the-art, interactive Web site which can be used as a resource for Public Television stations ("PTV's") across the country to see, firsthand, the Election 2000 experience. The Election 2000 effort and the information provided will serve as a model for discussion about and planning for what each Public Television station's appropriate role might be in the electoral process as well as to give all stations the tools they need to accomplish those objectives in 2002. The Web site will be the initial primary basis for providing information to the public as well as to the PTV's. It will be fully accessible to any party.

The "Election 2002" staff is expected to work daily on the Web site so it can be updated frequently -- at the minimum on a weekly basis. Three dedicated staff members will facilitate this using their skills in Web design, interactive structures, graphics, video production, video-streaming, research, stand-alone data analysis, and electronic media. The updates will be done seamlessly so there is no noticeable transition or loss of access for users. The Foundation believes this effort - to keep the Web site updated and very current - is critically important to the success of the site.


WHAT SHOULD THE DIRECT RESULT OF THE FOUNDATION'S SUPPORT BE?

The Foundation anticipates that the direct result of the Election 2002 Project, as embodied in its Web site, will be the presentation to all +300 PTV's and the entire country of the concept of using the national network of PTV's to provide a unique, non-partisan electoral information service to U.S. citizens - thus mitigating the influence of paid television political commercials. Additionally, the Web-based segment of Election 2002 is anticipated to serve as the primary communications vehicle for the life of the Project.


WHAT IS THE HOPED-FOR LONG-TERM IMPACT OF THE PROJECT?

The Foundation hopes the Election 2002 Project will focus attention on and elevate the discussion regarding the reform of the American political system. The Project, if successful, should demonstrate that, indeed, there is a non-coercive, non-governmental, non-publicly-funded (at least directly), alternative to resolving the problem of campaign finance reform. It should show how citizens of any means can have viable campaigns b having access to television coverage provided by their local public television station(s). While not a complete answer, it offers the potential to contribute to the goal of reducing the influence of money on elections by creating a more level playing field.

In the Project's demonstration state of Colorado, the Election 2002 effort will assist the broadcasting efforts of Project collaborators KBDI/TV-12 and USA Talk Network in their efforts to spotlight the U.S. Senate race in that state. This race could become a model for the Project in that it is expected both campaigns will spend millions of dollars in a contest, which could decide the political party will control the next session of the U.S. Senate. Both parties have superb and articulate candidates who are likely to support the concept of Election 2002. Therefore, if Election 2002 is able to get their cooperation, the Project could have broad implications both in theory and in immediate practice.


CONTACT INFORMATION

For more information on the Democracy & Media Education Foundation, please e-mail Matthew R. Silverman, the president. U.S.P.S. First Class Mail can be sent to the following address:

Matthew R. Silverman, President & CEO
THE DEMOCRACY & MEDIA EDUCATION FOUNDATION
Post Office Box 17143
Boulder, CO 80308-0143


Please visit the DME Foundation's Web site:
www.DMEFD.org

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