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Obama Election Night Fees Set Some Journos Grumbling

Updated 5:13 p.m.
By Howard Kurtz
Any reporter can cover Barack Obama in Chicago on Election Night -- if he or she takes out the checkbook.

Just setting up in the Grant Park filing center -- a heated tent, by the way -- where top campaign officials will be available, carries a price tag of $935.

For a TV or radio correspondent to land a spot on a riser, with phone lines and Internet access, the bill comes to $1,815.

"This is an outrageous pay to play plan that caters to national elite outlets with deep pockets," writes Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, who blew the whistle on the arrangement today. She argues that not all reporters need the power outlet, Net connection or food that come with admission.

There is a plan for the impoverished: "A general media area will be created where a reporter could watch for free, but the set-up is separate, unequal and clearly second class when it comes to getting top access to campaign people," Sweet writes. The campaign says this area, on a November night, will be "outdoors, unassigned and may have obstructed views."

Beyond the price of admission, the campaign is selling additional services a la carte, such as a long-distance phone line for $300 or an Internet connection for $275.

News organizations routinely pay for such services, along with transportation and lodging, when their staff travel with campaigns.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton says the campaign will make no money on the operation and is simply passing along the costs of building a facility in Chicago's Grant Park, which was picked so a large number of people could hear Obama's speech.

"Folks don't have to pay it," he said.

But don't journalists need access to the tent so they can buttonhole the campaign brass?

"Campaign officials aren't just going to be in the filing center," Burton said. "It's in Chicago. The place will be teeming with campaign officials."

Sure, sure. But didn't this guy raise $150 million last month?

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 21, 2008; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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It would be helpful if Kurtz put this in perspective. What is the other campaign doing on election night? A freebie in Sedona, Arizona? The folks at Politico will be there with another bouquet for Cindy McCain.

Maybe this fiscally conservative, "pay as you go," approach is actually reflective of the discipline President Obama will bring to Washington.

Or, maybe it is a stiff message about the media's relating "moral equivilence" to consumers rather than "accurate assessment."

Posted by: fcadmus | October 22, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Geebus, you folks are self-absorbed. He's speaking in a public park. Why don't you just stand in line like everyone else!

Posted by: BillinChicago1 | October 22, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

What did you expect? Once journalists decided they'd cover elections by giving all the air time to paid campaign operatives, it was only a matter of time before the operatives figured out they could ask to be paid for the favor.

We've really come full circle in that old widening gyre.

Posted by: kaivles | October 22, 2008 4:20 AM | Report abuse

If the MSM pay for it while on the campaign trail why would the night of the election be any different? At that point you guys will have done all the damage you can do to Senator Obama. Why should he, or those of us who support him, care if the MSM sits in the cold and can't see over the thousands of supporters who are there watching history being made?
I heard today that FOX pays one guy 8 million dollars...and you want to whine about a thousand bucks for a heated front row seat with food??? I would gladly pay that price for that seat on that particular night.

Posted by: Grissom1001 | October 22, 2008 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Is this story even real? Kurtz links to Lynn Sweet, who sources the following:

"Billing information must be submitted at as part of the request. Your credit card will not be charged until the campaign confirms your coverage resource package request. Coverage resource packages must be requested at:"

The web site doesn't exist. If you follow the web link directly, it takes you to an unsourced site with the title "ELECTION NIGHT SERVICES", sponsored by Air Charter Team, Inc. (US). I did a search on this company, and they are legit, but don't seem to be in any way connected to the Obama campaign. The web page can't be reached from the Obama site (

Lynn Sweet got her info from Greg Hinz at Crain's Chicago Business, who references Lynn Sweet's blog:

In her blog on the Chicago Sun-Times’ Web site, Lynn Sweet, the paper’s veteran Washington bureau chief, termed the memo “an outrageous pay-to-play plan that caters to national elite (media) outlets.”

Isn't this circular reporting? If its true, I'm not sure how I feel about it. But I'd like to see something more tangible than Kurtz blogging about two people referencing each other as a source. I know they all reference a memo from the Obama campaign, but I can't find it on their official web page.

Posted by: soccersusi | October 21, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

paragraph 7:
News organizations routinely pay for such services, along with transportation and lodging, when their staff travel with campaigns.
So, what seems to be the problem?

Posted by: zukermand | October 21, 2008 10:12 PM | Report abuse

In the movie "MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON" Jimmy Stewart plays a character named "Jefferson Smith" .... he takes over the Senate through a marathon filibuster, finally bringing reform to halt government corruption.


Posted by: MarkInAustin | October 21, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

In the movie "ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE" Jimmy Stewart plays a character named "George Bailey"....George has an angel named Clarence.
Clarence informs George that..."Everytime someone rings a angel gets its wings"
Every time a right wing nut neocon republican nazi posts a negative comment and lies about Obama..."He's a Muslim" ..."He wasn't born in America".."He's a terrorist"....Obama recieves another 100 votes.
Neocon nazis are urged to TYPE FASTER...
....These fools are handin out wings...hahahahahaha


Look folks, these idiots are handing out wings......


Gary Gelormino Seven Hills Ohio 44131 (216)447-0081

Posted by: garygelormino1 | October 21, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the campaign did raise a ton of money last month, and probably will again this month.

But, NO, I did not donate so that you wankers could go and mingle with the campaign.

Posted by: donovong | October 21, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, does Howie Kurtz really expect getting press access to be in any way useful except for bringing in viewers? The latter will pay for itself, but why is Kurtz implying that any actual news would be made from attending this event?

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | October 21, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh boo hoo. Do you honestly think any of your readers gives a cr@p?

The MSM has been an offshoot of McKKKain's compaign for the past few months. If the shoe were on the other foot, you wouldn't be allowed in at all.

Posted by: ccatmoon | October 21, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

The print media may have a point, the TV and Cable enterprises have made sinful amounts of money on campaign ad airings. Also, the Obama campaign in Lynn Sweet's quoted article says the media facility and services is a monetary break even event. Maybe there will be refunds or a lowered price when the numbers of media representatives become a known quantity.

Posted by: louismraskin | October 21, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse



ACLU Says NorthCom’s Fighting Unit May Be Illegal


By Matthew Rothschild, October 21, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union is raising questions about why the Pentagon has assigned a fighting unit to the United States itself.

On October 1, the Northern Command (NorthCom), for the first time ever, got its own dedicated Army force.

And not just any force. The unit the Pentagon assigned to NorthCom is the 3rd Infantry, First Brigade Combat Team, which has spent three of the last five years in Iraq. One of its specialties is counterinsurgency.

“This is a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law,” said Mike German, ACLU national security policy counsel. “Our Founding Fathers understood the threat that a standing army could pose to American liberty.”

German also noted that Congress has “passed statutory protections to ensure that the Army could not be turned against the American people,” he said in the ACLU’s press release.

“The erosion of these protections should concern every American,” German said.

The ACLU is seeking documents from the Justice Department, the Pentagon, and Homeland Security that “authorize the deployment of military troops for domestic purposes.”



Posted by: scrivener50 | October 21, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Man! what is that awful STENCH! Oh! it is just the RNC/Palin-McCain paid troll who gets paid by the post.

A word of advice to the troll(s), don't go near an open flame, you might blow up.

CNN Latest Poll of Polls: Obama up by 9 points over McCain, 51% to 42%!

Posted by: wes1155 | October 21, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Dear Journos:

Everyday on my TV I watch Chicago veteran journalist Bill Kurtis "find the internet" with his wireless access. You all have cellphone, sat phones, WiFi, laptops, Blackberries, and all sorts of other groovy devices.

Now, jump on your laptop, go to LLBean or Eddie Bauer or Patagonia or Columbia and order up some silk longjohns, some microfleece, and other cold weather gear. Don't forget the earmuffs and convertible mittens. Those shoe warmers come in handy too. Strap on your SNL "Al Franken 2000" individual mobile satellite unit, start reporting!

Posted by: jade7243 | October 21, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

That's the price the media has to pay for writing all of those stories about Obama and the Chicago/Ayres network but not writing much about McCain's rancid Arizona network.

By stoking fears about Obama's associations - and downplaying McCain's ties to Hensley, Marley, et al - the mainstream media has created the need for an ultra secure environment around Obama.

That they have to pay the price, literally, for that is a very small form of payback indeed.

And should anything happen to Obama... McCain and the mainstream media's reputation - and more - is going to hell.

Posted by: jrob822 | October 21, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

after jan. there will just be an
official press release through
the presidential news agencies,
oh yes and al jazera.
We can't neglect Muslims.
How politically deficient
and divisive of us'
forgive us Blessed Master OBama

Posted by: USA3 | October 21, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

first thing obama should do
as king of america the liberal,
is reinstate witch burnings'
palin and hillary are
obviously witches,
as they seem to not know
that questioning the blessed
obama is proof of evil intent.

Posted by: USA3 | October 21, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Howie Kurtz and Lynn Sweet sure do love to whine! I can't tell you how devastated I am that you guys and your penniless news organizations are going to have to pay for services rendered. Give. Me. A. Break.

Posted by: tx-il | October 21, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I have no dea why journalists would 'crave access' to Obama's campaign team. What do you THINK they're going to say?!

Clue: review the part in 'Bull Durham' where Kevin Costner is telling the rookie what to say at press conferences.

Posted by: TomJx | October 21, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Obviously she hasn't much experience with Chicago trade unions. Anyone who has ever been a vendor showing out in Rosemont at the convention center knows exactly what I mean.

Posted by: wes1155 | October 21, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I heard all the journalists are going to get a refund execpt for FOXNEWS. Hee Hee!

Great story! Let's see if they let you in at all.

Posted by: thenotoriousflavio | October 21, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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