Lever Time - Ticketmaster’s Monopoly vs. Taylor Swift Fans
10:39PM Nov 22, 2022
Gary Hart (1987)
Hey there and welcome to another episode of leverage time the flagship podcast from deliver an independent investigative news outlet. I'm your host, David Sirota on today's show, we're going to be talking about a rare win against dark money. We've talked a lot about losing against dark money, but this was a big win. During the recent midterm elections, Arizona, of all places, has one of the first anti dark money disclosure laws in the entire country. I'll be speaking with the former Arizona Attorney General who spent the better part of the last decade getting this ballot measure passed. Then we're going to be talking about Taylor Swift. Well, not really, we're gonna be talking about Ticketmaster and its monopoly in the online ticketing space, which came to a head this past week, when 1000s of music fans found out the hard way. What happens when anti trust laws aren't enforced. Producer Frank spoke with the levers Jordan you'll and musician Max Collins of Eve six to discuss how the ticketing giant ended up with a chokehold on consumer's this week, we'll also be doing something special for our audience, we're going to be taking down the paywall and including our bonus segment in the free version of lever time, so everyone gets to hear it so you can hear the kinds of stuff we do in that bonus segment. And this week's is a really good one. My interview with former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, arguably one of the most influential figures within the history of the Democratic Party, and modern American politics. Speaking with Gary Hart was like speaking with living history, I'm excited for all of you to listen to that interview. If you want regular access to our bonus segments included in lever time premium, you can head over right now to lever news.com To become a supporting subscriber that gives you access to all of our premium content. And you'll be directly supporting the investigative journalism that we do here at the lever. Speaking of which, if you're looking for other ways to support our work, leave this podcast a rating and a review on your podcast player and make sure you subscribe. It helps get this podcast in front of more people. And we need all the help we can get to combat the inane bullshit. That is corporate media. And of course I'm here with producer Frank, what's up producer Frank?
Now much David very excited for Thanksgiving this week, one of my favorite holidays, particularly because I like you know, like most Americans really overdo it on Thanksgiving, like I really like to punish myself with food, specifically food, I'm not a big loser. So I'm excited for the joy and the pain I will be experiencing on Thursday.
I'm psyched about the joy of not traveling on Thanksgiving, we travel almost every year because my family is sort of far flung all across the country. And this year, we made the decision not to travel. So I'm giving thanks for not dealing with the hellscape that is the American Airlines system, the American airport system, the American road system, the traffic etc, etc. I am not traveling. I'm thrilled about that. What are you thankful for?
I'm thankful for my life at this moment. You know, it's I'm in my mid 30s now. And you know, there was a better part of my 20s where I was like, I don't think this should ever gets better. And, and it did. And I'm now in a place I've got a wonderful home a wonderful life, a wonderful job that I love. So I'm really thankful for just this moment in my life right now. How about you, David, what are you thankful for?
Well, I'm thankful that the Phillies went to the World Series, I'm not thankful that they they lost in tragic fashion. I am definitely thankful for my family, my friends, my community, I'm thankful that my state did not elect fascists, right wing fascists in the last election. And I'm certainly thankful for the work that we're all doing here at the lever and the subscribers who make it possible. As I've said it before, I'll say it again, we cannot do the work that we do. Without our subscribers, the people who pitch in to help fund this work. It is expensive work. It is time consuming work. There's not a lot of independent journalism out there. And the only way we can do it is because we have 1000s and 1000s of subscribers who pitch in a little bit to help us do this work. And I am eternally grateful to all of our subscribers who do that. So if you're listening and you're a paying subscriber, thank you so much. I'm giving thanks to you on this Thanksgiving. Now, for our first story today, usually on lever time, you hear a lot of bad news or a lot of news about things that could go wrong or are going wrong. But today we're going to talk about the opposite for our first story, a win a real victory, a fix or at least a potential fix. And it came out of the midterm elections in a state that sometimes doesn't deliver great results. The state of Arizona some good news from Arizona. During the recent midterm elections, Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure that will require large, anonymous political donors to disclose their identities, you know that we covered dark money a lot on lever time, we covered a lot in our reporting at the lever. This is right in the center of that issue. Proposition 211, also known as the voters right to know Act passed overwhelmingly in Arizona with over 72% of the vote. The new law requires any donor giving more than 5000 bucks to a nonprofit that uses that money on political advertising to publicly disclose that donors name. This also applies to donors who spend more than $50,000 on state campaigns or ballot measures. And here's the best part. The new rule applies even if the donation is made through a front group or another shell organization attempting to keep donors identities secret. This is truly a huge win in the fight against dark money, showing that the majority of American voters are aware of and want to stop the flood of anonymous cash that choked our politics in the last decade. It didn't come easy. This victory was was a long slog, it took the better part of a decade to get this ballot measure passed in Arizona. So first up, we're going to be speaking with Terry Goddard, the former Democratic Attorney General of Arizona, who's been leading this charge on dark money disclosure since 2014. Terry Goddard, you've been leading the charge on this issue for years in Arizona. So let's start there. When did dark money, this flood of anonymous money flooding into politics? When did that become a motivating issue for you?
Well, first, let me thank the lever and and and its reporting staff for doing so much on dark money, helping to make people aware of this problem for me, it became an issue in 2014. It was a national issue, obviously before that, but in Arizona, in that year, dark money sources, basically paid for the election of two members to our corporation commission. That's the group that sets electric rates. And those two members, nobody knew that they were sort of wholly owned subsidiaries of the local electric company. And they turned around and voted for very high increases in electric fees, probably predictable. If the voters had only known, I think they would have made a different decision. So that got me very interested in finding the sources of all money used for political persuasion.
Okay, so let's talk about what this measure actually does. In relation to the situation you just outlined candidates running for office, massive amounts of anonymous money flood into the state, people don't even know who's advertising for whom, what does this measure that passed in Arizona and by the way, passed overwhelmingly in Arizona? What does it do to prevent that from happening in the future?
Well, it requires the disclosure by the individual or actually, in this case, probably a seat for a corporation, who spends the money on advertising, to tell everybody through disclosure, where it came from. The original source, not some funny named intermediary, that is Americans for a Better tomorrow or Arizonans for peanut butter. It's a it's a requirement that you say who earned the money, either corporate or individual, and disclose that. And we understand that then in the case of dark money that's going through many intermediaries, so you probably you're going to have to disclose the intermediaries as well, and the ones whose hands touch the cash before it was spent. And that would go into effect as soon as the the ballots 70 plus percent that we got favorable, are finally certified probably at the beginning of December. What do
you think the overwhelming results show? What do you think they say? I mean, you in a state where there were various very close elections. This was a not very close election at all. It passed overwhelmingly, I think he called it almost immediately after the polls closed. What do you think that says, especially in a swing state, a state that is considered kind of very contested between the parties?
Well, yeah, You make a great point and Arizona, we don't seem to agree on anything. Very large amount. And they get over 70% for stopping dark money, show that we had bipartisan support. And we've known that throughout the time that we've been trying to get on the ballot. We knew that people wanted this kind of transparency. We knew that we got great reception on the street, when we were passing petitions. We had a couple of cities Phoenix and Tempe passed by overwhelming majorities, full disclosure, charter changes. So we were pretty confident that we will get a good number I didn't think it could be as high as it ended up being. But hopefully we're sending a message Arizona was the worst in the nation in terms of dark money penetration in our elections, as a percentage of the total spend. That was more anonymous cash than anywhere else in this state has been. I hesitate to use the word liberal but but very permissive, of hiding the source of political the payment for political ads. And so to go from last to I hope, first, in terms of disclosure is a huge accomplishment. And we're we're anxious to do that. But I think it sends a message, I hope it sends a message to other states that this is politically popular that in a time of extraordinary division. People agree about transparency, they want to know who it is that's trying to convince them to go one way or the other.
Now, here's the thing. I'm going to ask just a question specific to Arizona because having watched that state's politics from afar, but specifically on on issues like transparency, corruption, money and politics. I mean, Arizona is the state that had a robust, publicly financed election system that the state essentially put in place, a way for people to run for office where they didn't necessarily have to go to huge donors. It was also the state, of course of John McCain, who, whether you like him, or you don't like him, he was a guy who certainly in the 2000 campaign, but made a lot of his legacy his career was was known for being about somebody who railed on money and politics railed on the excesses of the campaign finance system. I'm just curious. Now you've pet now the state has passed this ballot measure? What do you think it is about Arizona where this? It seems the politics are divided on all sorts of issues. But what is it about Arizona where this issue, which I think is one of the most important issues in the hole in the entire country? Because it affects every other issue? What is it about Arizona that has made this set of issues so salient there?
It's a great question, and I'm not sure I can answer it in all of its particulars. We're stubborn, we're ornery. We pride ourselves in being somewhat against the against the curve. You mentioned John McCain and his support of full transparency. And he's been very outspoken or was very outspoken on that subject. I, I we're proud in Arizona to have been one of the first states along with Maine, to have a public finance program for for people running for office, the Supreme Court took a huge shot out of it, and so not many candidates use it anymore. But clean elections as part of our state's legacy was passed by a voter initiative. So there is a tradition, I think, I would say of transparency and fairness in our state.
So there's definitely are there I should shouldn't say definitely, there's likely to be a set of court challenges to the initiative that passed there. And I want I want to hear you respond to the arguments that have been made against compelling legally compelling organizations advertising and elections to disclose the source of their funds. This was in a New Yorker piece, there was a quote from the president of the Arizona free enterprise club. Oh, and it's from it's from an interview he gave with a conservative publication that is sponsored by a dark money group, in which the the opponent of this said, quote, one of the bedrock principles our country was founded upon was the right to free speech, which includes being able to support causes and issues they believe in, without fear of harassment and intimidation. Now, you hear this argument a lot that that, essentially, that the proponents of dark money argue that that people should be able to speak into an election setting, without disclosing their own identity as a way to preserve their free speech rights. What's your response to that?
Well, after I stop chuckling at the fact that there are just a few people in Arizona or around the country, whose free speech rights if they, if they exist, are affected by this because 99% of everybody who contributes to politics in Arizona, and I believe that's true of other states has to disclose their name, their home address, and their employer. That's, that's given. So apparently, their free speech rights don't matter to these people. But there is a very tiny group of folks who want to hide behind these legal barricades, who are critically important now, I, fir, I just have a very hard time believing that that, that there is one rule for some very rich and very, very large corporations and another rule for all the rest of us. It just doesn't make sense in this country. But beyond that, the Supreme Court has always said that political advertising and the disclosure of the sources of political advertising is perfectly constitutional, there is no right to hide your being the source of a political ad that's picking up a big microphone and amplifying your voice above everyone else's. So when you do that, Justice Kennedy, and Citizens United was absolutely adamant. You need to tell people who you are, so they can evaluate the message in light of who is the messenger. And then I guess the last response I have is we tried to with the help of the campaign Legal Center, we tried to craft a statute here, which actually paid attention to that. That argument that people might be harassed, we didn't think it would happen. It hasn't happened in Arizona with the overwhelming majority of people fully disclosing every political contribution. But we were conscious that that might be an argument that people would make. So we have a provision that you can appeal to have your name not disclosed. If you think there's a threat of physical harassment, that's part of the statute. And we have, and I think this is probably even more important, we have a provision in there, which requires the individual or the corporation spending the money to tell their donors that their names might be disclosed, and giving them the opportunity to opt out. I mean, they can still contribute to that nonprofit. But they just specify that their names would not be used. And their money would not be used for political advertising, and therefore their names will not be disclosed. I think we've made it very clear that we want to be conscious of the possibility that someone might be harassed. We don't really believe that's a problem. But just in case it ever is, we've got some protections.
And to my mind, I actually don't mind a deterrent effect in this way. Which is to say, obviously, you don't want people to be harassed, threatened violently or otherwise. That's, that's, that's kind of out of line. I think, in our politics, I don't support that. But a deterrent effect in the sense of, if you're a billionaire, and you want to buy an election through dark money, but you have to now weigh it with do I want the public criticism of my company, or of myself, personally, for doing that? You know, short of harassment, right, short of threats, I just don't want to be publicly criticized, I don't want my brand tarnished. I don't think that's a bad thing for there to be a deterrent effect, or at least a dynamic in which in a place like Arizona, you now have to think about that you have to think twice about is the political speech I'm making that will now be associated with me worth the public criticism that I will face in this small d democratic arena. I mean, do you think some of these big players will be more deterred because of that? And is that unintended effect? Is that a good thing?
Well, you use some magic words there, one of them was to see my brand tarnished. I think what we're talking about here, and what I do believe in and I believe will be a consequence of this statute, is that political speech would be more responsible. Because if you have to put your name at the bottom of the statement, you're going to be much more concerned that it's true, that it's at the idea that you can make a political statement and hide from the accountability of that statement, is one of the big contributors to the tarnishing the frankly, the disruption and and diminishing of political speech today, it has become so Vinos so full of attacks and counter attacks, and false statements, much of which is attributable to the fact that the people who are paying don't take responsibility for the statement. The person making the statement is some poor guy who's running a non Prophet, his only job, her only job is to attack and maim and destroy the other side. And they do it in any way they can because they have no reputation to protect, they have no brand to tarnish. And I guess I would also use for those conservatives who are concerned about this and it applies to both sides, I want to be very clear that there's liberal dark money, and there's conservative dark money. But one of our major Brock's in this argument is John, former Justice Antonin Scalia, who said he didn't want to be part of a Supreme Court who through their action, made it possible the campaign anonymously, that he said did not resemble the home of the brave. So he basically said you make a statement or a democracy, you back it up with a lot of advertising, you need to take responsibility for what you said.
Okay, one last question, because you've been an elected official, you were the mayor of Phoenix who are elected statewide as attorney general. And I think it's notable that the initiative that you that you ran, it only passed, essentially outside of the control of politicians, politicians who have effectively mastered the current political system, a political system drenched in dark money tactically, moving forward, do you think it will be necessary if we're going to address dark money to try to specifically find those ways, ballot measures and the like, that are outside of the the arena of the of the current elected officials, because elected officials are so dependent on and tied to the current dark money system?
Yeah, that's a great question. And and and in Arizona, but you know, we scratched our head because the polling showed that regardless of party, approximately 90% of Arizonans supported transparency and political contributions. 90% When we finally got to the ballot and the city elections I referred to earlier, we're in the in the 90 the high 80s. We got 72%. Statewide, and I think part of the reason it was a little lower was it was a it's hard to get a yes vote in a initiative period. And ours was particularly hard because our slogan was stopped dark money. Vote yes. Well, okay, that that makes the voters a little bit questioning, well, wait a minute, what am I supposed to do here, and then the ballot language was very technical, it never used the word dark money. It never used the word voters right to know, it was just the threshold amounts that we would require for disclosure. So voters had to go through a, let's say, a hedge row of a whole series of of challenges to get to it. And 70% did that and said, Yes, I, I hope we send a message to legislators and to citizen activists, that this is popular. This is something people want to do. Now in Arizona, we knew we'd never get it to our legislature because they were very, really supportive of dark money. They went out of their way to make it easy to hide a contribution. And I think there were a couple of reasons for that one, they were they had either been supported by dark money groups in the past, they wanted to be in the future, or they were afraid to death that they get primaried by a dark money group. And as former governor Fife Symington, here in Arizona said, who was my political opponent many years ago, a Republican, Republican, a strong Republican, say a generic Republican. What he said, I thought he really nailed it. He said, You know, for a politician, fighting against dark money forces, it's like being a prizefighter in the ring, and your opponent is invisible. You don't know where they are, you don't know when they're going to strike you or how, and that's the kind of sort of problem that our elected officials have. My hat's off to Montana, Montana, as far as I know, is the only state to through legislative process pass a full disclosure operation. Hurray for them Democratic governor at the time very strong, right wing Republican legislature, and they came together and one of the sponsors of the bill said something that I'll never forget. He said, if if I'm in I'm in a debate if somebody's going to shoot me in the gut, I want to know who done this shoot. And I thought that put it in, in characteristically restaurant terms, and and things that no, nobody could argue with if they're a political activist. But the fact is, most of the big supporters of trying to get disclosure are people who used to be in office, they've seen how bad it was, and they want to change it. And I'm sort of in that camp. For people who currently are it's very hard to stand up. So popular initiatives may be the best way. But I hope we've sent a message from Arizona, and that is in a very conservative, very divided state. We believe in transparency over one Elon vaguely. So it's politically popular and people are taking a risk by coming up for transparency.
Terry Goddard is the former Democratic mayor of Phoenix and the former attorney general of Arizona who was the one of the major proponents of proposition 211. The voters right to know Act, which was one of the big successes of the 2022 election nationwide and finally created a crack in the dark money system. Terry, thank you so much for taking time with us.
Well, thank you so much, and thanks to the lever and all of you who are working in this area, it's it depends upon people know, and what's happened, I think, to have heavy impact, and I appreciate it.
We're gonna take a quick break, but we'll be right back with our discussion about the ticket master monopoly. Welcome back to lever time. This next segment is for all the Swift DS out there, aka Taylor Swift Fans. Last week, the online ticketing giant Ticketmaster came under fire when millions of Taylor Swift Fans attempted to purchase tickets to her upcoming tour, only to find that ticketmasters website was barely functioning under the weight of demand, and ultimately, buyers were hit with astronomical ticket prices. This is a tale as old as capitalism itself. A corporation develops a monopoly in a certain industry then uses its unilateral control of the market to charge consumers absurd prices. In the last decade, Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment has come to control 70% of the live event market in the United States. So this all came to a head last week during this Taylor Swift incident, which left hundreds of 1000s of fans furious at ticketmasters blatant Shakedown. But there's some good news. Because of the public outcry. The Department of Justice announced late last week that it will be opening a new anti trust investigation into Ticketmaster. To help explain the entire debacle. Producer Frank sat down with the lovers Jordan Yule, who wrote a story detailing how Ticketmaster came to control the entire online ticketing industry. They were also joined by Max Collins, the frontman for the band Eve six, who has firsthand experience with the abusive practices of the giant corporations that now control the music industry.
Alright, I am now joined by the leverage Jordan, you'll Jordan, how're you doing today?
Doing great, Frank. Thanks for having me. Oh, absolutely.
And as a special guests, we are also joined by Max Collins, the lead singer of Eve six, aka Eve six guy. Max, thank you so much for joining us here on overtime.
Thanks so much for having me.
Oh, it's It's my pleasure. We tried to have you a little while back, had some scheduling issues. Glad to have you now because it's the perfect opportunity to talk about this story. Before we actually get into what happened last week with Ticketmaster. Max, I wanted to ask you really quickly, you know, you're you're one of the few if not the only one that I can think of famous musician who has found themselves I would say pretty firmly ensconced in the political left. So I just wanted to start there. I'm curious. How did you find yourself here? What is your political evolution been like? And why don't you think we don't see more musicians finding themselves this far left with this kind of politics.
I mean, the guitar player of our band, John, John cbils, definitely had a hand in in kind of radicalizing me, he sort of he found left politics first. I think then, in conversations with him, he opened my eyes to, to a lot of stuff. It's yeah, it's a pretty basic story. For me, I think. Bernie Sanders, you know, the, the first the first round of his presidential campaign also. Yeah, I just, I felt like I was I was hearing sound, you know, truth from a politician for the first time. And just kind of looking around, you know, I mean, my my own experience, the experience of others, under our economic system, and just how unjust it is. So that, you know, Twitter had a hand in it, too. I gotta say before I started, like, you know, posting on there a couple years ago, I was following a bunch of people and Jordan included. My now friend, Luke O'Neill, I was reading his newsletter. And yeah, that sort of confluence of things, I think, just kept kept kind of pushing me leftward.
I got it makes sense to me. And it's like a simple story that I hear time and time again, but surprised that I don't regularly hear it on like a larger scale. So it is it is nice to hear. But let's jump into what we're all here to discuss, which is this, this giant ticket master debacle, I guess would be the kind way of putting it. Jordan, you wrote a piece that just published last night for the lever, documenting this entire ticket master incident. So let's start at the beginning. How did Ticketmaster come to almost entirely control the online ticketing market.
So Ticketmaster bought up a bunch of its competitors early on, and it worked to pressure Congress and regulators to limit the sale of tickets for live events to, you know, approved entities themselves included. In 2010, they merged with Live Nation, which was a huge promoter, and eventually, a big owner of venues. So now, you know, 12 years later, they control the ticketing side, they control a lot of the promotional side, and they control a lot of the venues, it's a vast reach into the entire live music industry. And a lot of people have said for years that this merger should have never been allowed. You couldn't you shouldn't have people controlling all aspects of that industry in one company. I mean, so you would think, and part of their consent decree when the DOJ approved for this merger was that they couldn't retaliate against other venues who don't use Ticketmaster or Live Nation for their ticketing. But that's exactly what's happened. You know, venues, independent venues are threatened. If they don't use Ticketmaster or Live Nation that they won't get a stop on a tour. That is, that is totally bogus. That shouldn't be allowed to happen, but it does. And there's a bunch of other ways that they get they, you know, steal money and steal money, but skim money off the top from artists and entertainers, on top of all the fees that they levy on people who are just trying to buy tickets to go see their favorite act. It is a totally corrupt is brazenly corrupt entity that should not be allowed to exist in its current form.
You know, my, my partner works in the music industry. And she actually worked near the Live Nation building for a number of years. And her and her colleagues would often refer to it as the Deathstar. It was just sort of, like this monolith. And it was like an enormous building. And it just like in during that time, they just kept like, as you were saying, gobbling up more and more competitors doing these giant mergers. And it was it was very apparent even from me on the outside looking in that like, oh, this company is like controlling almost the entire music industry. It's pretty wild. Max, I'd like to turn to you for a moment you've you've been a professional musician for close to 30 years, can you give us a little context as to what the live music industry looked like prior to the consolidation of these corporate giants like Ticketmaster and I should also mention Spotify, which, you know, similarly to Ticketmaster has sort of grown a chokehold on the music streaming space.
Yeah, whenever whenever you're talking about you know, relatively new bad practices in in the music business it's a it's important it's important to remember that it's always been bad exploitative, and you know, that Ticketmaster before they merged with Live Nation was working with a veritable monopoly as Pearl Jam you know banged on about for a while some of us may remember back back in the 90s they sounded the alarm about it um, and you know, things have a way of getting worse and they do Ticketmaster merging with Live Nation to just completely eradicate utterly eradicate all competition. So you have one stop now they can operate as poorly as they please. They can grab for more all they want. And there's there are no checks on that. You know, when I when I think about the the time before the merger, still two thumbs down. Now we got maybe an extra opposable thumb in there also pointing down. And same with, you know, with Spotify and the major record companies, there's similar, you know, nefarious backdoor deals going on there. You know, I don't know if anti trust could apply to that, but I would think it could I don't want to divert this into the Spotify conversation too much, but, you know, yeah, they made backroom deals with record companies to give record companies ownership stake in Spotify, so that they're getting paid multiple times, while artists, as a lot of us know, now we're getting like point 003 or 0003, or whatever it is, per screen.
Gotcha. So a bad industry that has turned into a worse industry. Indeed, good to know, for all the aspiring artists out there. You know, it probably wouldn't surprise our audience to learn that at the very top of this massive corporate ladder of Live Nation entertainment is a like always a multibillion dollar media mogul. Jordan, you reported on this. Can you tell us a little bit about this guy, John Malone, and the Liberty Media Corporation, which I have to say is just like a classic conservative like bullshit name for something that sounds like it's freedom, but it's actually terrible.
Totally. Right. So, you know, a lot of I've seen a lot of people talking about wanting to break up ticket master. And that's noble. I love it. But like, I think a lot of people don't realize that it's really under Live Nation, which yes, we should also focus on them and all the like, the venue side, the promotional side, but then even fewer people realize that, that's under Liberty Media, which is what you talked about, and that is Ron, and has the chairman of Liberty Media is this guy, John Malone. He is a guy who, you know, has was a former director, and board member of the Cato Institute, he has been in you know, telecom and entertainment. For decades, he has had various different board seats, uh, you know, super influential in media and telecommunications. Give a million dollars to Trump's inauguration in 2016, or 2017, rather. And, you know, he is a prolific donor to various right wing candidates and causes. He also was an investor in discovery. And when they merged with Warner Brothers, which is another merger that probably should not have happened. That propelled him onto the board of this new Warner Brothers discovery company, which is the parent company now of CNN. So he's on there, and he's calling for changes now to be made to CNN, given his right wing leanings, he's explicitly said that he wants to see CNN more like Fox News, that you know that a lot of people caught that comment last year, it generated a lot of uproar. But this is somebody who Yeah, has it has a ton of deep ties to the right wing establishment, to the conservative billionaire class. And despite all this, throughout the reporting on this Taylor Swift saga last week, No mention was made that this is the guy who was like, has a foot in both camps. He's also like, deeply invested in Live Nation and Ticketmaster, while also serving on the board of their parent company.
Yes, I didn't know I did not know that until I read this piece. And it was fascinating.
And most people don't know most people don't know that at the top of these ladders are just like one or two people. And they're usually the same people. Like as Jordan has reported that they're sitting on multiple boards, they have influence across multiple industries, and they're the people that hardly ever get talked about. Alright, let's move on to live nation's monopoly power, because a lot of people are now realizing and describing their control as a monopoly. And it doesn't just affect ticket sales. They've also come to Own Operate or lease over 160 venues in the United States. This is a trend that was exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic, when you know, live music venues were shuttered and you know, some of them had no choice but to sell. So live nation's influence on their venues is felt most acutely by the artists themselves. So Max, can you tell us a little bit about how venues especially some of these more like corporate venues have been using their power to further extort musicians?
Yeah. And yeah, it is. Their power is felt acutely by by artists. And it's it's also you know, felt acutely by audiences because, I mean, I'll get into that in a second but I mean, bands, you're you're gonna we're moving toward a reality where the the only artists who can really afford to go on tour are, you know, at the very top one 1% Yeah, Live Nation. Their bands are still getting the same guarantees to play these clubs. I'm talking about clubs because that's where we're my band lives. As, as we were You know, 10 years ago or whatever, but the cost of touring has risen astronomically due to a bunch of other factors that that you know, we have our economic system to thank for. But Live Nation is extracting more and more from the artists and that's where this merch conversation comes in. They are venues and you know, Live Nation owned venue venues, this multibillion dollar corporation are taking 20 cents sometimes up to 35% of artists merch sales, and you know, sell selling merchandise is one one of the last ways for bands to put money in their pockets, fund a tour break even on a tour. And, you know, you play a Live Nation venue, you have a Live Nation person they're watching you count in and watching you count out, making sure that you know, you're not that the numbers match up, and that they are able to, you know, get their exact, whatever the percentage might be 20 or up of your merch. And they you know, you pay to have your merch made, right? The merch. The merch has your artists name on it, maybe your likeness on it, they're, they're taking that money, and there's nothing you can do about it, you know, you can't, you can't, you know, negotiate this. This is this is non negotiable. So, I mean, that's just an especially egregious way that they're, again, taking from the artists who are hanging on by a thread. And how this affects audiences is there's there's there is a silence coming, there really is, you know, I mean, more and more bands are finding themselves unable to afford to go on tour. And we're one of those bands. I mean, we're we we found after doing like a month long run that it just it's it isn't worth it, where it isn't financially worth it to do it, it makes sense for us to go out and do one or two shows, and, you know, like a weekend thing and fly home maybe a cluster of like four, but the longer you stay out, the more money you're losing, which you think it would be the other way around.
And this is wild because it's been understood in the last few years that because album sales have dropped so significantly because of streaming that live touring was then the the only way to make money still as a musician. So now so now this landscape seems to be changing even more, we're like, that's not even a possibility. Right?
And, and a bunch of other factors are involved. There, you know, inflation, the pandemic affects this. But similar to the way Spotify during the pandemic, when the musician's union went to them saying, hey, you know, one of our only income sources has been jettisoned, hear, you know, maybe we could get a penny a stream, while we're all locked inside and can't tour. And no, you know, of course not. And Live Nation to similarly has used the pandemic to scoop up more venues, like as you said that were getting shuttered. And also to just pull more, pull more from the artists. Yeah, it's just becoming untenable.
Well, there is a slight bright side to this whole story. So it does appear that last week's Taylor Swift debacle has introduced a generation of music fans to the horrible power of monopoly. Jordan, what has the reaction and Fallout been following what happened last week?
Yes. So this started when they did a verified presale event for her upcoming tour. And what they did was they randomly selected fans and emailed them saying, Hey, you have access to this early presale event. What happened next was their site was flooded with millions of people trying to get tickets, that site then buckled under the weight of that traffic, but also there were there were problems caused by their dynamic pricing mechanism. This happened earlier this year with the sale of Bruce Springsteen and blink 182 tickets. And what happened was, these are this is a new mechanism that has received new scrutiny but it was started in 2011. And they change the prices on the fly, driven by demand. So when you have a tour that's popular like this, the prices will go up. They don't have just a set At a stock or face value that is consistent throughout the entire sale, that has led to prices going up into the 1000s. For tickets that would otherwise be 100, or 200, maybe a little bit more, that has enraged fans throughout this entire process. Also, I can't draw through line to this. But there's been multiple anecdotes and experiences like this throughout all of the sales, people will go to checkout, their tickets will be removed, and then they'll come back, they'll be put in the back of the line, wait through the queue again, and the tickets will be priced higher than they were initially. You can read into that however you want, we can definitively say that Ticketmaster is doing this just to drive up prices and make more money. But it does kind of seem like that. And once you've done that, you did it to Bruce Springsteen fans, you've done it a blink 182 fans and they finally met their match here. One of the most hardened and energized faces on the internet. They did it the Taylor Swift Fans, and these people were furious. By the end of the week, Ticketmaster had to end its public sale of tickets, which is, you know, just out of the out of character. They said it was technological difficulties and unlimited supply and insufficient supply of tickets. At the same time. The CEO of Live Live Nation was going on CNBC and saying this is really because Taylor Swift hasn't toured in a few years. Why do you think she has endured for years? Is there something that has happened over the past few years that would lead to a big artists like that not touring, shouldn't be prepared for Sorry to
interrupt, it just reminded me of when Daniel Eck said, you know, artists just need to be making like nine albums a year or something like that. If they want to get if they want to get paid more, again, it's just landing back with the, you know, the onus is landing on on the class that is being exploited. It also
highlights the problem when you have a monopoly like this with a firm grip on the industry, and you're funneling everything into one site, everything in one destination mean, these are the outcomes you're going to continue to get. So people were obviously upset. You saw members of Congress, weigh in Bill Pascrell outed himself as a Swifty. But I think that was more just a ploy to push something he has been pushing for over the past couple of years, which is transparency and ticket pricing. There have been a lot of calls for Ticketmaster and Live Nation to be broken up. And on Friday, the day that would be the press, or the public sale for Taylor Swift tickets. The DOJ was reported by the New York Times at the DOJ has already begun an investigation into Live Nation for antitrust violations, what we found in our reporting, and this credit to Andrew Perez, who helped shape the story with me, he looked into one of their financial filings on their 10k form and found explicitly them saying in the event of an antitrust investigation with an adverse impact that will significantly harm our business and limit our ability if not explained, to an extent basically saying, We shouldn't even be in the ticket business. And if an antitrust investigation is successful, we will be out of the ticketing business. So they even know what they're doing is totally bogus. Yeah,
that's amazing. You love to say it. I mean, I guess like, yeah, my my gut reaction is like, how do we get the Swifties? You know, motivated to fight dark money in our politics? You know, like, how do we get the Swifties combating the rise of authoritarianism? Because they clearly have the political juice to get stuff done. I want to close this out with a final question for max. So if if giants like Live Nation, and Spotify aren't ultimately broken up, which would require, as Jordan has reported, you know, a ton of initiative on the federal level, what does the future of live music look like in this new ecosystem? And do you think it's possible for musicians to organize this is a conversation that I have had with I've, you know, multiple musician, friends, and the idea of like, smaller up and coming, you know, X being able to organize on their own to combat this system? Is that do you think that's feasible? Or is it just that like, you know, all these people are too disparate to form some sort of, like, collective unit? So yeah, so I guess what's the future look like? And then how could possibly musicians organize?
Yeah, I mean, I
think the future as it as it looks, now is, is pretty bleak. You know, I mean, I'm just being honest, I think, I think if you know, the DOJ is able to break these these companies up. That would be that would be good. But you know, under the capitalist system, there's there's always going to be these companies rising to the top and having having control and then monopoly. Like I said, even before Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster. It wasn't it was you know, we were seeing a lot of the things we're seeing now just not quite to scale. I You know, it's, it's hard, I do think I do think musicians organizing could, you know, create power that would, you know, hurt these companies enough to maybe move a little bit. It's just like you said, it is hard because when you're talking about musicians, you're talking about, like working class people basically who make, you know, enough to live. And you're also talking about people like Taylor Swift, who's worth hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. And so for there to be like solidarity that crosses those class lines, feels a bit sort of pie in the sky. But I do think it's possible for more and more, you know, mid level working artists and maybe some, you know, people at the top who are willing to lend their voice to this willing to call Live Nation out by name, you know, and willing to do some collective action. I got to stay stay hopeful that that's that that's, you know, possible and would be it would be productive. I mean, if it's possible and happens it will be productive.
Well guys, thank you so much for joining us here on lever time. Jordan, thank you for your fantastic reporting. I highly recommend everyone go to LeBron news.com. To read Jordans full story on this whole ticket master incident. And Max, thank you so much for joining us where can our audience find you and your work?
Um, well the Twitter handle is at Eve six we just released a record about a month ago called hyper relevance ation and that's an all the on all the evil evil platforms. And I I'm writing an advice column for for Buzzfeed News now as well I was doing it for for input magazine, but the first one will be coming out after Thanksgiving with with BuzzFeed. So just plug that to
Awesome. Well, thank you guys again for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Thank you so much, guys. Appreciate it. Thanks, Frank.
Okay, now our bonus segment, which we're going to be sharing this week with all of our listeners. Usually our bonus segment is for lever time premium listeners of folks who pitch in our paying subscribers who make this work possible. But this week, we're opening up the bonus segment to everybody so that everybody can see what one of our bonus segments are like and this one is an important one. This past week, I drove into the snowy foothills of Colorado to sit down in real life with former Democratic senator and Presidential Candidate Gary Hart. Now for a lot of Americans, Gary Hart is probably best known as the guy whose presidential campaign fell apart in 1987. due to allegations of an extramarital affair, and the ensuing media blowback. The story is widely considered to be the first American political sex scandal in modern history, which was dramatized in the 2008 movie The front runner, but Gary Hart was much more than that. He was the National Campaign Director of George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign, he served as a US senator from Colorado from 1975 to 1987. He ran for president twice, and he served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations in a number of foreign policy and national security roles. Whether or not you like Gary Hart, or agree with him. There are a few politicians who've been as involved or witnessed as much as he has. That's why I drove through a literal snowstorm to get the chance to sit down with him. We spoke about the evolution of political campaigns, the rise of authoritarianism, the failures of modern media, and how he still holds on to his 1960s idealism, and how the Democratic Party has been fighting over those ideals for the last many decades. Now, here's that bonus segment.
I intend to seek the presidency of the United States in 1988. And I do so for one single reason. And that is I love my country. This country is 250 million human beings, united by a common history and heritage, and set of beliefs. But America is and always has been an ideal.
Okay, well, it's really nice to meet you.
Yeah. Thank you. I guess we're we're talking here right after the election. Yes. Just your first of all, your general take on the election. How did you feel about it?
Well, I was among those. Quite a few people very deeply concerned about what the rise of what usually is called a forward terian ism in our political system, moving away from democracy, questioning the legitimacy of elections and votes, and generally seeking to consolidate authority in the hands up fewer and fewer people. So the outcome was a considerable relief. I don't think the issue is over, I think we're going to see some of these problems, if you will, in 24 and beyond. Because there, there is a base for this kind of non democratic thinking. So I think the results of 22 have been very, very good.
I want to ask going back to when you first started in politics, was there this kind of anti democratic, authoritarian aspect of politics? Was it less? Has it gotten more intense? And if it has gotten more intense? Why do you think that is,
there's always been a, the far right, in our society, and it makes itself felt politically, obviously, from time to time, the communist threat of the 50s and 60s, and even before that, in the run up to World War Two. I don't know how you would describe those who were against American involvement in the European war. But by and large, they were at, at the very least isolationist, and, in some ways, very near to support a fascism. So this, this tendency, comes and goes. And it has certainly come in the last five or six years, and more openly than probably in the past. And certainly more linked with one of the two major parties. What do
you attribute that? That upsurge to
a whole whole range of things, the rise of the globalization and the rise of integrated economies, jobs being lost, while at the same time in the early in the 70s. And then in the 80s. And in this century, manufacturing being replaced by technology. And this the center of our economy moving from Detroit to Silicon Valley, symbolically and actually, and that just that has just jointed at least one generation of American workers, foreign competition, imports. And the struggle we have with competing in all areas of the economy. We dominate. dominate, it's too strong a word we lead, and new and high technologies, but we have competition from China and others. But it's it's dislocation, immigration, real and imagined, but mostly real. Also seen as a threat to jobs, but largely jobs that Americans don't want low wage, service, jobs, and host of new problems such as climate change, that are a threat, certainly to civilization, and to the world. Not just to us, but for people in their middle years and later. This is this is a new world. And it's it's disconcerting. And I don't think that the political leadership, including of my own party, the Democrats, as come fully to grips with intellectually and actually policies that will concretely address these new realities.
In your opinion, how have national politics changed most since you left the Senate, like if you could name 123 Things
is such a long discussion. Sure. It's changed mightily. I am part of the John Kennedy generation challenge to do something for our country. The idealistic impulse. And it was real. And it not only brought a lot of us younger people to Washington, but just to involvement in state politics, non political, social activities, a variety of guns, ask what you can do for your country. And looking back on that era, let's say this early 60s For sure, before the assassinations, it was an idealistic time, and a much simpler time. campaigns cost much, much less. And even when I was a candidate, first time, and second time, in the 80s 70s, and 80s, campaigns cost much, much less. For example, I saw the United States Senate seat in Colorado in 74. And in a field of six Democratic candidates for the nomination, to run against a wealthy two term incumbent, the entire campaign costs $375,000. Senator Michael Bennet, my friend, just got reelected and spent. I don't know what the total is. But I saw figures of 25 million. And that's pretty standard. You get into California, New York, and so on. So the cost of campaigning. That's the bad news. The good news is the ability to raise small dollars through social media. And Barack Obama really invented that idea that took advantage of it. And so there's good news and bad news. Bad news is how how costly campaigns are. The good news is small dollar contributions.
How do you think the cost of campaigns changes and distorts what comes out of our politics,
the obvious thing is, people with modest incomes, find it harder and harder to run for office, which is really too bad. It narrows the field of potential candidates to those with money, or those who know people with money. Now, that's not always true there, I'd have to go down the list of current and new United States senators to see how many of them are of modest middle income means. But in the old days, at his first half of the 20th century, it was almost all millionaires in the Senate. And then you had this new influx, middle of the 20th century, a poor guys like me, who could put a campaign together, using volunteers and cutting costs here and there. And then the new surge came along and once again narrowed the field a lot to those with money or with access to money. So it, it conditions the kind of people we elect,
I want to just go back to there's been a lot of talk about the battle for the direction of the Democratic Party. You're somebody who you ran George McGovern's campaign. And I think a lot of the debates and discussion about the future of the Democratic Party or where the Democratic Party should go, are actually in a way rooted in the McGovern campaign. There's this. There's this idea that the McGovern campaign went wrong, and we should never try to do what happened in the McGovern campaign. Again, I feel like that's haunted these discussions about the Democratic Party for what 50 years, take us back to when you worked on that campaign, what that was like to try to change or challenge the direction of the party, and why you think that campaign continues to haunt these discussions about where the Democratic Party should
go, Well, I probably quarrel with the use of the word haunt. It brought a generation or more of Americans, particularly young Americans into politics, if you will campaigns and public service and the contribution of that generation, my generation is still to be calculated now. The context of that campaign 1972 was in an Age of Revolution. We had had a wave of assassinations in the 60s that toward the country apart. But the big issue was Vietnam, that also divided the country. And Senator McGovern was to his credit, a leader of the Terminate Vietnam War movement. So he, he could, he'd got boats that way. But he also lost a lot of boats. And he was outspoken. But it was also the arrival of so other social revolutions. The women's movement began in that period, late 60s, early 70s. The environmental movement, once again, brought people into activism, but also divided the country. And the beginning of that economic revolution that I mentioned. steelworkers, and auto workers and others, blue collar, the blue collar backbone of America was beginning to feel threats from foreign competition. And there were times that were in the media covered of facilities parking lots near a American automobile manufacturing place. And if a foreign car was parked in that lot, it might get its windshield bashed in. So this was this was a cataclysmic time. And there were no in very few of these instances, was there a middle ground, that the movement people on all these movements, you were either for them or against them, and I think Sundram govern suffered from that plus, he was running against a popular incumbent, at that time, turned out to be Richard Nixon, but very hard to defeat an incumbent.
I got to know, Senator McGovern a little bit when I worked for Brian Schweitzer. I lived up in Montana, the governor of Montana, and I went down to visit with Senator McGovern. It was really a memorable experience to get to meet him. And and we talked about that campaign. I wonder is Do you think that the memory of that campaign is that are the negative memories of that campaign are based wholly on the electoral results? And do you think that what you've just discussed about what that campaign actually did over the long haul? is not well understood?
Well, you would know well, that the field of political commentators, treats campaigns up to an including the presidency, as sports events, winners and losers, and rarely covers the subtleties, as I've said, what a losing campaign brings to the country. And if, if a fair accounting of the bat campaign so many years ago now, so amazing that people still remember so vividly, often is, why did he lose? Why didn't they win? It's it's the sports side of politics. I think, more thoughtful analysts look at the intangible con contributions, that a losing candidate quite often, particularly for the presidency quite often brings to the society.
I mean, when you say that, to my mind, I think about Jean McCarthy, I think about McGovern. I also think about Bernie Sanders. I think Bernie Sanders and I worked with Bernie Sanders. When I worked on Capitol Hill and on his 2020 campaign, what do you think? I mean, I guess I would ask you, do you think that the Bernie Sanders campaign of 16, or 20, is in the same vein, where it's something where people analyze it on whether it won or lost and don't think necessarily about what it means longer term for politics? And if if you do, what do you think that campaign meant?
Obviously, I'm probably a big having gone through a period of my life where I was seen as some kind of leftists radical, I'm probably much more above mainstream moderate. Then Senator Sanders, I would assume, given your own experience and that of 1000s of others that he has made a substantial contribution, again, in this intangible area of involvement, bringing people particularly young people, disaffected people by giving them a cause to participate in and to contribute, and he should get credit for that as others as well. Fast forward
to now, you you knew Joe Biden, when you were in the Senate, President Biden, you knew him in the Senate.
Oh, I served with him for 12 years. He's a very good friend of mine. And even after I left the Senate, I stayed active on in through the part of the Clinton presidency, and a lot of the Obama presidency, serving in national commissions and committees, State Department, Defense Department, and other service services, bad guy and so on. There is life after elective office, I guess, and a lot of different ways for people to contribute to their not just their nation, but their states, their communities. And that, by the way, is a great challenges. Get people involved.
So that's why I want to ask you so you, you, you're friends with Joe Biden, you know him? What's your assessment of the first two years of his presidency? How are you feeling about it?
I'm very poor at that. That I now have that kind of analysis because I'm too close to him. I know him, too. I can, I can almost put myself in his mind because I know him very, very well. And we got along very well. I'm not in touch with him. And so I don't regularly sit around a table with him and other color former colleagues to talk. But I think he's, I think he's highly underrated. I think he has fallen into a kind of media trap, where the political media is often characterized as blackbirds sitting on a wire and one flies on then they all fly. So it's, it's a bit of a industry cold kind of thing. I don't know. I think he, he developed a critical media that overstepped by and large. And I think they, many of his critics, did not give him sufficient credit for what he achieved in the last 12 months, which is considerable.
Let's go back to your presidential campaigns. I want to I want to talk a little bit about that. Before we get to the book. What do you think the legacy of your two presidential campaigns are whether in people's memory or what it meant for the country, it was really
one campaign. The second one never materialized. for complicated reasons. It's impossible for a for a candidate to analyze himself or to gauge himself. I'll give you some examples that come from not just the campaign's but from the Senate. 12 years in the Senate. I had a law student, 1920 year old law student named Bill shore, come into my senator office, he was a student at American University. And he was looking for a job on the hill. And so he we hired him in the proverbial mailrooms, which is where everybody starts, and 1984 He was with me the entire 12 years in the Senate, we've remained very close friends. In 1984, he and his sister Debbie, read a story in The New York Times about childhood hunger in America. They said this is theirs, this is wrong. So with one credit card, they started an organization called Share Our Strength. That was 1984 as a result of the ad four campaign in the years since then, Share Our Strength has provided 1.4 billion meals to poor children. Wow. If I did anything, it was hopefully to inspire idealism nullus goes on. And so I I I don't take credit. Did for inspiring that idealism. But it was really what John Kennedy was talking about. And I think that's my contribution. Although by the way, given the nature of your questions, I still go into airports, public places, and people stop me and say, I remember you from McGovern camp.
So, one of the, one of the some of the commentary about your campaign was about you pushing to evolve the Democratic Party beyond the New Deal. What does that mean to evolve beyond the New Deal? And obviously, that set in a time in the 1980s? Not today, there's been more talk of going back to the New Deal now. But in the 1980s, what were you getting at with that, as you call it a crusade.
First of all, there were a host of new realities, this was not the 1930s. We've mentioned some of those having to do with the environment, and the shifting nature of employment and foreign competition and globalization, all of those things, did not exist in that theater in that Franklin Roosevelt era. So policy has to follow reality, and reality changes. So if you try to apply 1930s, create new government agencies, in the era of Reagan, you weren't going to do very well. And people like Hubert Humphrey, and the heirs of that legacy, great, great legacy, for those times, always thought in terms of new government agencies spending more money, when the country was going a different direction. And so my generation wasn't just me, but a whole bunch of people. I was 36 years old when I was elected to the Senate 37 When I took office, and here was Joe Biden already there, and a host of others have in their 30s and early 40s. And we were looking at a different world than Hubert Humphrey and Franklin Roosevelt did. It was pretty simple. The nature of warfare was changing. We learned that in Vietnam. So we had to think differently about defense. And the list goes on.
I wonder where you think we are now, in terms of that discussion? I think there's a sense that the more business friendly side of the Democratic Party has had its triumphs, at least during the Clinton years and into the Obama years. And now there seems to be a kind of resurgence of a more New Deal, style, progressive wing of the party, I guess, has your analysis. Is your has your have your feelings changed about? If not the new deal itself, then where politics is today than where they were in the 80s?
Absolutely. Again, policy has to follow reality and reality changes. You can't freeze, a country the size and an economy the size in amber, and just live off that for the next century or so it doesn't work that way. So you adapt your policies to the realities that you face. And if the new jobs in your economy or in technology that changes, the kind of education you give your kids, it ripples. Everything has implications in other areas, clearly the environment. The environment is changing our society that in environmental movement began in the 60s and 70s. And it continues to revolutionize economies and whole countries. It's to to give a snapshot of America in 2020 22 is nothing more than that. Just a snapshot is to I don't want to resort to cliches. It's to answer your question is too soon to say 10 years from now. 20 years now we'll look back and say we did this right. I think Joe Biden's initiative on the in on infrastructure was just obvious. Trump talked about it did nothing. Ronald Reagan talked about it and did nothing. Concrete pulls apart. Sets simple. And bridges fall apart, and roads fall apart. And so that requires government. You know, corporate America is not going to go out and start building bridges unless the taxpayers pay for them. Michael Bennett
told me at a democratic event earlier this year that and he was quoted also saying this later, he said that when he came to the Senate, he didn't, at first realize how big a problem, how top of mind a problem, economic inequality is. And I think a lot of people now, to your point about looking back, they'd see the beginnings of the economic inequality problem in the 1980s. Were people aware of it? In your, to your mind, in your mind back at people in politics? Were they aware of it becoming a problem in the 80s? Or was it just like not on the radar, it's always
been a problem. Income distribution, in a capitalist society is always going to be unfair. And the role of government is to make it more fair, through taxes through employment, all those things. So I don't think I don't see the 80s as a kind of watershed, the poor are always with us. Our job, the job of society, is to reduce their numbers, find jobs, and there are plenty of jobs. Now. I said earlier, about the influx of migrants, you hear very little in terms of advertising, or speeches or anything else from corporate America, about immigrants. The two industries that need them the most are agriculture, and the food industry, hospitality industry, people to make the beds and clean up the rooms and do the dishes. Americans don't want to do those jobs anymore. So I'm keep waiting and praying that the Wall Street Journal and the National Association of Manufacturers on all those entities will say we need migrants, we do because we're offering jobs at $12 An hour or less. And Americans won't take them. And I want them. I want those companies and those industries to step forward and say, Okay, we are going to get behind an immigration initiative, bipartisan immigration initiative. And here are its elements. Now, if to members of Congress, if you want to be on our side, sign up to this legislation. They just the corporate world doesn't talk, because I know it's not popular everywhere.
Let's talk about the part of your book, your new book that first and foremost first talks about the media, I do think there's a memory of your 1988 campaign that didn't become a campaign as a kind of lesson. Or I feel like it's remembered as almost the the first modern media created scandal of a presidential campaign that it's looked back on as that that's when the media insanity really started. And I want to link it to what I read in your book last night when I was getting ready for this interview, which was You talk a lot in your book about American democracy and and how a kind of republican form of government can save our democracy. And at the root of it, you talk a lot about civic education. And I feel like we are now immersed in more media and political news than ever, that it's not we don't lack the information availability, but the information itself is often misinformation, disinformation, tilted information, not accurate information, or even if it is accurate, etcetera, etcetera. It is sensationalized. And you say that the way to save our democracy is for people to become more informed citizens. And I guess my question based on all of that context is, I feel like people are informed in the sense that there is a lot of information around but it also somehow feels like, in a lot of ways the country is not informed, like explain that paradox about how we are immersed in all this information. But we aren't necessarily a well informed, small d democratic society
Well, without revisiting 1987 and 88. If one does look back on a 48 hour period, that became controversial. That was we now have concrete evidence set up by the opposition. The media at that time was so swept up in what they themselves called the feeding frenzy, that not one of them went under underground to find out who set it up, but we know who it was. And basically the same crowd that plagued John Kerry, with the Swift boats and the hanging chads for, for previous campaigns, all those dirty tricks, if you will. I think that's today that's seen as anachronistic by members of the media. For one reason, Donald Trump, it turns out that a majority of Americans don't care. The media at that time was in turmoil. Because the changing the competition for eyeballs on the screen, and viewers and readers and so forth, had become vociferous within the media itself. And now, I would love to have somebody go back. No, I wouldn't love it because it's too painful. But But I don't know, I don't think anybody has ever gone back to analyze that 48 hour period. In the way that your question suggests. It was a an almost desperate effort on the part of the electronic and print media to come to get and expand readership. And viewership and I and the American political process, paid the price. So it is what it is. And it's too late to revisit it all. But I would think it would be very hard now after Donald Trump, and his show is a colorful life to have anything like that occur, again, to the
to the larger point about media and about democracy. If that was the kickoff, if what happened in your in your campaign that wasn't in 8788. If that was the kickoff of sort of the age of media that we now live in, where everything is scandalized, there's, you know, more and more sensationalism. And we are emerged, that becomes our politics. And that is, in a sense, our political news. How do we become an informed society, about the things you write about in your book that's necessary for a functioning small d democratic government?
I think it's just the opposite. When I say Donald Trump has changed everything, he's he has eliminated the idea of scandal. He is a walking scandal in his life. So what more is there to say, if you're an editor of television or print, do you call your reporters together and say, let's find out some dirt on Donald Trump, everybody would fall out of their chairs, laughing. And awful lot of people in America have essentially said, okay, so what I mean, do you think that's a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it depends on how you're talking about the one American who hates the word scandal, because it's, it's always used and never defined. And quite often, when people use that word, they're thinking of sex. Well, I think Mr. Trump has taken that off the table. I would hope that those who run journalism, and those are just journalism in America is a private enterprise. And, and it often editorialize is about itself by saying we have a duty to inform that the people who run the networks and the newspapers would say we're not doing our job, the more we focus on Scandal, if you will, the less we're informing the American people. So it's a it's a value choice.
Here's, I'm glad we're talking about this. Because here's what bothers me being a journalist. The things that are scandalous, are considered not scandalous. And the things that are not really scandals are considered the biggest scandals of all. So as an example, I do a lot of reporting on money in politics a lot. That's what I that's my work. This person in Congress got this money did this that hurts people? To me? That's a scandal. Yeah. That's now considered normal. That's that's barely considered news. That I think to your point about what is a scandal? What does that word even mean? I think we've taken that word, that word now means the things that in a lot of ways that are the least important of all,
well, but add to that I agree completely. The way we finance our campaigns is a scandal. And the revolving door for sure that it's involved with that. You you take the money, you vote, the interest. And then when you get defeated, or you're tired of it, you walk out the revolving door into a lobbying operation. And you make even more money that makes people angry. The more you focus on that and reveal it, the more angry people get, and they rightly so. But I would have broaden that. You touched on this. To me scandal is an elderly person in a cold house. Children without food, injured people who can't afford medicine and hospitalization, those were scandals. And, and if I were to address a roomful of editors, I would that would be my speech, focus on real scandals. And they have to do with human beings, not politicians. before my time, and my experience, the rule was, we don't cover a politician or elected officials, private life, if it doesn't affect their performance in office, John Kennedy, the list goes on Lyndon Johnson, everybody, not everybody, but an awful lot of people, the hypocrisy involved and so forth, life went on.
You've always been a proponent of scaling back the United States nuclear weapons capabilities, and, you know, anti proliferation efforts and the like. And you have even said that full global denuclearization should be our eventual goal. We're now about nine months into a war between Russia and the Ukraine, which President Biden himself has even likened to the Cuban Missile Crisis in terms of, of its nuclear risk. What are your thoughts on how the US has handled the situation? How dangerous is this is the situation in your mind having studied and worked around, around the nuclear issue?
Well, I think it's pretty obvious from President Biden himself and other world leaders. With somebody like Putin in the Kremlin, not Mikhail Gorbachev, whom I got to know very well, or a thoughtful, humanistic leader, but someone we don't know very well, and who's capable of invading a neighboring country, and brutalizing the people that live there. And who drops hints about nuclear weapons? It's, it's frightening. It is frightening and others have said this situation could turn into a Cuban Missile Crisis, virtually overnight. And and that's what scares people. The Russians have more nuclear warheads than we do. And we've got I think it's unclassified, but in the range of 5000, and they've got more why, why, if you've seen what one multi kiloton or megaton nuclear weapon can do destroy an entire city. Why do we need all those? We? Why do we any of them? It's pure intimidation.
I want to ask you a question that I always ask guests on this podcast and it does relate to very deeply to your book, which is I always ask guests at the end of an of a, of an interview, what are they optimistic about? What are they, and your book is optimistic about the future of American democracy,
I can't live with pessimism, I was very high on 1000s of other people that I know, have been very, very concerned about American democracy for reasons that we've discussed. But my my basic nature is optimism. I don't I can't live with pessimism as a as a life style or whatever you want to mentality. I just can't shoot myself. I believe in the human spirit. I believe in the American character. I'm reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln. And it's stunning. Given where he started, and his life that he did, he saved the country. Everybody agrees with that. And there's some secret, if you will, some central truth about the life of Lincoln, that reflects on our whole country. We don't turn up Lincoln's very often, unfortunately, we'd probably get bored if we did have a Savior every four to eight years. But the American people are good people. And and anybody who's been in public office knows that a lot. worries people like me, are those who aren't good. And there are some, there are too many right now. And the right wing militias, they're things to worry about. And I'm still active in the intelligence world. And so I see, see and hear some of the facts that are going on are not publicly published. So there are things to be concerned about, not everybody is the same. And there are some there are, unfortunately, some bad people in our society. And you're most optimistic about what the American character what I just said. I think, given as much information as they as we can, through the media, to the American people, they're, they'll make the right choice. Now, people say yeah, but Mr. Trump got elected 16. And he may get elected again. That's, that's true. We've had some bad presidents. So we don't always elect saints and, or geniuses. But they're deep down, the American people are good people. Senator Gary Hart, thank
you so much for taking the time. My pleasure,
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