If you buy radio stations, who needs attack ads?
January 3, 2006
Lewiston Morning Tribune
Here's something to watch in the new year: A blight on Idaho's political landscape is threatening to become a blight on the airwaves.
It was announced shortly before Christmas that Frank VanderSloot of Idaho Falls, founder of the Melaleuca "multilevel marketing" company that sells so-called wellness products, is negotiating to buy six eastern Idaho radio stations from Bonneville International of Salt Lake City. Although talks were said to be preliminary, a spokesman for Bonneville said it expected "a mutually satisfactory conclusion to these negotiations.
A Bonneville news release added that the company "has agreed to negotiate exclusively with Mr. VanderSloot for the potential sale of its Eastern Idaho Radio Group."
The group includes both AM and FM stations, including one calling itself "The Hawk."
What should raise warning flags to Idahoans in this news is VanderSloot's history of last-minute smears of candidates in election campaigns.
In 2000, newspaper ads warned readers that if Idaho Supreme Court Justice Cathy Silak were re-elected to her seat, same-sex marriage and "partial-birth abortion" could become legal in the state. The ads said they were financed by "Concerned Citizens for Family Values," which turned out to be one citizen -- VanderSloot himself.
Although the court on which Silak sat had not heard a single case on either homosexual marriage or late-term abortions, and Silak had not stated a position on either issue during the campaign, VanderSloot's ad said its charge was based on national positions of the American Civil Liberties Union. Silak, who had been affiliated with the state ACLU from 1985 through 1987, was defeated at the polls.
Two years later, VanderSloot leveled his sights on Keith Roark, Democratic nominee for state attorney general. While contributing heavily to Roark's opponent, Republican Lawrence Wasden, VanderSloot purchased time for a radio ad featuring the mother of a girl killed by a drunken driver. The ad implied Roark was somehow responsible for the death.
Although Roark had nothing to do with the case, he had, as a private lawyer, defended people accused of driving under the influence. Of course, as a prosecuting attorney, he had also prosecuted people charged with the same crime.
Roark, like Silak, was defeated.
Who knows what might be in store for eastern Idaho radio listeners if VanderSloot assumes ownership of the stations in question? As Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch has already demonstrated, with the right kind of "fair and balanced" reporting, broadcasters have no need to buy ads.
Originally posted at http://www.lmtribune.com/01032006/opinion/312667.php
The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.
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