Date: Tuesday, June 16, 1998
From: Kim Alexander <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Announcing the Alliance for Better Campaigns
With the California Primary now behind us, the California Voter Foundation is now making plans for the November General Election. Among the many activities we have in store is our participation in the Alliance for Better Campaigns' efforts to improve political news coverage of politics.
The Alliance for Better Campaigns is a new organization created by Paul Taylor, former reporter for the Washington Post, co-chaired by Jimmy Carter, Walter Cronkite and Gerald Ford and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Some of you may remember Taylor's efforts to promote better news coverage of the 1996 Presidential Election. His new organization is off to a great start, and has the potential to make a strong, positive impact on the quality and quantity of news coverage available to voters.
California is among the ten states the Alliance has targeted for 1998 to begin this important work, which the Alliance plans to take nationwide for the 2000 Presidential election. I'm pleased to tell you that I have been invited to serve on the Alliance's California Advisory Committee, chaired by former Democratic consultant Michael Reese and Republican consultant Dan Schnur. The California Advisory Committee is being sponsored in partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication and includes many other dedicated people working in the fields of journalism, academia and politics.
Below is a news release the Alliance for Better Campaigns issued yesterday, in conjunction with their formal launch and news conference in Washington, D.C. You can also find more information at their web site, at
I hope you will join the California Voter Foundation in supporting this important and promising effort. I'll be sure to keep CVF-NEWS subscribers informed of the Alliance for Better Campaigns' progress and activities in California.
-- Kim Alexander, President
California Voter Foundation
For Immediate Release -- June 15, 1998
CONTACT: Paul Taylor, 202.879.6755
New Group Launches Project to Improve Political Campaigns;
Calls on Broadcasters, Candidates to Create "Mini-Debate"
WASHINGTON, DC (June 15) -- The Alliance for Better Campaigns, a new public interest group that seeks to improve political conduct and discourse, launched its 1998 project today, calling on candidates and broadcasters to create televised "mini-debates" and announcing a public service advertising campaign to be produced by rival political consultants Bob Squier and Alex Castellanos.
"The Alliance is promoting a series of practical innovations designed to help rescue political campaigns from the downward spiral of more ads, less coverage and fewer voters," said Alliance Executive Director Paul Taylor. "We're also askng everyone else who is frustrated by political campaigns to help figure out how to make them better."
The Alliance is calling on broadcasters to air five-minute candidate mini-debates every Sunday night from Labor Day to Election Day. One station, KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, joined the Alliance today to announce that it will invite the California gubernatorial candidates to take part in weekly mini-debates this fall.
In addition to mini-debates, the Alliance and its partners in 10 states where this pilot project is underway are calling for more long-format debates, more ad watches, and more robust standards of accountability in candidate and issue advocacy advertising.
The Alliance is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of a $3.7 million, three-year grant to the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Annenberg Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson is using a portion of the funds to research and analyze the discourse and coverage in the Alliance's 10 states. "We know surprisingly little about the norms of political discourse in gubernatorial races, " Jamieson said. "This research will report on the extent to which the media in these 10 states routinely sponsor debates and analyze the accuracy of political ads."
The 10 states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas. They were chosen for geographic, demographic and political diversity. The Alliance's effort will start with -- but not be limite to -- gubernatorial races in these states. State partners from the civic, public interest, academic and business communities are meeting with candidates and broadcasters to encourage new formats for televised discourse. In some instances, state partners will also promote voluntary candidate codes of conduct. Based on evaluations of what works and what doesn't in 1998, the Alliance hopes to refine this initiative and take it nationwide in the campaign of 2000.
About $1.4 million of the Pew grant will be used in 1998 on a public service ad campaign, featuring a 30-second spot jointly produced by Bob Squier, President Clinton's media consultant in 1996, and Alex Castellanos, Bob Dole's 1996 media consultant. The ad will be an affirmation of the importance of political campaigns to our democracy. It will air this fall in the 10 states.
The Alliance will also team with America Online to engage citizens in a "National Brainstorm" this fall. "By going directly to AOL's more than 12 million members, we hope to get new ideas and new insights about what needs to be done to make campaigns better," said Kathleen deLaski, AOL's Director of New Initiatives for the News and Information Channels. AOL will collect ideas from its members and gather feedback about the Alliance's proposals using online polls, chats, message boards and e-mail.
The Alliance's three honorary co-chairs each released a statement today. "Citizens deserve political campaigns in which television provides a forum for candidates to engage in a spirited exchange of ideas about issues that matter to the public," said Jimmy Carter. "The Alliance for Better Campaigns is promoting practical steps to help make that ideal a reality."
"It is long past time that television became part of the solution instead of part of the problem," said Walter Cronkite. "With just a little dedication and a little effort, this powerful medium of television could give us the most precious of gifts -- an effective democracy."
Gerald Ford said: "As we approach a new century, it is vital that we find ways to reinvigorate political discourse. The Alliance for Better Campaigns presents tangible ideas to improve the quality of our campaigns at a time when new thinking is desperately needed."