Thursday, April 30, 2009

Candidate Gibbons Closes the Door

On Tuesday night, April 28, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons was a beneficiary of a fundraiser at the posh Crescent Club in East Memphis from which members of the media were barred.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 9:43 AM

570e/1241102868-gibbons_copy.jpgOn Wednesday, scant hours later, gubernatorial candidate Gibbons was the center of local attention at a widely publicized press conference at which he and other law-enforcement officials announced the indictments of eight employees of the Shelby County clerk’s office.

The contrast between a closed-door campaign event and a ballyhooed official act was dramatic enough. What made it doubly so, to the point of genuine irony, was that Gibbons has been emphasizing the just-folks aspect of an impoverished upbringing in rural Arkansas in his campaign. At every opportunity, he has been telling that up-from-nothing Horatio Alger tale, implicitly drawing a contrast between himself and the presumably more elitist circumstances of a major Republican primary opponent, Knoxville mayor and oil-empire heir Bill Haslam,

Yet a further irony is that Gibbons’ normal relation to the media is that of a pleasant, cooperative, and accessible figure. To be sure, he is famously close-mouthed abut the details of any ongoing investigation — no doubt appropriately so — but he is otherwise gregarious and transparent, even to the point of opening up a recent planning session involving his chief campaign cadres.

After his press conference Wednesday, Gibbons was asked his reasons for excluding the media from his Crescent Club fundraiser. The cloistered aspect of the event was a departure for Gibbons, a frequent candidate himself over the years and someone who has organized and hosted many such affairs for candidates he has supported.

After a spell of adopting the wry bantering tone which he sometimes employs to avoid direct answers, Gibbons finally said it had not been his decision to cordon the fundraiser off from media.

He was asked: Whose then? “I suppose it was David or Josh,” he said, referring to campaign chair David Kustoff, the former local GOP chairman and U.S. Attorney, and Josh Thomas, the newly hired campaign manager and former aide to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. It was Thomas who either undertook — or was assigned — the duty of interceding between the event and arriving media representatives so as to turn them away.

These days most campaign fundraisers for most candidates are open to the media in some form, and informal ground rules are in effect for their coverage. Since such events are not technically public and attendant media are, in effect, being extended a courtesy, reportage is studiously non-invasive and normally restricted to the most bland particulars — the size of the turnout, general information about the attendees, and — should the host or the candidate care to release it — totals raised.

The candidate’s remarks to the crowd of donors may also be reported — but normally not in the exacting way that remarks on the campaign stump might be. In most cases the candidate merely repeats the campaign’s standard boilerplate. As for the nature of the attendees, there are rarely any genuine surprises — especially since many on hand will be, like the media members themselves, non-paying courtesy guests — and, should there be unexpected donors of note, their identities will eventually be made known anyhow, one way or another.

In short, there is nothing in the very nature of a campaign fundraiser that explicitly requires sequestration. And the decision to impose it becomes a matter of semiotics — in Gibbons’ case, a possible sign of a shift in strategy away from transparency. As such, it bears watching.

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

    • Touliatos Announces for Shelby County Mayor

      Entry of Juvenile Court clerk creates prospect of three-way GOP primary race with County Commissioner Terry Roland and County Trustee David Lenoir.
    • Reginald Milton's Birthday Surprise

      The first-term Shelby County Commissioner did indeed have a "major announcement" to make to a generous number of attendees.

Speaking of School Consolidation


Readers also liked…

  • Another Big Shoe Drops with Lane's Entry in Sheriff's Race

    County Homeland Security director holds kickoff rally in Millington; considered major contender for GOP nomination.
    • Sep 13, 2017
  • Filling the Space

    For all the in-fighting, we’re all looking for the same thing, and sometimes we can realize it.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Behind the Bill

    Not all the ramifications of the de-annexation measure now pending in the General Assembly are well enough known, even by some of the sponsors.
    • Mar 17, 2016

Most Commented On

© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation