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Three reporters bumped off Obama campaign plane

Frederick and Malcolm are Times staff writers.

Sen. Barack Obama’s operation has kicked three newspaper reporters off its campaign plane.

Obama’s people say it was a tough decision to boot the reporters for the New York Post, the Dallas Morning News and the Washington Times. But, they say, there are only so many seats on the plane and somebody had to go.

It’s probably just a coincidence that all three papers recently endorsed Obama’s Republican rival for president, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“It feels like the journalistic equivalent of redistributing the wealth,” quipped John Solomon, executive editor of the Times, which lost its seat after three years of travel with the Illinois senator and just 72 hours after endorsing McCain.

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That newspaper’s website headlined :// www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/01/citizen-of-the-world-speech- cost-obama-tour-700000/ "> www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/01/citizen-of-the-world-speech- cost-obama-tour-700000/ on staging, sound and lights for his Berlin victory rally in July for the more than 200,000 Germans in attendance, who can’t vote in Tuesday’s election.

Gee, you could dress more than four Republican vice presidential candidates with that kind of money.

The Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, has offered no evidence that its expulsion was payback.

Think about it: Why would a political campaign take retribution on reporters for a decision made by their publication’s separate editorial boards? The papers, after all, pay their own way on the charters.

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That would be a cheesy, hardball -- and quite possibly counterproductive -- move for a front-runner to do. That candidate’s organization would have to reflect an enormous ego and overconfidence to pull something like that.

And it’s certainly not the kind of hands-across-the-aisle, bipartisan change we need and/or can believe in a national capital that could use a large dose of both.

Amazingly, as Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post points out, two seats suddenly opened up on the Obama campaign plane this weekend to accommodate reporters from Ebony and Essence magazines.

Another coincidence.

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‘527' groups less prominent in ’08

With a few notable exceptions, the independent campaign ads that came to define the 2004 campaign -- notably those from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- have played a much less prominent role in Campaign ’08.

Perhaps it’s because the Federal Election Commission levied fines against many of the so-called 527 groups that were influential in 2004 and 2006.

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And Barack Obama’s lawyers have made a practice of aggressively challenging conservative groups that attack him. Independent election law attorneys have warned that the fines could be much stiffer for malfeasance, given precedents that were established last year.

The amount raised by such groups playing on the state and federal levels is impressive. But it has dropped to $407 million from $470 million in 2004, according to the latest count by Times researcher Maloy Moore and data analyst Sandra Poindexter.

Though conservatives are much less active, organized labor is using the groups heavily. They are tailor-made for unions, which raise huge amounts in small donations from hundreds of thousands of donors.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees and the Service Employees International Union are the biggest spenders on 527 groups -- $30.9 million by AFSCME and $26.3 million by SEIU. Much of the donations are being used to pummel Republican nominee John McCain.

A handful of individuals also are playing big, but not as they did as in years past.

Wall Street billionaire George Soros has given $4.9 million in this election cycle, down from $18.4 million four years ago.

Hollywood producer Stephen Bing has spent $5.08 million on some of the same liberal organizations. He too has fallen off, from $13.4 million in 2004.

On the conservative side, Sheldon Adelson, billionaire chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., has shelled out $5.25 million, giving much of the funding for American Solutions for Winning the Future, a nonpartisan group founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

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Nov. 4 weather forecast is useless

This just in to Top of the Ticket’s central politics newsroom:

According to a 3-year-old study recently re-released:53 by the folks over at AccuWeather .com, the importance of weather on election day will be diminished this year. (Historically, bad weather deters Democrats; Republicans vote regardless.)

That’s because millions of Americans are voting early for the Republicans’ John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket or for the Democrats’ Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket or for minor-party or independent tickets -- on days when the weather will vary (as it always does) in different parts of the country.

Therefore the risk of one day’s bad weather is spread out over many days, which means the weather on Tuesday -- the actual day of election -- matters less.

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don.frederick@latimes.com

andrew.malcolm@latimes.com

Times staff writer Dan Morain contributed to this report.


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