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The Nose

What About Bob?

Michelle Gienow
A. Robert Kaufman

Posted 5/4/2005

Behold the wrath of the minor candidate. Local activist A. Robert Kaufman, one of three Democratic candidates so far vying to replace the retiring Paul Sarbanes in the U.S. Senate in 2006, has informed the Nose (and every other local media outlet) that The Sun has snubbed him unfairly—nay! orchestrated a news blackout—by failing to report his socialist message and sometimes declining even to mention his candidacy in its stories about the far-off race.

Kaufman’s Exhibit A is the Sun-sponsored opinion poll by Potomac Inc., published April 18, which found that, in a hypothetical match-up, former congressman and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume would lead Baltimore-area U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin in the Democratic primary, and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele would run even with Mfume or Cardin in the general election. The poll also asked voters to choose in a hypothetical Democratic primary among Mfume, Cardin, and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County. At the time of the poll, neither Van Hollen nor Cardin had formally announced their candidacies. (Van Hollen still hadn’t as of press time).

Kaufman had, but he was not mentioned in the polling story.

“Actually, my thought when they pulled this poll was, OK, you guys have gone too far,” Kaufman says. “They learned that in Journalism 101—there are honest ways of conducting a poll, then there are yellow-journalism ways of conducting a poll.”

And leaving out one of the only two declared candidates in a poll would be a yellow-journalism way, he says.

Paul Moore, the Sun’s “public editor,” acknowledges Kaufman’s point.

“All I could do is listen to Bob and say I thought he had a valid complaint,” Moore says. “So we put it out there. Of course, he also flooded the newsroom” with complaints.

This is Kaufman’s way. He calls, sends letters. He implores and he cajoles. He says “fuck” a lot, and he tends to assume that if you’re not with him, full-bore, then you’re part of the problem.

Kaufman is also that rare thing in politics: a plain speaker who says what he means—such as that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans, and that the wars on drugs and terrorism are “twin hoaxes” upon which the ruling class depends. It is a style of politics that has catapulted Kaufman to an unbroken string of electoral defeats. But it probably helps his name recognition.

Moore barely quoted Kaufman in his April 24 column relating criticisms about the Sun poll. Kaufman says he thinks Moore wrote more about the snub but that the copy got spiked by the powers that be.

Moore says that ain’t so and mentions Kaufman’s penchant for conspiracy theory. He suggests the Nose check with Diane Fancher, the Sun’s political editor, for information on how the poll was worded. Fancher refers the Nose to Potomac President Keith Haller, who explains how the poll was conducted:

“We included sort-of major candidates who had expressed an interest in running. We actually included [Dutch] Ruppersberger the first night [of calls to prospective voters]. And when he pulled out, we dropped to three, and we went back to Ruppersberger’s voters and asked who of the [remaining] three you would prefer.”

Haller said his pollsters took note of any mentions of other potential candidates, and that if anyone other than the named “major” (and would-be) candidates had gotten “a significant percentage” of unprompted mentions, then they might have been made part of the poll.

Thus he confirms Kaufman’s near-conspiracy theory of politics, which coincidentally mirrors his theory of economics: Them that gots, gets.

“Until there’s a movement to take back the country from the one-half of 1 percent who own it and hand it back to the 90 percent of us,” Kaufman says, “nothing is gonna change.”

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