Tag Archives: John Stossel

20/20 Segment

It has come to my attention that I know three types of people. Those who:

1. Fall asleep extremely early on Friday night and thus miss the 20/20 TV show they’ve been anticipating for weeks.

2. Have no idea how to use their Tivo and/or VCR.

3. Really don’t want to watch me on TV and therefore lapse into passive-aggressive mode … “Oh, I wanted to watch, but I got a phone call.” … “Oh, I wanted to watch, but the dog needed to be groomed right then.” … “Oh, I wanted to watch, but I went into labor.” Pfftt.

Well, the joke’s on all three of you because here it is ”” our segment of the 20/20 show broadcast October 17, 2008. HA!


Read the history of all this then tell me what you think!

Ready For My Close-Up

As you’ve been reading here and here, a crew from the ABC News show 20/20 interviewed us in our neighborhood in Colorado on July 23, 2008 for part of their story on campaign finance reform and how it can hurt the Little Guy. I’m one of the little guys.

The cameraman and sound guy got here in the morning but the 20/20 producer, Patrick McMenamin, had a flight delay. He told us to drive around the neighborhood so they got me all miked up and set me to drive their enormous Suburban. Then I was told, “Talk.”

Hmmm. “Look …. a doggy! My, that tree needs trimming. Oh, I know those people!”

“Um, no, Becky. Talk about important stuff. Tell me how this all started.”

So I did. Do you know how hard it is to drive a Suburban (when you’re used to a Toyota), figure out where to go when you’ve got nowhere to go, follow the rules of the road AND talk about important stuff … all while trying not to sound stupid??

It’s HARD!

As we were driving past the house of one of the other Notorious 6, I saw she had stuck one of her No Annexation signs in her front yard so we stopped. The crew surprised me by interviewing me there on her sidewalk. No idea what I said, but they appeared interested and engaged.

Just as we were finishing, Patrick the producer drove up. He saw a camera crew in the neighborhood and figured it just might be us. So they chatted a bit with him, told him the footage they already shot, and talked about my interview. Because no one was talking about the elephant in the room, er, on the street, I added, “I was all squinty and babbly and probably sounded like an idiot.” The cameraman assured me I was none of those things and, in fact, my ”” and I quote ”” “beautiful blue eyes sparkled when I spoke.”

Of course, the cameraman had been out in the sun too long, and he knew I could be distracted by flattery, but still. I will trust him. He is the professional. We’ll see when the show airs if he lied.

Then we came back to the house and they set up the shoot in my bedroom. I still get the heebie jeebies when I think that gazillions of people will be in my bedroom. Gah. But, I had cleared my desk of the usual flotsam and lined up my writer pals’ books across the back, thinking I’d try to give them a bit of national exposure. I carefully arranged not one, but two copies of my book, An UnCivil War, right in the middle.

While I was out of the room, Patrick pulled out one of the copies and leaned it facing out, which I think might look odd. Much like propping a photograph of The Becky right in the middle of things. I laughed and left it because they’re what? Oh, yes, professionals. Besides, that was the least of my worries.

I sat at my desk and faced Patrick as he sat off camera. We talked about stuff, he made me do things over when I sounded stupid, saying, “say that again, but ….”

The sound guy said, “Got any powder? You’re shiny.”

After I powdered, I made them laugh when I said, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille.”

The producer said, “They should make a law that you can’t sue funny people.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

We logged on to the Secretary of State’s website and I showed them my frustrations with it. They did close-ups and wide shots. They had me do all sorts of fake stuff too, which was funny …. ‘pretend you’re working on one of your books’ …. ‘pretend you’re filling out one of the Secretary of State’s forms’ ….’pretend to type.’

They didn’t seem to understand that all those things look exactly the same. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. BICHOK, we writers say.

20/20 does some stylized camerawork in their stories … lots of close-ups of papers and fingers and other such things. (Had I known this, I would have gone for a manicure.) The producer had the cameraman do this slow pan, right-to-left, then left-to-right while I stared at the camera. Made the cameraman laugh, but he did it anyway. We’ll see.

Next we went to our print shop where they taped my husband making a No Annexation sign. The cameraman wanted me to walk in “like I normally do and start chatting with Wes. You know, about the weather or something.” We both looked at him in an uber-quizzical manner because one, I don’t normally walk into the shop, nor do I plant myself at the work table unless it’s Pizza Thursday, and two, when I do come into the shop, there’s no chatting about the weather.

So that was pretty funny. And Patrick wasn’t even paying attention. He had his Blackberry going full-tilt. When the sign was finished, he reached over to touch it then looked at his finger like it was wet paint. So I made fun of him because, if he had been paying attention, he’d know it was vinyl and not wet paint on the sign. Like Wes stood there and painted a sign in 27 seconds. Sheesh.

The producer and I chatted some more while they continued to tape Wes. At a quiet moment he whispered to me, “We probably won’t use much of what we did today,” which made me give him my Exasperated Mom Sigh. He’s only 29 so it completely worked on him and he apologized for, um, doing his job, I guess.

All in all, a not-entirely-unpleasant ordeal.

The next evening we were to gather at the house of another of the Notorious 6 for a group interview. He wanted us to reminisce and talk about how this has affected us.

At about 3:00 pm I put our No Annexation signs in the front yard because before the camera and sound guy headed for the group interview, they wanted to take some shots of them. I purposely waited to put them out because I didn’t want to freak out my neighbors. It did, however, freak out my neighbors and within a few minutes they were out in force, asking, “What’s going on NOW?” Too funny.

We were only the Notorious 5 for the interview because one of our cohorts was out of town. While equipment was getting set up, we cracked open some beer and dug into the guacamole. Not knowing precisely when the cameras would be ready, I kept running to the mirror to check my teeth. Too bad I was wearing my contacts and couldn’t see up close! Everyone was glad when I quit eating chips.

A huge downpour nixed taping outside on the patio so we were in the kitchen. The producer asked the same questions of all of us with the camera on each of us in turn. From that, they would decide who they liked best to make each point. He asked our attorney some legal questions, then back to us for a more free-flowing, less structured discussion.

By then the storm was over so we went outside and he taped us eating, drinking, and chatting without sound. More of the stylized photos that 20/20 likes.

The whole thing lasted about three hours.

It was fascinating to see the process from the inside. Now we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed we come across as the mature, intelligent folks we are.

No, seriously. We are!

I don’t know how much of our interview will air on 20/20. The working title is “John Stossel’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics.” It could be that two days of interviews ”” and several more of stress ”” will be reduced to fourteen seconds on TV.

Obviously, all dates and times are subject to change, but tentatively, there will be a short preview on Friday, October 10, with our segment airing on Friday, October 17.

Have you ever been interviewed? How’d it go? Were you nervous? Did you say things that made you want to bite off your tongue? Did you practice ahead of time?

We Win … Kinda

If you haven’t yet, read the background about our free speech lawsuit.

Fast forward through two years of litigation, two years of filling out mountains of paperwork to comply with the campaign finance laws, two years of hearings and meetings, and two years of stress to September 2008 when the judge finally ruled on our lawsuit.

The federal judge said we should not have been sued for our speech opposing the annexation, BUT the ruling did nothing to stop future abuses of campaign finance laws in Colorado or elsewhere. The decision also lets stand the burdensome red tape required under Colorado law for grassroots groups that simply want to speak out about issues on the ballot.

The judge recognized that the two vindictive neighbors who sued us used Colorado’s campaign finance laws to intimidate us: “There can be no doubt that they used the private enforcement provisions to attempt to silence the plaintiffs by the filing of the complaint.”

Those “private enforcement provisions” turn campaign finance laws into a weapon that political operatives can use against their opponents by suing them into silence. The judge made clear the complaint violated our First Amendment rights, but he didn’t go far enough in his ruling. He failed to strike down the private enforcement provisions. That leaves any citizen group that bands together to speak about an issue vulnerable to being sued for their speech by political opponents. Not by the Secretary of State, mind you, but by ANYONE.

In Colorado and other states, any time two or more people join together to speak out about an issue on the ballot and spend more than $200, they must register with the state as an “issue committee.” Then they must file reports that rival IRS forms in complexity, listing all contributions and spending, even on things like yard signs and fliers.

A recent study by campaign finance expert Dr. Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Kansas School of Business asked 255 people to fill out the required registration and reporting forms, and not one participant managed to do so correctly. Each person would have been subject to fines and penalties in real life, just like I was. Like me, participants found the required forms “Worse than the IRS!” and said it would make them less likely to get involved in politics.

The judge said these rules cannot kick in for annexation elections until the issue is put on the ballot. We had been sued and forced to become an issue committee several months before that. The judge held that to turn groups of citizens into “issue committees” before the ballot is set violates our First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

Because of the absurdity of our story, we’ve been interviewed by all the local TV stations as well as national Fox News. We’ve been blogged about all over the place. Here: “When John McCain campaigns in Colorado, I hope that some reporter asks him what he thinks of the Parker Six’s victory and their federal lawsuit.”

And here: “Campaign finance reform is creating an intrusive regulatory regime that’s steadily eroding Americans’ political freedoms.”

And here: “That John McCain sponsored the odious measure known by his name is noted, but the significance of a conservative sponsor is hidden behind his being dismissed as “unconventional”. That President Bush signed it into law is forgiven too easily by assigning his blame to the Supreme Court, which has plenty of blame of its own already.”

And here: “Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chief architect and cheerleader for so-called campaign finance reform, informed the audience that he “would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

There have also been oodles of print stories, local and national, including George Will’s syndicated column.

Even when they were written, the horrible McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws were being vilified.

And now, the ABC news show 20/20 wants to tell our story. The working title is “John Stossel’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics.”

It’s not all about us, but our case will be included.

Obviously, all dates and times are subject to change, but tentatively, there will be a short preview on Friday, October 10, with the full show airing on Friday, October 17.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what it was like to have the 20/20 crew in my bedroom. And finally, the segment that aired on October 17, 2008.

Have you ever had your free speech rights stifled? What do you think of campaign finance laws? HAVE you ever even thought about campaign finance laws? When you think of campaign finance laws, what springs to mind?