Earlier this week, 2nd District Orange county Supervisor John Moorlach announced the launch of his bid to replace retiring 45th District Congressman John Campbell in the 2014 election. This story was appropriately covered by the OC Register’s Martin Wisckol here. On Wednesday, the publishers of the Register doubled down on their coverage by providing Mr. Moorlach with unprecedented space on their editorial pages to make his case. Moorlach’s guest editorial amounted to more than 800 words of free advertising for his campaign, in addition to the more than 400 words worth of “earned media” coverage Wisckol provided in his coverage of Moorlach’s announcement.
As most of our readers know, the Orange County Register has erected a pay wall, reserving the bulk of their media reports for the exclusive consumption of paid subscribers for a period of 30 days. The publishers do allow selected content to be viewed in its entirety immediately. In the case of Moorlach’s editorial, they made his full commentary available for immediate viewing by all visitors to the Register website. As far as we can tell, none of the other four candidates, state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine; Laguna Hills investor Pat Maciariello; and retired Marine Col. Greg Raths of Mission Viejo, have been provided equal time in the Register editorial pages.
While it is entirely appropriate for a major publication to issue an endorsement of a candidate in their editorial pages, from our perspective offering only one candidate the opportunity to state their case to their readers, free of cost, amounts to an in-kind contribution to that candidate’s campaign committee. The value of that contribution would be determined by the actual cost of both print and web-based advertising for such a promotion.
We wait with breathless anticipation to see if the Register extends the same promotional opportunities to the other three candidates in the 45th congressional race, or if Moorlach’s campaign reports the in-kind contribution on their first campaign finance report due next year.