Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eye on Carol Marin, who is giving a good look at Dan Proft

Carol Marin always gets excited about Cicero. There is something about small town corruption that seems to titillate her in a way that State of Illinois, Cook County or City of Chicago Democratic Party public corruption does not. Last night, Dan Proft, Republican political campaign consultant, media analyst and general PR flak catcher caught Carol’s attention on the local NBC-5 News 10:00 pm broadcast. Or, more precisely, it was Proft’s, or his company, Urquhart Media’s, 318K per year contract with Cicero (and it’s Town Hall builders) that caught Marin’s eye. [For some criticism of Dan Proft in a very different context, go here].

Carol never quite said what she was so upset about. But, this reporter guesses it was the idea that a thirty something PR guy could collect 318K per year for what appears to be 30 hours/week of work. And, because it is from a government entity, i.e., the Town of Cicero, the usual free market checks do not apply. Moreover, Cicero, with its long-time reputation for corruption, makes the contracts with Proft even more suspect.

Apparently, Proft did not give Marin too much, if any, information and he did not return this reporter’s late night call, so we don’t know how Dan might respond to the indictment issued by Carol Marin. But, we suspect Proft might put forth a few defenses: (1) the 30 hours/week could be a minimum hourly requirement and may not be the actual hours worked, (2) lots of highly skilled professionals get above normal hourly rates of compensation; See. e.g., doctors, lawyers, TV analysts, etc. and (3) enhancing the image of Cicero is worth a lot to its taxpayers, meaning Dan might be cheap at twice the price.

The last two factors, above, set this reporter to thinking about Carol Marin. You know, how does that saying go? Journalists who film in glass studios shouldn’t throw rocks? Yeah, that’s the ticket. The best defense is a good offense. Dan might inquire from Carol how much WTTW pays her. After all, she appears on WTTW, a “Public TV,” Station for 15 minutes, two times a week. What is Marin’s salary for that half hour’s worth of work? And, it doesn’t appear that she writes her own copy or questions. If that is true, how much do those “researchers,’ cost. There must be “make up,” people for Carol, maybe a few stylists, a few gophers, right? Those are Marin costs. Any other ancillary costs for Carol’s half hour a week contribution to Chicago Tonight?

So, what is that total cost, including salary and ancillary show and Carol Marin prep costs borne by WTTW for one half hour of air time? 50K, 100K, 200K, dare I guess 318K? Unlikely 318 K, but the point is we don’t know. Well, then shouldn’t Carol tell us. It was too late to call Carol this evening when we were going to press, but perhaps tomorrow we can get a response.

Carol might say—what business is it of yours? Well, WTTW receives some taxpayer support-- isn’t that enough of a rationale? After all, isn’t that why Carol could get Proft compensation information from Cicero—the fact that taxpayers paid for Proft’s salary is a major rationale for FOIAs or Freedom of Information Act requests.

And, what does Chicago Tonight get for Carol’s salary? A tough, but balanced set of questions from Carol to her guests? Balanced? Not so much. This reporter doesn’t know Marin personally, other than to say a friendly hello, but he doubts she would brag she is balanced. His professional assessment is that she is a liberal, in all things, and proud of it.

Tough questions from Carol? No, not so much. Girl next store is her trademark, except when conservatives like Proft present a juicy target. One guesses Carol got a special kick out of tonight’s expose on Proft—perhaps seeing some hypocrisy in Proft’s rants about government waste. Sharp hits on conservatives and crooks? This reporter will stipulate that she does that well.

Most suggest that Chicago Tonight’s budget is stretched a bit by Carol. Can Carol or management, thru ratings or otherwise, demonstrate that Carol’s value added to Chicago Tonight justifies her expense?

Oh boy, now this reporter has three things to look forward to learning on Thursday. Will those Masters of the Universe and towers of economic thought, McCain and Obama, figure out how to spend 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money wisely? Will Dan Proft return this reporter’s call? Will Carol Marin speak with this reporter. Go ahead, everybody, make my day.
"Public Affairs," is a weekly political interview show airing in Chicago on CANTV, in the Chicago metro area and in Aurora on Comcast and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can watch the shows, including archived shows going back to 2005, here. You can often read Berkowitz's political interviews, analysis and commentary at the Chicago Daily Observer ].

You can contact Berkowitz by sending an email to
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page now include two shows featuring clips and interviews, primarily from the Democratic and Republican National Party conventions, and shows with Cook County Cmsr. and Obama Media Team Member Forrest Claypool, State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), 8th CD Republican Nominee Steve Greenberg, our show with Senator Obama (D-IL), Gov. Sebelius (D-KS), DLC Chairman Harold Ford, Cong. Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago), Attorney General Madigan, WTTW's Carol Marin, Real Clear Politics' Tom Bevan, Sun-Times Abdon Pallasch and much more.