ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The Democratic presidential candidates are debating tonight in Philadelphia. And one candidate, who is not there, is denouncing corporate media censorship in a competing appearance at Philadelphia's World Cafe. Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel was not invited to this debate. MSNBC, which organized it, weeded out candidates whose campaigns haven't shown much life either at the polls or at the bank. And Gravel's poll numbers is somewhere down around the margin of error. His fundraising did not bespeak a groundswell, or at least it didn't until this week.
Gregory Chase of Nashua, New Hampshire took out ads in several newspapers. Among them, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Drexel Triangle - the debate is being held at the university - and the Daily Pennsylvanian. Those are full-page ads. Smaller ads in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle - a dozen papers all told. The ads more or less say if more money gets Mike Gravel into the debate, I'll pay a million bucks.
Gregory Chase joins us from Philadelphia.
A million dollars to get Mike Gravel into the debate?
Mr. GREGORY CHASE (Hedge Fund Manager, New Hampshire): Well, I think it's well worth it. Our economy's GDP is $14 trillion. There are a lot of big decisions going on. I, for one, think Senator Gravel have the best critique to what we're doing right now and the best plan for making our nation great once more. So I think $1 million is well worth it, even though he'd probably only get four minutes or so of talking time.
SIEGEL: You must have a pretty good GDP yourself. You are hedge fund manager, I gather.
Mr. CHASE: I am. But given that description, I probably have as much smaller GDP than you'd get. This is a substantial amount of money for me. But it's something I really believe in. And I'm not married. I don't have any children. So it's no dependents. So this is the best thing I can think to spend some money on.
SIEGEL: Now, to be fair, you said Senator Gravel would only stand to get about four minutes of airtime in a debate. That's because there are enough candidates almost to fill the baseball team.
Mr. CHASE: Well, sure, there are eight. But the other candidates have gotten a lot more airtime in the past few debates. And when a criticism levied against him that said he hasn't gotten sufficient traction or when that's one of the criticisms, then you have to say, well, how much time has he gotten to speak in the public forum although, of course, the are other avenues.
Really, the issue - I mean, NBC, I don't know much about them. I like their TV shows, just fine. They're within their right to do whatever they please. What I take offense to it is the fact that they're citing fundraising…
Mr. CHASE: …as a reason. And also, the criteria were announced 11 days before the debate. If they'd announced it a few months ago, I would have personally made sure I could - can donate all the money myself - FCC regulations prohibit that.
Mr. CHASE: But I would have personally made sure that he had that much money.
SIEGEL: Can you accept some metric at some point in the season, which defines people who have been on television, who have held public office, but simply says, at this point, that's a vanity candidate. That's somebody who's crowding the field rather than having any realistic candidate.
Mr. CHASE: You could. NBC is within their right to do whatever they want. I just don't think those criteria should be financial. We already have enough trouble with the media using how much money our candidates raised as a benchmark or a proxy for their support. There's only further that to make it an explicit requirement.
So when you have a population already thinking there's too much influence of money and politics, well, that's a suspicion. But when NBC comes out and does this, they're rigidly enforcing, they're crystallizing the relationship between money and politics. You have to have $1 million at the bank to even get up on the stage is what they're saying.
SIEGEL: How much did you spend on all those newspaper ads?
Mr. CHASE: Well, I've only spent about $150,000 in New Hampshire and then, today, $250,000 on all these newspaper ads.
SIEGEL: And today, the response from MSNBC or NBC?
Mr. CHASE: Nothing.
SIEGEL: And from other people?
Mr. CHASE: Tremendous. I've gotten hundreds of communications by phone and e-mail. Whether they are Gravel supporter or not, people are sick of money and politics and thus speaks to it.
SIEGEL: Well, Gregory Chase of Nashua, New Hampshire, and supporter of Senator Mike Gravel, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. CHASE: Thanks so much, Robert.
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