21 June 2007

But You Knew All This Already

There's the stuff you tell people, and there's the stuff you don't tell people.

MSNBC.com identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

"Our writers are citizens, and they're free to do what they want to do," said New Yorker editor David Remnick, who has 10 political donors at his magazine. "If what they write is fair, and they respond to editing and counter-arguments with an open mind, that to me is the way we work."

The openness didn't extend, however, to telling the public about the donations. Apparently none of the journalists disclosed the donations to readers, viewers or listeners. Few told their bosses, either.

Few conveyed any understanding of the issue either - for instance:

A Fox TV reporter in Omaha, Calvert Collins, posted a photo on Facebook.com with her cozying up to a Democratic candidate for Congress. She urged her friends, "Vote for him Tuesday, Nov. 7!" She also gave him $500. She said she was just trying to build rapport with the candidates. (And what builds rapport more effectively than $500 and a strapless gown?)

As the Jerusalem correspondent for CNN, (Guy Raz) was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq in June 2004, when he gave $500 to John Kerry. He didn't supply his occupation or employer to the Kerry campaign, so his donation is listed in federal records with only his name and London address. Now he covers the Pentagon for NPR. Both CNN and NPR forbid political activity. "I covered international news and European Union stories. I did not cover U.S. news or politics," Raz said in an e-mail to MSNBC.com. When asked how one could define U.S. news so it excludes the U.S. war in Iraq, Raz didn't reply.
Ultimately, no one should give up their citizenship to hold a job in the United States, but the part of the article that's the real eyebrow raiser is where they offered squeamish explanations for their contributions that ranged from confusion to arrogance:
ABC News, Mary Fulginiti, "Primetime" correspondent, Hollywood, Calif., $500 to Gov. Bill Richardson, Democratic presidential candidate, 2007. "A friend asked me to contribute" to Richardson, Fulginiti said. "This is not a reflection of my political views. Look, I've made a mistake here. I'm a legal analyst — this is all new to me. I have been politically active in the past. This is when I was just starting out at ABC. I was still thinking as a lawyer."
You'd think a lawyer'd pay closer attention to details of her own employment contracts.

ABC affiliate in Wichita, Susan Peters, anchor, $600 to America Coming Together in two donations in 2004 and 2005. She anchors the news at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. America Coming Together funded get-out-the-vote drives to defeat President Bush in 2004. Peters didn't return calls. KAKE news director David Grant said, "To be honest, I don't have an answer for you. Can I get back to you?" He didn't call back.
But of course.
Newsweek, Anne Underwood, correspondent on health and medical stories, $1,000 to John Kerry in March 2004. The donation is listed under her married name, Enslow. "I really don't want to participate in this," Underwood said, hanging up the phone.
Now there's courage of one's convictions!
U.S. News & World Report, Amanda Spake, senior writer, $250 to John Kerry in August 2004. Spake covered public health issues and policy. Now a freelance writer, she is on a fellowship from George Soros' The Open Society Institute to study the health effects of Hurricane Katrina. "I went to a luncheon for Kerry," Spake said. "I had friends who were organizing that luncheon, and I felt I had to do it." As for any conflict of interest, she said, "I never covered politics. I covered public health. It did not impact my coverage one bit."
Public health - nothing ever political about that, huh? Finally:

The New York Times, Randy Cohen, ethics columnist, $585 in three donations in August 2004 to MoveOn.org, which conducted get-out-the-vote drives to defeat President Bush. Cohen said he thought of MoveOn.org as nonpartisan and thought the donation would be allowed even under the strict rule at the Times.

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