Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Money Trail: Short, Very Short

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Money Trail: Short, Very Short

Article excerpt

Al Gore or George Bush couldn't run for dogcatcher with dollars donated by newspaper industry workers

Newspapers often ask their workers to avoid partisan politics to ward off any suggestion of biased coverage. The devotion to impartiality can be thorough. Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. famously refuses even to vote, lest he be forced to make a political choice.

Of course, not everyone in the industry is so studiously neutral. In fact, newspaper workers have donated more than $130,000 to federal campaigns in the current election cycle, according to public campaign records. Donors from the industry favor Republicans, especially in presidential politics where GOP candidates received $2 for every $1 given to Democrats.

The totals involved are minuscule compared with the millions of dollars mobilized by other industries. For instance, the fast-evolving communications and electronics industry has donated more than $2 million to each major party candidate, according to the Washington- based Center for Responsive Politics.

Giving by newspaper employees is Lilliputian by comparison. An E&P analysis finds the Tribune Co., with $27,625 in contributions by those on its payroll, to be the heaviest donor among the 17 companies that comprise the E&P Stock Index. Only three other companies in the index - - Dow Jones & Co. Inc., Gannett Co. Inc., and Pulitzer Inc. -- mustered more than $15,000 in contributions. In each of these three cases, one individual accounted for the bulk of the donations.

Findings from an E&P examination of federal campaign finance records include:

Gannett's senior vice president for public affairs and governmental relations, Millicent Feller, is among the most active political donors among newspaper industry figures. E&P identified $12,000 in 16 separate donations from Feller during the current election cycle. Roughly half went to Democrats and half to Republicans -- although, among presidential candidates, the only recipients were Republicans George W. Bush and John McCain. A Gannett spokeswoman said the donations were the result of private decisions by Feller, who works for a corporate structure that oversees broadcast and printing interests as well as newspapers that include circulation giant USA Today. In other election cycles through the 1990s, Feller, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John H. Chafee, R-R.I., donated $40,495, including $20,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Michael E. Pulitzer, chairman of Pulitzer, which publishes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other newspapers, donated $18,500 to Democratic organizations in Missouri. Pulitzer representatives did not return telephone calls for comment. Safir Ahmed, who edits the weekly Riverfront Times in St. Louis, said the Post-Dispatch appears to show no pro-Democrat bias beyond what could be expected based upon its long reputation as standing to the ideological left of the defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

The Wall Street Journal's Melanie M. Kirkpatrick, the assistant editor of the editorial page who recently related to readers the Trollope Society's dim view of "Her Grace Hillary Clinton," donated $15,000 to the Republican National Committee. Kirkpatrick was one of three editorial employees among five Dow Jones workers who donated a total of $20,000. …

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