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California Journalists Write–Checks/Who Gave How Much

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MSNBC.com names names–of journalists who donated to poltiical campaigns. MSNBC.com checked the Federal Election Commission records from January 2004 through the first quarter of 2007 and attempted to contact each journalist.

Locals include

LA Times

In 2006, the Times completely overhauled its ethics policies, including a ban on political contributions by any editorial staff member.

Dan Neil, automobile critic, $250 to the DNC in July 2004.
“Yup, that’s me, all right,” Neil said in an e-mail.

“Two things: I’m a columnist, not a straight-news guy, and my political affiliations are not, I don’t think, in doubt. Goes to the question of whether my ‘activism’ by donation is indicative of some covert (and mythic) liberal bias in the press.


“Two, I believe–I am not certain of this–the paper’s policy specifically bars public political advocacy/activism. In other words, I couldn’t go out and rep the DNC and then pretend to be an impartial commentator, as Paul Begala has done, or come very close to doing, in any event.

“This policy has, at times, worked a hardship on me. I wanted to march with Latinos in Los Angeles in 2006–justice for Latino immigrants being a human rights issue right on my front door in Los Angeles–but I couldn’t because of my understanding of the paper’s policy on public advocacy.”

Nick Cuccia, design editor, $500 to John Kerry in March 2004, and $1,500 more in July 2004.

“I was not responsible for, or involved in, editing or placing national, political or campaign stories in the paper,” Cuccia said in an e-mail.

Charles Perry, food writer, $200 to the RNC in October 2004.

“Yes, that $200 was my donation,” Perry said in an e-mail. “I’m a food and drink writer, not a news reporter. I have always felt there was no problem with contributing to my party because Food is a non-political section (could I somehow smear Democrat beers and whitewash Republican ones?). Therefore I felt my political contributions could scarcely discredit my writing, or my employer. The ethics policy says that staff members may not “contribute money to a partisan campaign or candidate” (though it also says “The Times does not seek to restrict staff members’ participation in civic life”). Since 2004, just to be on the safe side, I have declined to make any political contributions.”

KCBS, Claudia Bill, news writer, $250 to Democrat John Edwards in March 2007, and $500 to Democratic candidate Lois Capps in a House race in October 2003.

“I made a donation as a private citizen, not as a member of CBS. If I were, say, Katy Couric, then you may have a different picture.” She said she wasn’t aware that CBS policy now forbids donations.

KTLA, Diana Chi, news writer, 19 contributions totaling $8,025 to the RNC2002 through 2006. Chi did not return phone calls. Nor did the news director, Jeff Wald.

San Francisco Chronicle

William Pates, letters editor for the editorial page, $600 to John Kerry in three donations in March and April 2004. Pates, who selected which letters were published, was moved to the sports copy desk after Grade the News, asked about his contributions. The Newspaper Guild contested the transfer and Pates is now back as the letters editor.

Pates did not return a message, but he told The Associated Press that he had not thought the paper’s policy against political activity would apply to him, because he worked on the opinion pages.

The paper’s editorial page editor, John Diaz, told MSNBC.com that Pates had done an honest, professional job in his “gatekeeper role” and just hadn’t thought the issue through.

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Joe Cline, graphic artist, $200 to the RNCin October 2004, and $400 to President Bush in November 2004. Cline did not reply to messages.

Penni Crabtree, business reporter, $225 in October 2004 to MoveOn.org. Crabtree did not reply to messages.

Bob Elledge, assistant news editor, $250 to Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark in January 2004 and $500 to John Kerry in July 2004. Also gave $250 to Clark in 2003.

Shaffer Grubb, graphic artist, $500 to MoveOn.org, in 2006; $500 in 2006 to Michael Arcuri, a Democrat elected to Congress from New York, in 2006, and $500 in 2006 to Christine Jennings, a Democrat who lost a still-contested congressional race in Florida.

“I asked my superior before I gave,” Grubb said. “It’s allowed.”

Arline Smith, news production editor, $500 to the DNC in October 2004.

“Yes, that is my donation,” Smith said in an e-mail. “I am the production editor at the Union-Tribune. This means I coordinate the flow of type and pages from the Newsroom through Composing to Platemaking. In my job I have no responsibility for the assigning, reporting or editing of political stories or for their placement, headlines, etc. There is nothing in our ethics policy that bars me from making political donations.”

Charlie Smith, copy editor, $500 to the DNC in June 2004.

“That’s my wife, Arline,” Smith said. “She is the one who made the donations.” And his wife agrees.


The Press-Enterprise
, Riverside, Calif.

Mark Benoit, wire editor, $500 in October 2004 to MoveOn.org.As a wire editor, Benoit is a copy editor who selects which state, national and international stories to publish.

“I’d rather not talk about it,” Benoit said.

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