Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity, October 17, 2016
New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum, a newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner, spent the Republican National Convention pen-pricking presidential nominee Donald Trump as a misogynist shyster running an “ugly and xenophobic campaign.”
And Carole Simpson, a former ABC “World News Tonight” anchor who in 1992 became the first African-American woman to moderate a presidential debate, is not moderate about her personal politics: the current Emerson College distinguished journalist-in-residence and regular TV news guest has given Clinton $2,800.
Conventional journalistic wisdom holds that reporters and editors are referees on politics’ playing field–bastions of neutrality who mustn’t root for Team Red or Team Blue, either in word or deed.
But during this decidedly unconventional election season, during which “the media” has itself become a prominent storyline, several hundred news professionals have aligned themselves with Clinton or Trump by personally donating money to one or the other.
In all, people identified in federal campaign finance filings as journalists, reporters, news editors or television news anchors–as well as other donors known to be working in journalism–have combined to give more than $396,000 to the presidential campaigns of Clinton and Trump, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.
Nearly all of that money–more than 96 percent–has benefited Clinton: About 430 people who work in journalism have, through August, combined to give about $382,000 to the Democratic nominee, the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis indicates.
About 50 identifiable journalists have combined to give about $14,000 to Trump. (Talk radio ideologues, paid TV pundits and the like–think former Trump campaign manager-turned-CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski–are not included in the tally.)
Generally, the law obligates federal candidates only to disclose the names of people making contributions of more than $200 during a single election cycle, along with their addresses and employer and occupation. That means it’s likely that many more journalists have given the Clinton or Trump campaigns cash, but in amounts too small to trigger reporting requirements.
Together, these journalist-donors work for news organizations great and small, from The New York Times to sleepy, small-town dailies. While many of them don’t primarily edit or report on political news, some do.
Almost any U.S. citizen or foreign national with a U.S. green card may, by law, give money to a federal political candidate.
But major news organizations often restrict, if not prohibit, their journalists (and occasionally non-journalist employees) from making political campaign contributions.
The news organizations’ overriding concern: Such contributions will compromise journalists’ impartiality or seed the perception that journalists are biased toward certain politicians or political parties.
The New York Times’ ethics handbook declares that its staffers may not give money to, or raise money for, political candidates or election causes. “Any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides,” it reads.
The Associated Press is even more blunt with its journalists, stating that “under no circumstances should they donate money to political organizations or political campaigns.”
CNN spokeswoman Bridget Leininger said the cable network “does not allow editorial staff to contribute to candidates or political parties.”