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Correction to This Article
A June 25 Style article incorrectly described the liberal advocacy group America Coming Together as having been affiliated with 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean.
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Stung by Harper's In a Web Of Deceit

Bill Moyers interviews Ken Silverstein, right, about the latter's article on Washington lobbyists, for which he posed as a fictitious potential client.
Bill Moyers interviews Ken Silverstein, right, about the latter's article on Washington lobbyists, for which he posed as a fictitious potential client. (By Robin Holland)

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· Gideon Yago, who covered the last two presidential campaigns for MTV and donated $1,450 to Wesley Clark's campaign, Dean's group and the Democratic Party: "I don't understand. Things that I do as a private citizen? I mean, what the [blank], man?"

· Forbes Assistant Managing Editor Jean Briggs, who donated $1,750 to the Republican National Committee: "You call that a campaign contribution? It's not putting money into anyone's campaign." Actually, the RNC funnels cash to candidates.

· Newsweek health correspondent Anne Underwood, who gave John Kerry $1,000: "I really don't want to participate in this." Click.

· Beryl Adcock, Washington news desk chief for McClatchy Newspapers, gave $1,650 to Kerry and the DNC. She offered to resign when her bosses found out but was kept on.

· At Fox News, a Bill O'Reilly producer donated $5,000 to Volunteer PAC, which gives to Republican candidates, while a Brit Hume researcher gave $2,600 to Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford. The network does not discourage personal contributions.

· Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter gave $250 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2004. He says in a telephone interview with The Post that he got a phone solicitation and "I suspect, knowing my pathologies, a little bit of drinking was involved. I can't remember dealing with it as an ethical issue." A top editor later learned of the donation and warned him that the paper bans the practice. "I have not given a penny to anyone ever since," Hunter says.

Also on the list were staffers for ABC, the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Newsday, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union-Tribune, as well as the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Salon, Time and U.S. News & World Report.

When the Chicago Tribune revealed that entertainment reporter Maureen Ryan had given $3,000 to Kerry and the Democratic Party -- and wrote a column denigrating President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina -- Ryan apologized to readers.

Some of these folks remain in denial. When you become a journalist, you give up the right to back political candidates or parties with your checkbook. And in this age of federal disclosures, it always comes out.

The news outlets that don't ban donations seem to regard them as a matter of personal preference, like joining the PTA. But they seriously underestimate the public distrust of journalists, which is only fueled by such practices. Those who work for opinion magazines or are employed as commentators have a stronger case that their views are no secret. But there is still an important distinction between rhetorically supporting a candidate and helping bankroll one.

The scorecard -- 125 of 144 donations to Democrats -- provides fresh ammunition to those who say the press has a liberal tilt. It's hard to argue you don't favor one party when you've just coughed up cash for that party.

Howard Kurtz hosts CNN's weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."


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