Writers Dan Neil and Charles Perry of the L.A. Times (and former LAT film critic Manohla Dargis) are on MSNBC's list of 144 journalists who donated to political campaigns between 2004 and this year. Most — 125 — gave to Democrats or liberal causes, just 17 to Republicans. CNN's Guy Raz, now covering the Pentagon for NPR, gave $500 to the John Kerry campaign the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq. Here's what the LAT writers told MSNBC, starting with Neil (who gave $250 to the Democratic National Committee in July 2004):
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.
Perry, who writes for the food section, gave $200 to the Republican National committee in 2004:
The Times ethics policy states as its basic principle that editorial employees may not use their positions at the paper to promote personal agendas or causes, nor should they allow their outside activities to undermine the impartiality of Times coverage, in fact or in appearance. I wholeheartedly support this policy, without any reservation.
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.
Dargis gave $1,000 to Kerry in 2004 while still at the LAT, and $1,000 more after she was hired at the New York Times. Previously, she gave $300 to Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in September 2000, and $500 to Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean in December 2003.
"I made the Dean, Nader and first Kerry donations when the Los Angeles Times had no policy/guidelines prohibiting political donations by the likes of me," Dargis said in an e-mail. "The second Kerry donation was made when I was a free agent, employed neither by the Los Angeles Times nor by the New York Times."
Previously: LAT publisher's Republican donations.