Thursday, November 16, 2006

SF Chron Reporter Gave $200 to Abortion Ballot Initiative Fight

The San Francisco Chronicle in August 2004 had to reassign its letters editor after it was discovered he had donated money to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, and a article for PBS's Online News Hour site noted the following:

The newspaper has a policy prohibiting journalists from giving money to campaigns without first consulting top editors.

If that is indeed the paper's policy, then it may be safe to assume the editor's approved Chronicle business writer Ilana Debare's $200 donation on October 3 to the No on 85 state ballot initiative, which would have required parental notification before young women could have abortions and which was defeated by the voters. Records at the California Secretary of State's campaign finance disclosure site reveal that Debare listed the SF Chronicle as her employer.

Perhaps the Chronicle's top editors allowed Debare to make the donation because as a business reporter, she does not cover reproductive rights.

Debare's $200 gift was not the only donation by a Chronicle employee in a state race this year. The chief financial officer for the paper, Elizabeth Cain, contributed $250 on May 8 to Democratic Sen. Jackie Speier's unsuccessful effort to win the Lt. Governor's office, according to state campaign disclosure files.

Like many newspapers, I imagine the Chronicle has separate ethics policies for the business and editorial sides of the paper, making it probably okay for executives to donate, but not journalists.

What other San Francisco reporter made a contribution to a politician this election season? According to FEC files, Al Hart of KCBS News Radio, gave $500 on March 7 to Democratic US Rep. Ellen Tauscher to help her retain her seat in Congress.

It just doesn't seem like a real election cycle unless San Francisco journalists make monetary donations to their favorite candidates and against ballot initiatives.

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