Thursday, March 25, 2004

Ms. Catherine Mathis
The New York Times
VP of Corporate Communication

Dear Ms. Mathis:

In his January 17 Washington Post front-page story about journalists giving money to politicians, Howard Kurtz reported that New York Times reporter Karen W. Arenson said, “[H]er husband’s $1000 donation to Hillary Clinton was mistakenly reported in her name.” [1]

A review of the Federal Election Commission records for Arenson and her spouse show that both donated to Hillary Clinton on August 22, 2000. [2]

If Arenson’s contribution was indeed incorrectly credited to her, I would think she or her husband Gregory, a lawyer, would have corrected their FEC files by now, three years after the fact.

Arenson also wrote checks for $1,000 to Scott Stringer in 2002, a New York state assembly member; another $1,000 for the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1995; and $500 for Chuck Robb’s 1994 reelection. [3, 4, 5]

Was Karen Arenson mistakenly credited with any of these donations, or did she of her own free will make the contributions, and list her employer as the Times?

Arenson herself said in a 1998 profile for a newsletter published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of her alma maters, “I say, let's look at the data and draw conclusions from that.” [6]

Given that Arenson, through her other donations on file with the FEC and the New York State Board of Elections, has demonstrated a pattern of helping to swell the coffers of select candidates, it is reasonable to suppose her donation to Hillary Clinton was intentional.

Seems to me, if her check to Hillary Clinton truly was an error, then Arenson should instruct the FEC to properly record the donation as coming from her husband.

On the other hand, if Arenson did financially support Hillary Clinton and the 2000 donation was genuinely from her and not her spouse, then I wonder if the Times would consider what she claimed in the Washington Post as a lie.

I find this situation extremely troubling and in need of immediate clarification.

In addition, regarding Arenson’s 1995 donation to the Clinton/Gore reelection effort, I believe the Times may owe readers disclosure of it.

After sending money to the Clinton/Gore campaign, Arenson wrote stories about Bill Clinton in which she did not disclose her financial support to him.

On May 8, 2003, Arenson profiled Sheila C. Johnson, a cofounder of the Black Entertainment Network, for the Times, and said Johnson had “raised money for Bill Clinton.” [7]

In a June 10, 2001, article about universities working to acknowledge and right past wrongs, Arenson wrote, “President Bill Clinton went to Africa to apologize for America's role in enslaving Africans.” [8]

Furthermore, in her February 10, 1997, article headlined "Clinton Tax Break Plan Is Called A Tuition Prod," Arenson detailed an effort by the then-president to potentially expand college education for more students. [9]

Not that there’s anything wrong with how she referenced the former president, but all three stories failed to disclose Arenson’s donation to Bill Clinton, and I believe the paper had a responsibility, and still does, to divulge such information to readers.

The Times’ code of conduct says, “In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.” [10]

As a reader and shareholder, I ask that the Times run an editor’s note explaining Arenson’s contribution to Bill Clinton and that she wrote stories mentioning him after making the donation.

Also, the online versions of the three stories above, along with every other article she wrote that mentioned the former president, should include a note about her donation to his 1996 campaign.

Of course, if Arenson believes her donation to Bill Clinton, like the one made in her name to Hillary Clinton, was mistakenly credited to her instead of her husband, then she should demand the FEC correct her record, and no explanation is due readers.

A prompt response is requested.


Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267









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