Friday, January 27, 2006

oops: My Correction on AP Reporter's "Donation"

Leading up to the November 2004 election, I devoted much time and attention to donations made by reporters, editors and all sorts of media moguls to candidates and PACs.

Along the way, I learned that when a donation from a journalist showed up on Federal Election Commission records, generally in odd amount, like $341.32, not a nice round $1,000 figure, it often meant the journalists had to pay a fee for legitimate costs associated with newsgathering. But the campaigns, under FEC rules, report the fees paid as donations.

Well, out of the blue, an AP reporter has contacted me about an earlier posting of mine that gave the impression he'd donated to a party, so I'm making amends and sharing his letter.

Hey, Thomas Martello, I stand corrected. Not only am I posting your letter here, I'm also attaching it to my original, mistaken, posting. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.


I just stumbled upon your 2004 report about reporters who made political donations and noticed my name was among those you listed.

For the record, I made no political donation to the New Jersey Republican State Committee in 1992. I covered the New Jersey delegation to the Republican National Convention in Houston for The Associated Press that year. The money was sent to the Republican State Committee as part of the charges it made to news organizations that covered the delegation. I believe this charge was for a bus shuttle they had set up for reporters who wanted to tag along with the delegates; the Republican State Committee had predicted transportation would be a nightmare. I wrote the check and was reimbursed by AP.

The next year, I was surprised to discover the Republican State Committee had included on its list of political donors the names of reporters and news organizations that paid costs to cover the convention. I told the committee leaders this was pretty bone-headed of them, and the news organizations, including AP, pushed to get the names off the list. I can’t remember what eventually happened, but apparently there I am, in cyber-perpetuity, as a journalist who donated to a political party. I’m saying it ain’t so.

For the following decade, the Republicans thought I was a donor, sending me lots of literature, pleas for money and envelopes with elephants on them. It was interesting to see how much harsher the political dialogue gets when political parties think you’re one of their loyal subjects.

As for the check I wrote, it was money poorly spent. I was also assigned to cover the Tennessee delegation that year (go figure), and had little time to wait for shuttle buses. The New Jersey GOP had wrongly warned of traffic messes and taxi cabs were plentiful. I think I got one shuttle ride for AP’s $295.

Thanks for your time.
Sincerely, Thomas Martello

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