Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NYT Omits HRW Lobbyist's Donation to Obama

The New York Times today published a front-page above-the-fold article about advocacy charities upset over the Obama administration's restrictions against hiring lobbyists. Much attention was devoted to one lobbyist in particular, who has many high-powered friends:

As the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, Mr. Malinowski has fought slaughter in Darfur, repression in Myanmar and torture in the United States. He served in the State Department and on the National Security Council under the last Democratic president. But he had one liability: he was a registered lobbyist.

The fact that Mr. Malinowski lobbied on behalf of genocide victims rather than military contractors, investment firms or pharmaceutical companies made no difference. Mr. Obama’s anti-lobbyist rules do not distinguish between those who advocate for moneyed interests and those who advocate for public interests, and so Mr. Malinowski was ruled out. But in the process, he has become the symbol of a deep discontent among many Democrats over Mr. Obama’s policy.

What's missing from the story are facts about Malinowski's donation to Obama's presidential campaign, a donation that was refunded. The Times also omitted facts about this human rights lobbyist's other donations, all to Democrats or the DNC. Click here to read the FEC records on Malinowski's giving.

Of course, one might think an international human rights advocacy organization would scruplulously avoid even the hint of partisan political bias, but Human Rights Watch has no policy prohibiting its executives, researchers and lobbyists from writing checks to political parties.

Click here and then here to read two sources detailing the hundreds of partisan donations, overwhelmingly to Democrats and their PACs, made by HRW workers over the years.

I'm a strong backer the president's ban on hiring people who currently or very recently were lobbyists, of any ilk, and actually think the Times piece was balanced on the opposing views regarding this administration policy.

However, what troubles me about the story is Times devoting a lot of space to Malinowski and his human rights job, but failing to report on his contributions. At the same time, this is not the only instance in which the Times has put an executive or researcher from HRW on a pedestal and omitted mention of the group's partisan check-writing activities.

The Times should begin reporting on donations of specific HRW workers when writing about them, and remind readers that the group's workers are allowed to engage in actions that influence elections.

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