According to a Reuters report released today, Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland has sponsored and introduced legislation which would provide the faltering newspaper industry with the ability to restructure as non-profit organizations, allowing for several different tax breaks.
So, if my local newspaper is a 501(c)(3), does that mean that I can write off my daily subscription?
All kidding aside, the idea that the apolitical requirements of such a status could be satisfied by a moratorium on political endorsements is just plain ridiculous — thirty seconds spent with any edition of The New York Times will show that Mr. Sulzberger is incapable of ensuring that his editors and reporters reserve opinion for the op-ed pages. Such an assumption is based on complete and total ignorance of the liberal bias permeating many of the newsrooms from coast to coast.
Just to make my point, here’s the relevant IRS provision with regard to 501(c)(3) organizations (any emphasis is mine):
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
The Internal Revenue Service provides resources to exempt organizations and the public to help them understand the prohibition. As part of its examination program, the IRS also monitors whether organizations are complying with the prohibition.
Have we forgotten the gargantuan divide in favorable coverage of Barack Obama versus favorable coverage of John McCain? According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, after all, during the six weeks following the conventions through the final presidential debate there were three times as many unfavorable stories about McCain than favorable ones.
Have we forgotten how the Los Angeles Times stonewalled, refusing in the final days of the election to release vidoetapes of a party attended by Barack Obama and former PLO member Rashid Khalidi, a party at which Obama stood idly by as racists and terrorist sympathizers alike gave inflammatory speeches calling for, among other things, the destruction of Israel?
Have we forgotten what Time Magazine’s own Mark Halperin said nearly three weeks after election day last fall, that “it was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage,” that it was perhaps the biggest failure in the history of American journalism?
“The example that I use, at the end of the campaign, was the two profiles that The New York Times ran of the potential first ladies,” Halperin said at a news conference. While the story about Michelle Obama was “like a front-page endorsement of what a great person Michelle Obama is,” the profile of Cindy McCain–which painted her as among other things an unlikeable woman, neglected wife and substance abuser–was “vicious.”
Think about it. The February 21, 2008 hit piece which insinuated–without a single named source–that John McCain was having an extramarital affair with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, was run on the front page of The New York Times. It took a full year and a libel suit to convince the Times to apologize. These issues, the completely unequivocal coverage of political candidates and political ideology in general, have nothing to do with the official endorsement of any particular candidate — these issues have to do with the overt lack of objectivity in the typical American newsroom, objectivity which Sen. Cardin’s asinine proposition relies upon to the detriment of us all.
If the newspapers are struggling, perhaps they should look to remedy the underlying distrust of the mainstream press and their own role in the erosion of professionalism and objectivity which caused it.