Does MoveOn.org Own the New York Times?

Soon after the 2004 election, MoveOn.org leader Eli Pariser said of the Democratic Party, “Now it’s our party. We bought it, we own it, and we’re going to take it back.”  Pariser is now MoveOn.org’s Political Action executive director.  

MoveOn.org’s extremism was demonstrated in September when its infamous “Petraeus-Betray Us” ad was published in the New York Times.  The ad outraged America and brought so much public opprobrium on both MoveOn and the Times that the Democratic majority Senate passed a resolution authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) condemning it.  

There are some Democrats — Hillary Clinton most notably among them — who are quite comfortable with MoveOn’s beyond-the-pale position. Clinton voted against the Cornyn resolution.  (Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il) though present for previous votes that day, absented himself from the final vote on the Cornyn amendment.)  Clinton’s comfort with the MoveOn position was demonstrated further by her comment to Gen. Petraeus that his testimony required a willing suspension of disbelief.  Clinton called Petraeus a liar to his face.

The New York Times suffered little from the ad’s outrageousness even though it initially gave a 50% discount on the price of the full-page ad to MoveOn.org. (MoveOn.org apparently paid the difference later).  Clark Hoyt, the Times’ public editor, later wrote that, “For me, two values collided here: the right of free speech — even if it’s abusive speech — and a strong personal revulsion toward the name-calling and personal attacks that now pass for political dialogue, obscuring rather than illuminating important policy issues. For The Times, there is another value: the protection of its brand as a newspaper that sets a high standard for civility. Were I in Jespersen’s shoes, I’d have demanded changes to eliminate “Betray Us,” a particularly low blow when aimed at a soldier.”  

But there was no apology to General Petraeus from the Times.  

The New York Times brand has been damaged enormously under the direction of Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, Jr.  Its stock price — probably the most objective measure of the value of the brand — has fallen under Sulzberger from a high of about $52 in 2002 to close last Friday at $18.87, a 64% drop.  

Journalistic standards mean adherence to fact, and — even if the Times didn’t pretend to be unbiased — facts are required not only in what is said but how those reporting them or analyzing them are identified.  

On October 30, a column entitled “Vote Early, Count Often” was published on the Times op-ed page.  The author, Jonathan Soros, was identified to be, “…a lawyer and the president of an investment firm.”  Which is true, but misleadingly incomplete.

Mr. Soros is, of course, the son of antiwar, anti-Bush activist George Soros, and the president of his father’s investment firm.  And much more.

According to Congressional Quarterly’s “Moneyline” resource, Jonathan Soros gave at least $12,000 to Barack Obama for his 2004 Senate campaign and has given $2100 to Obama’s presidential campaign.  

“America Votes” (www.americavotes.org) is a liberal “soft money” 527 group. It’s a coalition that includes, according to its website, a number of unions and, “…EMILY’s List, The Human Rights Campaign, INDN’s List, League of Conservation Voters, League of Young Voters, LULAC, MoveOn.org Political Action, My Rural America, NAACP National Voter Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, NDN, National Education Association…” and others.  

According to MoneyLine, Jonathan Soros gave $250,000 to AmericaVotes in 2004 and the same amount again in 2007.  He has also contributed at least $55,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And then there’s his funding of MoveOn.org’s activities.

In the 2004 election, Jonathan Soros donated $100,000 to the MoveOn.org Voter Fund and $5,000 to MoveOn’s political action committee.  According to press reports, the younger Soros also helped found MoveOn.org’s “Bush in 30 Seconds” ad contest.  In one report, Jonathan Soros is quoted as saying, the ad contest was, “…an opportunity for people who are outraged to tell the truth about Bush’s policies.”  

Given the Times’ not-so-proud history with MoveOn.org, shouldn’t it have added something to Soros’s byline to at least inform its readers of his close connection to the organization that created and paid for the “Petraeus-Betray Us” ad?  The fact that it did not indicates that the Times’ editors and publisher have learned nothing from that experience.   

MoveOn.org owns the Democratic Party and its leading presidential aspirant.  Does it own the New York Times, too?  No, but its ideology does.


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