Journalists and Campaign Checks Don’t Mix

Jesse Unruh, legendary Speaker of the California Assembly, once famously said: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

And that’s true. But it doesn’t mean that everybody has to give milk. Some people, in fact, shouldn’t give milk, including priests, nuns, convicted felons — and journalists!

But, clearly, that feeling’s not universal. Upon researching candidate financial reports, MSNBC discovered that 144 journalists — most with the knowledge and blessing of their media bosses — had actually made campaign contributions: 125 to Democrats; 17 to Republicans; and 2 to candidates of both parties.

Uh-oh, here comes that old chestnut about “the liberal media” again! But, the point here is not whether the media is liberal or conservative. The point is: Journalists should not be writing campaign checks to anybody. Period.

Yes, we’re Americans. Yes, we vote. Yes, we enjoy the same freedom of speech as anybody else. But, as journalists, we also have a special responsibility — reporters, especially — to be objective and fair. And I don’t see how you can objectively report on a political campaign when you’ve written a check to one side or the other.

Speaking personally, I’m as political as anybody. But I haven’t made one campaign contribution since I came to Washington to be co-host of Crossfire.

That’s not only the right policy — it’s saved me a lot of money!