We'd chewed a bit mentally on the Democrat-Gazette story today that noted that owners of Stephens Media and members of their non-media businesses make contributions to political candidates. We noted, too, the vigorous patting on the back that D-G publisher Walter Hussman gave himself in the article for not making political contributions. That's probably a good practice for a publisher (which, by the way, Warren Stephens is not). How it differs from editorial endorsements is probably a subject hard to explain to the average reader. A half-column endorsement of Mike Beebe, for example, is worth a good bit more than the couple of thousand or so dollars it would take for a candidate to buy a space of that size with some campaign contributions.
But we also thought about how politically active Hussman has become in lobbying for changes in the education system. His underwriting of merit pay in LR schools was an overtly political act and amounted to a direct purchase of public policy with his money. Is that different, somehow, than making a contribution to a candidate you hope will vote in manners you choose?
But, believe it or not, I decided I'd whipped that horse enough for the time being and decided to let the subject pass. Then came this note from a former Democrat-Gazette employee, who makes an observation on the matter I thought I'd pass along:
I just about choked on my Cheerios when I read that [article]. Walter Hussman's active involvement in the "merit pay" movement in Pulaski County, not to mention the test-the-kids-till-they-pass-out theory that was the business community's price for supporting the tax increase for education in the 03-04 special session, is a much larger potential conflict of interest than Warren Stephens making campaign contributions.
Noticeably absent from Dem-Gaz stories about merit pay and standardized testing have been prominent, or any, mentions of Hussman's role in this whole enterprise. Paul Barton's story reads like a Valentine to Hussman and is sorely lacking in some salient facts.
PS -- We did a quick database search and found Hussman's WEHCO Video company contributed $100 to Rep. Jerry Taylor a few years back. So his hands don't appear to be absolutely spotless. Somebody with time might look up people who've done lobbying for Hussman's interests over the years and see who THEY might have contributed to.