by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has stood up editorially for poor U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, who made a milliion selling his family's Prescott drug store to a chain and who has been, coincidentally, honored for his work in Congress for chain drug stores. Agreed: the reporting on Ross' sale hasn't been good (by either defenders or detractors), in part because neither Ross nor the buyer has released full details.
But when a newspaper complains about reporters missing the story, it perhaps should tell the full story itself. The D-G has been harping on the imagined liberal inclinations of ProPublica, the nonprofit journalism organization that partnered with Politico on the publication of the Ross story. ProPublica's funders have also provided money to some unaffiliated liberal causes. The D-G editorialists failed to even mention today that the Ross story was reported with Politico and it made no effort in a brief reference yesterday to the background of the publication (it has both print and on-line editions). It is, at best, solidly mainstream. But some would say that's too kind. Some would say it is Republican controlled and oriented. It is funded by the Allbritton family. You'll remember Joe Allbritton sent word down to his family's KATV in 2000 with orders that GM Dale Nicholson go on-air to endorse George W. Bush for president. So if we are to arch our eyebrows at the leftist backer of ProPublica, shouldn't we tilt them the other direction for Politico's rightist sugar daddy?
Currently, Politico is fronting the notion that the right-wing talk machine doesn't get the credit it's due from mainstream media. Its editorial leaders are on record, too, about the importance of Matt Drudge. Mentioning Politico's political references would, however, tend to detract from the DOG's theme that this is the work of the left-wing attack machine.
I'm willing to accept that the Ross sale price fell within justifiable parameters, though I've written before about several specifics still undisclosed. I suspect curious differences in valuations of individual elements of the sale -- too much for real property (to name one cited by critics) and too little for prescriptions (to name one cited by defenders) -- are explained by a massage of those numbers to position the overall price most advantageously for tax consequences for buyer and/or seller. True cash flow (profit) and the potential for enhancing that number to pay off the purchase price are the most reliable measures of the sale price of a business. We still don't -- and probably never will -- know those numbers for Ross' drug store, despite the DOG's editorial claim that there's been a "complete accounting."
It's still no more than a distraction from Ross' loyal service of business lobbies over the working stiffs of his district.