Yesterday I decided to investigate whether the powers-that-be at our local daily newspaper, the Gannett owned Salem Statesman Journal, were correct when they told me that readers wouldn't be interested in the complaint I filed with the IRS against Salem Health, the parent company of Salem Hospital.
Below is the post I put up on my Strange Up Salem Facebook page, followed by the comments I've received in just one day. (Some of the comments were made on the post that I shared on my personal Facebook feed.)
Statesman Journal staff were wrong. Lots of people here in Salem DO want to read substantial stories about local goings-on.
Unfortunately, the Statesman Journal appears to have decided that it just wants to be a newspaper with a few pages containing shallow stories and USA Today reprints holding together a bunch of advertising inserts. This isn't how journalism used to be practiced in this town, which is sad.
Strange Up Salem
THE STATESMAN JOURNAL THINKS YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THIS STORY. TRUE... OR FALSE?
"More evidence that Salem Health violated IRS rules on political donations."
Today I was told that Salem's so-called community newspaper, the Statesman Journal, wasn't going to publish a story about the complaint I filed with the IRS against Salem Health -- a tax-exempt organization that donated $50,000 to a PAC (Political Action Committee), which sure seems to be against IRS rules.
After I notified the Statesman Journal about the complaint 13 days ago, a staffer emailed me that this wasn't of interest to the newspaper's readers, even though the $50,000 went to the Salem Chamber of Commerce's Create Jobs PAC, which opposed the mass transit payroll tax measure that was voted down in yesterday's election.
So I emailed back: "You guys at the paper don’t think people in Salem are interested in this issue. You may be right; you may be wrong. One way to find out is to ask citizens here if they think this is a newsworthy story."
I believe it is. But what do YOU think? Leave a comment on this post. I'll share the comments with Statesman Journal editors.
Maybe they're right -- people in Salem don't care about the legality of a large donation from a tax-exempt corporation that was given to a Political Action Committee which supports individual political candidates, an IRS no-no.
But I hope the Statesman Journal is wrong. Just because this town's daily newspaper has given up on local investigative reporting doesn't mean this is a good thing.
It's well known that the Chamber of Commerce's Create Jobs PAC does its best to buy elections. That's bad enough. Worse is when a giant organization like Salem Health seemingly abuses its tax-exempt status by donating $50,000 to the PAC in violation of IRS rules.
Do you care about this? Do you think the IRS complaint against Salem Health merits a story in the Statesman Journal? Weigh in with a comment.
Teresa Joslin i hope you win
Carole McAfee Yes, report the news SJ!
Thomas Roshone I wish this came as a shock, but really nothing, that the journal or chamber does shocks me anymore
Eric T. MacKnight Yes, this is newsworthy.
Elizabeth Schulte heck I'll read anything once. let us have it, SJ!
Maryann Lane Yes. This is newsworthy. If the SJ won't report perhaps one of the news channels in Portland or perhaps WW will be interested in reporting that the SJ which derives a good bit of revenue stream from Salem Hospital adverts thinks the people don't want to read about how the hospital violated the IRS rules. SJ needs to report ALL the news, not just the stories approved by Salem Hospital, otherwise it seems as if they play favorites. But then perhaps they condone political incest?
Scott Shambaugh I would like to see the SJ write this up. Shine lights in those dark corners so we know what businesses and our government are doing, wrong or right.
Jamayca J. Nelson Call the Oregonian!
Jim Costello I honestly probably wouldn't read it, but the Statesman Journal has a duty to the community to report it.
Galen Peder Brownson If the organisation were not Salem Health would it warrant an article? What if, say, Oregon State Hospital were accused of violating IRS regulations?
Cyndi Smith come on SJ. Report it to Willamette Week.
Kevin Bryan Hell yes it's news! Anything that uncovers the truth should be looked into to report the true facts to the people!
Desta Sirrine Yes! I want to know when shady things are going on. It's important to know the truth.
Carrie Lovellette Evidently the Statesman Urinal has been bought and paid for by the same folks who buys elections. I say publish the damn article!
Rich Beatty Makes me think about whether i want to renew my subscription when my current subscription expires........
Lorie Strauch Fontaine Yes, it is news. Thank you for your efforts to inform our community.
Randi Miller-Grasseth Potential corruption is always news. I was shocked they pay no property taxes.
Tanya Patzer It is news and I believe people would be interested. Thank you for your blog and all you do to inform about what is going on.
Becky Beaman It is news and should be made public. Shame on the local paper for saying we're not interested... perhaps this is why fewer and fewer people take the paper!
Charolette Stoehr Perhaps you should see if the Oregonian thinks it is newsworthy?
Susan Elizabeth-Marsh Tanabe The O is even less interested in investigative journalism than the SJ....
Keith Quick This type of contribution is totally legal. It's going to a ballot measure not a candidate. The rules are not enforced by the irs. The Oregon Secretary of State enforces election rules in Oregon.
Strange Up Salem Keith Quick Please read my two blog posts on this subject, one of which is linked below. The IRS does not allow tax-exempt organizations like Salem Health to give money to PACs. They can only give money to dedicated Measure Committees whose sole purpose is endorsing or opposing ballot measures.
The Create Jobs PAC is a Miscellaneous Committee which supports/opposes both individual candidates for public office and ballot measures. Giving money to this sort of PAC is not allowed by the IRS for tax-exempt organizations.
As I noted in the post, the money in that sort of PAC, such as the Chamber of Commerce's Create Jobs PAC, gets commingled -- just as cash given to a street person gets commingled once it is in his pocket. He then can use it for beer, food, or whatever, even though you might say "Don't buy beer with the $5 I gave you."
Likewise, there is no way to tell how the Create Jobs PAC used the $50,000 donated to it by Salem Health. It could go to individual political candidates. This is why the IRS does not allow tax-exempt organizations to donate to a Miscellaneous PAC.
Phil Krug YES!!!
Stacey Phillips yellow journalisim is what you get from the statesman urinal. and out right lies come from them. This is why i will not do interviews with them again. I exposed corruption that involved neil goldschmitt in 1989 and it finally came to light after the statute of limmitations ran out on him. Frankie knew Neil was a child molester and was going to expose that fact. The corruption that was exposed was a decoy. the statesman played along. Here is a classic for you. Justin Much wrote an artical on Occupy salem he wrote that we were leaderless and in the same artical called me one of the leaders ````````` idiots ..Flush the Urinal
Mary Ann Baclawski SJ might be right- more people will read nature stories. But that's no excuse since they are a NEWSpaper, not a soap media platform. Perhaps contact Kristoff and ask him to make a national example of how crony capitalism is destroying the small American city?
Susan Elizabeth-Marsh Tanabe If y'all are reading other posts.... I would like to know if Keith Quick's reply is correct. If so, this is moot point. For those thinking the O might be interested; they are even less involved in investigative journalism that the SJ, to which we happily subscribe for information about local activities good and bad. We hope they print this .... Unless Keith is right.
Strange Up Salem Susan Elizabeth-Marsh Tanabe no, Keith Quick isn't right. I replied to him, pointed out that the IRS doesn't allow tax-exempt organizations like Salem Health to donate money to PACs like the Chamber of Commerce's Create Jobs PAC.
Someone from the Oregon Elections Division confirmed that money in these "Miscellaneous Committees" gets commingled, so there is no way to tell whether donations go to supporting/opposig individual candidates or ballot measures.
Galen Peder Brownson "...just as cash given to a street person gets commingled once it is in his pocket"? I'm calling you out this time, @Strange Up Salem:
Firstly, the 50,000 filthy, bloody dollars for political ends are related to the 5 dollars in a technical sense only. The concept of commingled funds in a PAC is not elegantly described by a reference to a handful of spare change in someone's (anyone's) pocket, which brings me to my second complaint: seemingly your sole motivation for drawing the simile was to invoke an emotional response from a tired and hurtful stereotype. Not only are you now fucking up what credibility you possessed, but you're missing an opportunity to demonstrate journalism with honour in favour of taking classist shortcuts designed to denigrate and oppress the already-ignored, already-discarded, already-totally-fucked.
Elizabeth Schulte they say they've contacted the iRS
Melody Fahey I am very interested in this matter, but no longer very interested in the SJ--wish we had a better paper.
Delia Appleberry Yes! Please investigate!
Darren Craigberry Please investigate and write the article! Salem health enjoys bully status as the largest private employer in the area... What they did was morally wrong if not illegal.
Marie Murdock yes we care! investigate and report!
Jim Scheppke Brian, time for another ethics complaint to Gannett, Inc. The Statesman Journal is violating Gannett's Code of Ethics... "Maintaining independence —We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report. We will maintain an impartial, arm’s length relationship with anyone seeking to influence the news. We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content." Statesman Journal Publisher Terry Horne sits on the Board of Directors of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, so of course they are not going to investigate the illegal campaign contribution to the Chamber's PAC.
Loreen Ostrander Wells I believe this issue, all facets of it, deserve a public airing. The bus syatem is getting decimated. If you need to rely on our buses, good luck.
Tim Patterson It is definitely news by any angle. The SJ should be ashamed of their stance on this. I say this as a former radio news reported and journalist.
Michelle Achée I thought newspapers were supposed to report NEWS, not spoon feed us bland entertainment that they imagine we might like. Ninety percent of what they do publish is so vapid that it kills off brain cells. The other ten percent come from other news sources such as AP. It's an embarrassment.
Kit Close We are of course interested in this type of information. We just don't look for it in the Statesman. I say this as a person who has read the daily almost every day since 1962. That said the Statesman is more for entertainment than hard news these days.
Aileen Kaye Can you please give us an specific email address for the SJ?
Aaron Erhardt SJ's disinterest increases the interestingness of this story. Thank You, Mr. Hines!