Sins of Omission

It’s funny how some Colorado news “outlets” just happen to edit out or omit important bits of information (see Don Coulson’s LTE and the careful snipping the TC editorial staff did). This article appeared on the ColoradoPols website:

History of GOP donor omitted from Post article
by: Jason Salzman
Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 18:16:31 PM MDT

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

A March 28 Denver Post article offered up a misleading tidbit that I should have pointed out earlier–before it spread across the country.

I’m not referring to the headline of the Post article, which was bad enough. It read “Markey a Polarizing Force in the 4th Congressional District.” The article wasn’t about whether Markey was “polarizing.” It was about her vote on health care, so a headline related to health care would have been more meaningful.

But more serious is something the story left out.

Discussing the responses to Markey’s vote for the federal health care bill, The Post reported:

Fred Vierra of Cherry Hills Village lives outside the 4th Congressional District but sent Republican congressional candidate Cory Gardner [who’s opposing Markey] a $1,000 donation.

“You can thank Betsy Markey’s health care vote for this check,” he wrote last week in a note to the campaign.

From reading this, you could easily think Vierra’s $1,000 donation is money Gardner wouldn’t have gotten if Markey had opposed the health care bill.

But you need to spend five minutes on the Federal Election Commission website to discover that Vierra is a well-known Colorado GOP donor, who regularly gives to candidates outside of his district of residence and outside of our state.

In fact, Vierra gave $2,000 to Marilyn Musgrave in 2005 and again in 2006. Before the health care bill was twinkle in Obama’s eye, Vierra gave $1,000 or more to Sam Brownback of Kansas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Thune of South Dakota, former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, former Montana Senator Conrad Burns, and others, all Republicans. He gave $55,000 to John McCain in 2008. In Colorado, in addition to Musgrave, he’s given big money to Republicans Wayne Allard, Mike Coffman, Rick O’Donnell, Jane Norton, Bob Schaffer, Tom Tancredo, and others. The list goes on and on. It’s pretty amazing, really. Type “Fred Vierra” on this page of the FEC website.

Especially because The Post included the contextual detail that Vierra “lives outside” of Markey’s Distrct, The Post should have informed us of Vierra’s status as a national Republican donor living in Colorado.

A phrase like “Vierra, who gave over $400,000 to Republican candidates across the country since 1998…” would have done the trick. Or even something like, “Vierra, a well-known Republican donor in Colorado ….”

Of course, it’s possible that Vierra wouldn’t have coughed up $1,000 for Gardner if Markey had opposed the health care bill.

But still, Vierra’s history of donating should have been mentioned, to give us a full picture of what’s going on here-and to let us decide what to make of it.

Not only us, but news outlets as well. Here’s what I mean:

After The Post ran the article with the anecdote about Vierra’s $1,000 check, a Post reader, Ann Westmeyer, sent Gardner a clipping of The Post’s article, a $25 check , and a note that read, “Again, you can thank Betsy Markey’s healthcare vote for this check,” according to a story on The Post’s political blog, The Spot.

Westmeyer’s note stated that she also lived “outside the district,” according to The Spot, which unfortunately quoted its own story about Vierra’s $1,000 check, again omitting the information that Vierra is a major Republican donor statewide and nationally.

And guess what happened next? This two-part story, about Vierra’s check and The Post’s article that inspired another donation to Gardner, was picked up by the Washington Post today in an article headlined “In Colorado, health-care debate reverberates in congressional race.”

The Washington Post recounted The Denver Post’s story, reporting:

After the health-care bill passed, a voter from outside the district sent the Republican’s [Gardner’s] campaign a contribution with a note: “Please thank Betsy Markey for this check.” When The Denver Post wrote about it, another voter sent a copy of the article along with a donation to Gardner’s campaign with a note: “Again, you can thank Betsy Markey’s health-care vote for this check.”

That’s how the news media feed on themselves to build a narrative (Angry voters donating to unseat a congresswoman.). Unfortunately, in this case, a piece of the foundation of the narrative is partially rotten, because it lacks critical context.

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