Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (David Broder and Deborah Howell Edition)
Marx and Engels on "Communitarian" Anti-Capitalism

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (Robert Woodward and Deborah Howell Edition)

From Washington Post [unprintable] Deborah Howell:

When Speech Isn't Free - washingtonpost.com: The Post Stylebook's ethics and standards section says only: "We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from department heads." Broder and Woodward did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned.... rule, journalists are not to take fees or awards from government agencies, partisan groups or special-interest groups that focus mainly on lobbying. Speaking to educational or nonprofit groups for fees may be approved; whether to allow expenses to be paid is decided case by case....

Woodward said all his speaking fees -- which range from $15,000 to $60,000 -- go to a [charitable] foundation he started in the 1990s with his wife, journalist Elsa Walsh. The Woodward Walsh Foundation has about $2.3 million, he said. He gave me its latest 2008 IRS filing, which will be made public, showing total gifts of $107,874, compared with $17,500 in 2007. Its largest donation in the past year was $51,000 to his daughter's Sidwell Friends School. Among other recipients were Investigative Reporters and Editors, Martha's Table and D.C. College Access. [Ken] Silverstein questioned whether the foundation gave away 5 percent of its net investment assets as required by law. Woodward said the foundation "rigorously" follows the law...

Five percent of $2.3 million is $115,000, not $17,500.

I find this a very interesting journalistic tick: you draw the dots, but you do not connect them, and the person you are writing about--in this case, Robert Woodward--breathes a big sigh of relief because there is no bottom-line quote that can be pulled out of the story that makes him look bad.

And I must point out that Sidwell Friends is not a "charity" in any proper sense of the world. Don't get me wrong--it is a wonderful school, from which I received a truly excellent education from many teachers who were paid far less than they were truly worth. Five stick out in my memory right now: Peter Cohen, Joe Wildermuth, George Lang, Florence Fassinelli, Richard Brady.

But it is not moral or just to classify gifts to Sidwell as worthy of the charitable deduction on your income tax form.

Let's give the mike, once again, to Ken Silverstein:

David Broder’s and Bob Woodward’s Lame Alibis--By Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine): Woodward told Howell “all his speaking fees — which range from $15,000 to $60,000 — go to a foundation he started in the 1990s.” He added, “It’s a straight shot into the foundation that gives money to legitimate charities. I think that’s doing good work.”... Woodward... really shouldn’t treat Post readers with such contempt. The facts are clear. He reaps significant tax savings by giving the fees to a “charity” that gives away a small fraction of its assets, and by far the biggest beneficiary of his foundation is Sidwell Friends, the elite private school sitting atop a reported $30 million endowment and attended by his own children...