Sinclair spin: We love Dems, too

By Eric Boehlert
Published October 22, 2004 4:28PM (EDT)

Deep in damage-control mode, David Smith, CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, tells the Wall Street Journal in today's profile that contrary to accusations that he and his television company have a partisan Republican tilt, the truth is he's donated more money to Democratic candidates than to Republicans.

If true, the factoid would certainly run counter to the image that's been painted of Sinclair since its controversial announcement directing its 62 stations to run the anti-Kerry documentary "Stolen Honor." Coming under extraordinary pressure, Sinclair on Tuesday modified its plans to run a one-hour news special tonight about POWs, using portions of "Stolen Honor," on 40 of its 62 stations. But the perception, anchored by its nightly name-calling, right-wing commentaries, that Sinclair likes to do the bidding of the GOP remains.

As it should, because despite Smith's claim, a search of shows that over the last eight years, Sinclair's CEO has given more money to Republican candidates, not Democrats. $11,500 to Republicans, and $7,000 to Democrats, to be exact, from 1996 to today. More recently, from 1998 to the present, Smith's contributions have been even more partisan: $10,500 to Republicans and just $3,000 to Democrats.

But that modest figure doesn't really do justice to the extraordinary amount of money Smith and his brothers who run Sinclair have recently given to Republicans, and how very little they have contributed to Democrats. For instance, Smith's brother Frederick, who serves as a Sinclair V.P., has given the Republican Party nearly $90,000 in just the last two years, and virtually none to Democrats.

And when they're not writing Republican candidates big checks, or broadcasting Republican talking points in the form of TV commentaries, the Smiths have been finding other, more imaginative ways to back the GOP. During his 2002 successful run for governor of Maryland, Republican Robert Ehrlich was given use of a luxury helicopter to fly around the state. The helicopter was owned by one of Sinclair's Smith brothers, who never even billed Ehrlich for the trips until press inquiries were made after the elections, and even then he only billed the Republican campaign a fraction of the going rate for the helicopter's use. Naturally, during the campaign Sinclair never informed its Maryland news viewers that it was helping shuttle one of the candidates around the state. Also, the Sinclair V.P., who has recently broadcast commentaries charging Kerry with falsifying military records, once worked for Ehrlich during the mid-1990s when he served in the House of Representatives.

But never mind all that; Sinclair's CEO wants you to think he likes Democrats just as much as Republicans.

Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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