Rep. Mia Love acknowledged she unsuitably raised campaign funds. The Salt Lake Tribune, which published a book about her, went ahead and endorsed her anyway. Here’s what staff of the newspaper had to say about that.
A handful of editors and reporters from The Salt Lake Tribune spoke to the newspaper’s endorsement of Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) to return to Congress even though she acknowledged that she had not suitably obtained funds for a primary election, and the editorial’s relationship to a book the Tribune published about Love as “the next GOP star.”
Federal Election Commission lawyer Danita Alberico emailed Oct. 17 that her colleague, analyst Michael Dobi, was right when telling Love’s finance lawyer, Matthew Sanderson, “that Friends of Mia Love (the campaign) is not required to take any corrective action regarding the primary election contributions” of $1.15 million raised before April 21, when the 2018 Utah Republican Party nominating convention took place.
But the ethics question remains of whether Love should keep that money. That is beside about $372,000, according to Federal Election Commission documentation, raised after the convention.
Love had claimed that she would redesignate approximately $370,000, she told CNN after its investigative report was published, according to the outlet. Yet, Sanderson told KUER that the Alberico and FEC emails “lend support to (Love’s) arguments and make it less likely that the (FEC) will pursue a full investigation.”
Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce, who is on the editorial board, did not return a request for comment on that issue after saying that the Tribune “called out Love in a Sept. 16, 2018 editorial on the questions raised about her primary fundraising,” among other items.
Tribune Publisher Paul Huntsman did not return a request for comment, either, though he talks about his newspaper endorsing Love and Mitt Romney in an episode of “Trib Talk,” a podcast that “features Salt Lake Tribune reporters and invited guests discussing the latest news and diving into topics that affect Utahns,” according to the Tribune. (Publishers are generally owners of newspapers.)
Tribune Editorial Page Editor George Pyle, who Senior Tribune Managing Editor Matt Canham and Managing Editor David Noyce directed to me, also did not return a request for comment. (Canham, who is a co-author of “Mia Love: The Rise, Stumble, and Resurgence of the Next GOP Star,” said “The editorial board makes endorsements. I’m not a member of the editorial board.”)
Tribune Executive Vice President Tim Fitzpatrick, who is a member of the board, as Huntsman said, did not return a request for comment, either.
The editor’s comments
Napier-Pearce pointed to Tribune reporter Lee Davidson’s article about Dobi’s email and Love’s claim that she would return part of the money, saying “the board didn’t dwell on the issue in its endorsement since the FEC questions appeared to be settled.” (Davidson did not comment on the matter, either.)
Tribune Government/Politics Editor Dan Harrie said that “$370,000 was part of the $1.1 million,” though they are separate, according to FEC documents and CNN’s story.
“Well, I will have to double-check,” Harrie said. “I could be wrong about that.”
Napier-Pearce said the book “really had no bearing on the current endorsement” of Love because the newspaper “had different ownership and a different editorial board back then.” The book was published by the Tribune within 24 hours of Election Day 2014, according to USA TODAY, in a story headlined “On sale now: Mia Love already subject of unauthorized biography.”
Napier-Pearce also pointed out that the book was published “two years before (she) became editor.”
Napier-Pearce was named the Tribune editor on July 29, 2016, according to multiple reports. Two-and-a-half months later, Love was also endorsed after not being endorsed in the fall of 2014, the other congressional election Love ran for after the publication of the book.
Tribune News Columnist Robert Gehrke, one of the book’s three co-authors, said that while “it would probably be worth checking,” he thought that the editorial board did not endorse Love (and instead, her Democratic challenger Doug Owens) in 2016. After being informed that the endorsement that year was indeed for Love, Gehrke said “I would be shocked if we sold any books any time since it came out in 2015.”
He had also said that “the book is out of print and really nowhere to be found” “for the sake of the argument … the endorsement could help sell some books.”
The Tribune currently operates a website called MiaLoveBook.com, where eBooks and hard copies can be purchased. The book can also be found on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.
The Tribune “never broke even on the costs of publishing it,” Gehrke also said.
Harrie’s assessment on profit possibly being made off the book: “We’ve never made a profit on the book,” he said. “I don’t think we broke even on the book. If we were lucky, we broke even.”
Gehrke added that he “(doesn’t) have any influence or involvement in any way regarding endorsements or any decisions made by the editorial board.”
Harrie said that he is not on the board, either.
“As far as endorsements go, I wish the Tribune did not do endorsements, but that is not my call,” he said, adding: “We are going to do what we are doing to do and it is not going to affect our news coverage … I do not care who we endorse, it is not going to influence the candidates and the campaign.”
“I personally disagree with the endorsement and the logic in the editorial, but that’s their decision to make,” Gehrke said.
The editorial makes the argument for Love very much because she would have seniority in the U.S. House of Representatives, as pointed out on Twitter by Taylor Anderson, a reporter for the Tribune until August.
Tribune Managing Editor Sheila McCann, who is not on the board (“I edit news stories,” she said), remarked that she found a “personally … interesting” piece from Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch. The column explains why this year is the last that the newspaper will make political endorsements. But she said “I have no idea” when asked if the column suggested that the Tribune is stopping political endorsements. She also said, as Noyce said, that the editorial board is “separate” from Tribune staff, though she did not return a question as to whether the board indeed reports to Huntsman.
Saying that the Tribune “has kind of a checkered past when it comes to endorsements,” Napier-Pearce said on KCPW’s “Behind the Headlines” episode published Oct. 26 that the Tribune has “done (political endorsements) for a long time and they’ve taken breaks from doing (them).”
“It’s really the prerogative of the owner and publisher,” Napier-Pearce said.
KCPW’s Roger McDonough later said that “in this modern era, there’s a very good argument, ‘why are you doing this?’” before saying that others remark that they have value to the community.
McDonough “dug up” an Associated Press story of former Tribune Publisher Jack Gallivan giving up on endorsements after endorsing Richard Nixon, he said. (“Then the Watergate scandal happened,” he noted.)
McDonough then said that progressive advocate Jim Dabakis, who tried buying the newspaper before Huntsman made the purchase, said “this is all about Paul Huntsman making decisions” before guest host James Evans, the immediate past Utah Republican Party chairman, said, “this is the editorial board deliberating.”
“We all have very strong opinions and we are coming at issues and people from different places,” Napier-Pearce replied. “We are not yelling most of the time.” (McDonough had asked if yelling took place.)
“The reason why is two-fold,” Napier-Pearce then said.
“First, we get to sit down with these candidates in a way that I think the general public may not,” Napier-Pearce said. “They come in and talk with the editorial board at length.”
Those conversations go on for an hour and sometimes longer over “an entire menu of issues,” she said.
“That sort of one-on-one interaction may give some nuance to some of the candidates that you do not see on the political ads and things like that,” Napier-Pearce said. “We want to share what we have learned as an editorial board, so there’s that.”
“When you read strings of stories, this is a snapshot in time,” Napier-Pearce then said. “The editorial board is like the voters, trying to make sense of the world; trying to put all of those pieces together and trying to come to conclusions of what we think.”
Thomas Burr, the third author of “Mia Love” and the Tribune’s Washington bureau chief, did not return a request for comment.
The Love campaign claimed to have redesignated $49,000, Harrie told me, though in legal question is an additional $323,000, besides the ethics at hand of the $1.15 million.
Short of two years after buying the paper — and just three months after his father Jon Huntsman Sr., who had been interested in buying the paper himself, died — Huntsman laid off 34 of the Tribune’s 90 journalists, in May.