In Politics, New Tribune Boss May Be ‘Right’ Man for the Job

By: E&P Staff

Amid all the questions about the finances and fallout from the pending sale of the Tribune Co. to Sam Zell, one issue has remained in the background: What are his political beliefs and will they influence the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and the company’s other newspapers?

According to new reports, Zell has been a major political funder in recent years, favoring Republicans — while his wife gives money mainly to Democrats.

And , in a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune published today, he did seem to reveal that his political views might tend to be fairly conservative. Asked to name his favorite columnists Zell named Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Friedman and David Brooks. At the same time, he said he did not plan to influence his papers’ editorial views.

The Center for Public Integrity has just released a study of Zell’s political giving, based on official Federal Election Commission records. It said he has handed out more than $100,000 in political contributions since the 1998 election cycle, most of it supporting Republican causes.

But the Center added that his wife Helen, “stands on the other side of the political divide, giving almost entirely to Democrats and abortion rights groups.”

Sam Zell, it revealed, has contributed $107,700 to federal campaigns, parties and political action committees since the 1998 election cycle. Nearly 70 percent of the $84,200 he gave in direct contributions to candidates went to Republicans. He has already donated to all of the leading candidates for the 2008 GOP presidential nod.

He has given to some Democrats, for example, seemingly covering his bases by giving Sen. John Kerry $2000 in 2004 while also passing $3000 to President Bush. The same year, he donated $10,000 to the Progress for America Voter Fund, a “527” organization linked to the Bush efforts.

His wife, meanwhile, “has given more than $50,000 in political contributions under her own name,” the Center relates. “She was an early supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., investing $12,000 in his 2004 Senate campaign before his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston that catapulted him to political fame. Her financial support for Obama helped fuel his Democratic primary win over Blair Hull and totals $17,700 through June 2006.” She has also has contributed to Hillary Clinton.


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