Pundit Payola, Up-to-Date in Kansas City

By: (AP) A reporter and columnist for The Call, a newspaper targeted at Kansas City's black community, accepted $1,500 from the congressional campaign of the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver while also reporting on the election.

Eric Wesson also wrote editorials praising Cleaver and criticizing his opponents, Democrat Jamie Metzl and Republican Jeanne Patterson. Cleaver, a former Democratic mayor, defeated both en route to replacing Democratic Rep. Karen McCarthy in Missouri's 5th Congressional District.

Kansas City's alternative weekly newspaper, The Pitch, reported on the deal in October. The news was picked up yesterday by The Washington Post in the wake of news that three conservative columnists were paid by the government to promote Bush administration policies.

Both papers said Cleaver's campaign paid $1,500 last summer to One Goal Consultants, a company that Wesson owns, according to state records. Wesson yesterday declined to comment to The Associated Press.

He told the Post he wrote scripts for Cleaver's phone banks and did "other miscellaneous things" for the campaign.

"It had nothing to do with the job I do for The Call," Wesson said. "The Call has always written articles favorable to African-American candidates. We're an advocacy newspaper."

Cleaver issued a statement yesterday saying his campaign would not have other consulting contracts with reporters.

"I am committed to upholding the highest ethical standards," Cleaver said. "While I have been completely forthcoming with regard to this matter, in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, our campaign will not enter into a consulting contract with a reporter who covers our campaign."

The Call has endorsed Cleaver for every political office he has sought in a 30-year political career, including two terms as the city's first black mayor.

In his editorials, Wesson praised Cleaver, defended him against allegations that a state agency did not follow its own regulations when it loaned Cleaver $80,000, and chastised the national Democratic Party for not giving more money to Cleaver's campaign.
After the election, Wesson was given a contract to help develop ideas of national news specifically targeted to the black press, Luther Washington, who managed Cleaver's campaign, told the Post. Washington did not return phone calls yesterday from the AP.


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