Is the political affiliation of alleged perverts a legitimate part of a news story that’s not about politics?
The Star Tribune thinks so. In today’s story about Twin Cities businessman William Wanner, who is charged with fondling a 10-year-old girl at the Minneapolis Club, this paragraph stood out:
Records show that Wanner is affiliated with Wanner Engineering Inc., a maker of industrial pumps, and has been a significant contributor to local and national Republican candidates.
There is no further mention of Wanner’s politics, so it’s not clear what the point of identifying his political donations are to the story of his arrest on molestation charges.
The description as a “significant contributor” also invites inspection. He gave $1,000 to the Mitt Romney campaign, far less than the $2,300 a person is allowed to give. He gave $8,000 to Norm Coleman’s PAC, far less than $42,700 a person is limited to in a two-year cycle.
This isn’t the first time the Star Tribune has linked political connections to the Republican Party with an arrest on morals charges. I pointed it out in an August 2007 Polinaut post (“Does the Strib think Republicans have a thing for hookers?“) a similar situation. When a man was arrested in a prostitution sting on St. Paul’s East Side, the Star Tribune said:
“Recently, he publicly supported a candidate seeking to replace state Rep. Steve Sviggum. All three elected officials were Republicans.”
But the Star Tribune wasn’t alone in connecting today’s story to the suspect’s politics. Fox9 News did the same thing:
Wanner is licensed to practice law in Wisconsin. He contributed $8,000 to the Norm Coleman Victory Committee and $1,000 to the Mitt Romney For President campaign in 2008.
The Star Tribune turned the Web site comments off on today’s story, so we don’t know if anyone has noticed the assertion.
Incidentally, the arrest of Tom Petters was arguably one of the top crime stories in Minnesota in 2008. Petters, since convicted of running a Ponzi scheme, contributed $14,200 to Democratic candidates in 2008. When he was arraigned in October 2008, the newspaper made no mention of his political contributions.
Emails to editors and reporters at both institutions have not yet been answered.