A question for the Washington Post

Reader Chris Wildermuth writes:

I wanted to call out William Cohan’s piece in the Post this weekend asking why Romney wasn’t richer. I thought the first half was largely speculative, absent any comment from Romney’s Bain peers who should be able to comment, but free of bias with one exception – it didn’t seem to consider the two simplest explanations: 1) that Bill Bain funded the venture, so Romney’s equity stake was as founding CEO, but not as primary equity investor as were Kravis, Forstmann and others he cites as billionaire peers; or 2) maybe Romney is not as greedy.

That would just make it a poorly researched piece written by a lazy writer who passes guessing off as informed opinion. But I was very disturbed by the conclusion as it was clear he was very anti-Romney, with nothing substantive on which to base his biases.

The conclusion left me feeling it was a hit piece. It made me question the author’s motives. Reading the author bio, I thought maybe he was just anti-investment fund, someone who grew wealthy in the industry but came to loathe it and became a crusading journalist at Bloomberg. He wouldn’t be the first.

But the sharpness of the criticism made me think there might be something more. So on a hunch I checked OpenSecrets.org and sure enough, a “William Cohan” of NYC who lists his profession as both writer and investor has donated $3,000 to Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election.

I think this should have been disclosed by the Washington Post. (In truth I think this should have been cause for the editors to reject the piece, but I guess I’m old school on such matters.)

I wrote to the WaPo ombudsman, but heard nothing back while the Cohan piece remained prominent on the WaPo online and iPad site (the latter of which appears to only be updated once a day).

I asked the ombudsman two questions:

– Was the Post aware of Cohan’s donations?
– Does the Post identify supporters of active campaigns when publishing their opinion pieces critical of the opposition?

As of this afternoon, Mr. Wildermuth has received no response from the Post ombudsman.

UPDATE: See also Mollie Hemingway’s astute commentary on Cohan’s column.


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