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KPBS and inewsource, in an excellent investigative report released this morning (April 5), reveal what many San Diegans suspected: the barrages of anti-Filner ads run in the Union-Tribune prior to the mayoralty election were discounted. KPBS and inewsource audited ads in the U-T between Labor Day and Election Day 2012, and compared the list with campaign finance records. "The results show varied payments for ads, indicating the U-T may have offered bargains to the anti-Filner campaign," says KPBS in a story with the bylines of Ryann Grochowski and Amita Sharma. The amount that appeared to be spent on the anti-Filner ads did not correlate with campaign disclosures. The paper was charging Filner $8,000 per full-page ad. "Campaign finance disclosures, however, showed the other side paid far less."

Dan Schnur, former chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said, "It's clearly not appropriate for a news organization to make that kind of contribution without reporting it," according to the KPBS/inewsource report. U-T owner Doug Manchester didn't respond to requests for interview. U-T chief executive John Lynch said the U-T offered a package deal to campaigns, but refused to provide a copy of the offer or its details. Filner's opponent, Carl DeMaio, whom the paper endorsed in front-page editorials, did not return a call for comment.

The joke, of course, is that the barrage of hate-Filner ads almost certainly backfired. Filner astutely used the U-T's blatant bias as a campaign issue. Filner won by a wider margin than many had expected.

In my opinion, this investigative report is one more nail in the coffin of both the U-T and DeMaio. Recently, the U-T ran a front page screed attacking negative information that was put together on DeMaio. This common practice utterly pales by comparison with this morning's report -- in fact, some such as myself considered the U-T story just another propaganda piece for DeMaio, who, according to reliable rumors, intends to run for Congress.

"According to local, state, and federal campaign experts, discounting ads for certain political candidates can be against the law," says the KPBS/inewsource report.

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Comments

Ponzi April 5, 2013 @ 8:12 a.m.

Discounted? They were probably free. To Doug Manchester it was just paper and ink.

When that pre-election political hit piece "2016: Obama's America" movie (produced and distributed by Mormons) was being advertised in full page ads almost every day in the UT-San Diego in the fall of 2012, I wondered how they had the budget! Then, come to find out, Manchester had kept his investment interest in that movie a secret. I'll bet those full page ads were printed for a discount or free as well.

Manchester and his UT-San Diego should be investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

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Don Bauder April 5, 2013 @ 8:21 a.m.

Ponzi: Yes, I thought the ads for the anti-Obama movie were probably a gift, too. The anti-Filner ads, however, required some sort of public disclosure. It appears that the disclosure was misleading, inadequate, or just plain false. We don't know. This investigation must continue to get at the truth. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark April 5, 2013 @ 9:48 a.m.

The Manchester U-T is a newspaper in name only. They should save money by printing their daily tabloid on smaller paper. Will he own this long enough to destroy it completely? If/when he does sell, will he even get his money back? Better yet; will he move the operation to another area of the city, tear down the current U-T building, and put something else in it's place?

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Don Bauder April 5, 2013 @ 11:57 a.m.

aardvark: Manchester already has plans to develop real estate on the site of the U-T in Mission Valley -- a choice location, if the market ever turns. But will he move the paper out of the building and rip it down? That remains to be seen. It is too large for the current shrunken staff. If the paper eventually goes online-only, there will be no need for all the printing equipment. The paper could also be printed elsewhere. Obviously, the fact that the paper has been turned into a propaganda rag will turn off readers. But it may take a long while. Old habits die hard. Best, Don Bauder

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Founder April 5, 2013 @ 12:26 p.m.

Expect to see many SUBSETS of the UT which will push the UT's GOP line in the future, so that they will not have this "problem" with remaining legal in the future.

San Diego now only has the READER for MSM anything relating to Political Correctness Utility Rip Offs and the like, not counting a few TV personalities!

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Don Bauder April 5, 2013 @ 3:09 p.m.

Founder: Real estate developers use the strategy you mention, and Manchester is a real estate developer. Whether that strategy would work with discounting advertising for favored political candidates I don't know. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK April 6, 2013 @ 8:02 a.m.

sounds like a underhanded way to circumvent the political campaign donation limits

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Don Bauder April 6, 2013 @ 12:22 p.m.

Murphyjunk: If this technique was used, it would be an underhanded attempt to circumvent campaign donation laws. However, I doubt that it would work. The ads appeared in a newspaper. Even if the newspaper were sheltered under several corporate wings, I think it would be considered one newspaper. Best, Don Bauder

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jmiyazawa April 6, 2013 @ 10:06 a.m.

It's really amazing how Doug Manchester has decimated the reputation of what was never a great newspaper to begin with. He's nothing more than a poor man's Rupert Murdoch.

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Don Bauder April 6, 2013 @ 12:25 p.m.

jmiyazawa: Remember, though, that Murdoch grew up in the newspaper business. Manchester wasn't in it until he bought the U-T. Murdoch flouts media ethics. Manchester may not know any better. However, ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially in this case. Best, Don Bauder

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jmiyazawa April 9, 2013 @ 8:32 p.m.

Absolutely right. I really wonder if he knows what a joke the U-T has become. He obviously doesn't care, even if he knows.

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Visduh April 8, 2013 @ 9:51 p.m.

Dougie has the attitude, I'm certain, that since he owns the Mill, he can do anything he wants to do with it. Give away ads? Sure, why not? It's his paper, isn't it? Campaign finance laws? What are those? If Papa were some rich country bumpkin who came to the big city, ala Jed Clampitt, and bought the paper, that would be one thing. Actually, he's one very sophisticated operator, one of the best and maybe the very best real estate developers in the history of the county. He's no bumpkin, no rube, and has had the best legal minds sitting with him in all his deliberations, for decades. He knows the score, and probably better than any of us who make these comments. When he decided to give his friends a break, it wasn't out of idealism or political conviction at all. It was calculated as a risk he'd take, knowing that the chances of any sort of prosecution were slim to non-existent.

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Don Bauder April 9, 2013 @ 7:14 a.m.

Visduh: Good analysis. Manchester has a history of flouting the law. Will the FPPC cave? Not if enough pressure is put on it by other local media. The offense appears so egregious that it cries out for investigation. The FPPC has launched one. We'll see if it is a coverup. Will San Diego's purported ethics commission do its job? It would be amazing if it did. Best, Don Bauder

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HellcatCopley April 9, 2013 @ 9:07 a.m.

State Watchdog Agency Opens Inquiry into U-T San Diego’s Political Ad Rates Fair Political Practices Commission will check whether U-T offered improper discounts.

April 8, 2013 Updated at 8:55 p.m. April 8, 2013

By Amita Sharma and Ryann Grochowski, inewsource, KPBS

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) announced Monday it is looking into whether U-T San Diego offered an improper discount on political advertising during last year’s election.

At first, calling it an investigation, and later revising it to a review, the FPPC, a state watchdog agency, said it’s reviewing whether the U-T San Diego violated campaign laws.

The probe was prompted by an inewsource/KPBS Investigations Desk analysis, which found that an anti-Bob Filner political action committee paid just over $1,560 per full-page ad in the U-T during the San Diego mayoral race.

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Don Bauder April 9, 2013 @ 12:17 p.m.

HellcatCopley: I saw that. I hope the FPPC is not weasel-wording this, afraid to tackle somebody with deep pockets. I hope it is a REAL investigation. Best, Don Bauder

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DavidnPB April 23, 2013 @ 4:41 p.m.

Any status report on the FPPC investigation into the Papa Doug Discounts for political ads?

For some reason, the Manchester UT has failed to have even one article on this subject.

Quality, objective , professional journalism at its best.

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