Audit Notes: Radicalized, Nonprofit Newt, Murdoch’s Wedding Singer

Kevin Drum riffs off Bloomberg Markets story on banks’ bailout profits to write about how the response to the crash has radicalized him:

But hoo boy, what a contrast with how the rest of us were treated. Things like principal write-downs, second waves of stimulus, aid to states, and mortgage cramdown all got a bit of idle chatter but were then left to die. For some reason, it would have been unfair to hand out money to profligate homeowners, state and local workers, and the millions who have been unemployed for more than a year.

And yes, in some cosmic sense, perhaps it would have been unfair. Massive financial crashes always produce some inherent unfairness. For some reason, though, we were willing to overlook that unfairness when it was Wall Street that came begging, but became obsessed with it when all the rest of us came begging.

— The Washington Post looks at how Newt Gingrich cashed in on his speakership after leaving Congress. Here’s how he financed CEO-style travel through his nonprofit:

American Solutions spent $6.6 million on private air travel through Moby Dick Airways — a private charter service favored by many Republicans — during its four years of existence, amounting to about 13 percent of the group’s budget, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure records.

The former business associate of Gingrich’s, who was familiar with his finances, said Gingrich for at least two years insisted upon flying private charter jets everywhere he traveled, with most of the costs — ranging from $30,000 to $45,000 per trip — billed to American Solutions.

Gingrich aides would scramble to come up with American Solutions-related events to justify the billing, even if the actual reason for the trip was something connected to his health-care think tank, book sales or other profit-making venture, this source said.

The Post reports that Gingrich’s chauffeur bill was up to $300,000 a year, a bill paid by his nonprofit. Meantime, the IRS can’t figure out if newspapers that don’t take ads and are staffed by volunteers qualify for nonprofit tax exemptions.

My question, which the Post doesn’t ask: Is this legal?

— The singer Charlotte Church testified today in the UK press inquiry that Rupert Murdoch promised her a choice between a wad of cash or favorable press to sing at his wedding back when she was 13 years old. John Cook pulls this quote:

When I was 13 I was asked to perform at Rupert Murdoch’s wedding in New York. When it came to the payment for my work, my management at the time informed me that either there would be a £100,000 fee (which was the biggest fee I’d ever been offered) or if the fee for my performance was waived, I would be looked upon favourabiy by Mr. Murdoch’s papers. Despite my teenage business head screaming “think how many tamogotchies you could buy!!”, I was pressured into taking the latter option. This strategy failed.., for me. In fact Mr Murdoch’s newspapers have since been some of the worst offenders, so much so that I have sometimes felt that there has actually been a deliberate agenda.

And here’s Murdoch’s News of the World:

In this case, the News of the World was well aware of my mother’s vulnerable state because on 27 November 2005 before the expose Page 25 on 11 December 2005 they reported upon (what we now think were) illicitly obtained private details of her hospital treatment. Then, not content with their coverage on 11 December, the News of the World put a proposal to my mother. The proposal was that News of the World wanted an exclusive story of her breakdown, self-harming; and attempted suicide, in exchange for not printing a follow-up story about my father’s infidelity. My mother gave them the exclusive interview which was published on 18 December 2005. She felt she had no choice other than to play by their rules. The follow-up story of my father’s sex-life was then published in The People the next week anyway. This sequence of events drove my mother to additional self-harming and had a dramatic impact on her mental health.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,