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All the News Isn't Fit to Sell

By Kevin Osborne · October 29th, 2008 · Porkopolis
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Proponents of the First Amendment and freedom of the press might want to think twice the next time they’re considering popping into their corner United Dairy Farmers store for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread.

Readers have complained that they’re no longer able to buy copies of The New York Times at any UDF location, but getting a straight answer about why is more difficult than spotting a Democrat at a Carl Lindner political fund-raiser.

An informal survey of several area UDF stores yielded differing answers on why the stores abruptly stopped carrying The Times. They include that the newspaper distributor decided not to deliver them anymore (Mount Adams) to the cost of distribution went up and someone at UDF decided not to stock it (Clifton) to it’s no longer available locally (Bellevue) to “don’t know, don’t care” (Avondale).

CityBeat’s readers, who tend to be inquisitive types who get their information from a wide variety of sources, do care.

Sources tell us the actual reason for the newspaper’s disappearance from UDF’s racks has more to do with politics than economics. Apparently the arch-conservative Lindner — whose family founded and owns UDF — is displeased by The Time’s coverage of Republican presidential nominee John McCain and alleged bias in favor of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, as are many Republicans.

UDF’s corporate offices didn’t return repeated calls for comment.

Without any official word from the company, all we’re left with is speculation.

But the tale told by our sources isn’t that hard to believe.

Lindner and his family have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and causes in recent years, and he’s one of the largest financial supporters of President Bush. During the 2004 election cycle, Lindner (then a Reds owner) helped schedule the use of Great American Ball Park downtown for a major televised Bush rally two days before the presidential election.

For some reason, the strictly partisan event — Bush was speaking as a candidate, not in his role as president — was carried live on local TV stations. Dubya scored a narrow election victory in Ohio, which allowed him to get its 20 electoral votes and put him over the top to win another four years in office. In large part, that victory came from suburban Butler, Clermont and Warren counties.

Among his other donations, Lindner gave $250,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans PAC, the group fined for inaccurate TV commercials smearing the military service record of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Also making the suspected reason easier to believe is that most newspaper distributors carry a wide assortment of periodicals. If The Cincinnati Enquirer, USA Today and Pro Football Weekly are still available in UDF stores, what are the chances that only The Times was suddenly cut from a company’s offerings? Perhaps the readership for the paper at UDF was small, but the timing certainly is suspect.

Make no mistake: Lindner is a heavy hitter in GOP circles. Determining just how much Lindner and his extended family have given to Republican causes over the years, however, isn’t easy.

A review of documents filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows that the family also gives money to candidates under the similar name of “Linder.” The pattern of listing campaign contributions without the second “n” in the family’s name isn’t limited to one or two reports and appears to go back several years.

According to documents filed with the FEC, it’s not just one “Linder” error, and it’s not just Carl Jr.’s last name being misspelled repeatedly. The same error shows up with a variety of other Lindner family members, including his wife, Edyth, and his son, Carl III.

For example, “Carl Linder Jr.” gave $500 to the congressional campaign of Geoff Davis in 2001; a person listed as “Carl Linder III” gave $4,000 to the U.S. Senate campaign of David Vitter in Louisiana in 2004 and $1,000 to Virginia Gov. George Allen’s senate campaign in 1999.

Because a number of donations involve a systematic misspelling of the family’s name, it’s unclear whether the listings are merely a clerical error made for years or an effort to conceal donations as a method for skirting federal campaign contribution limits.

Last year Forbes magazine ranked Lindner as the 195th richest American, with a net worth of $2.3 billion. Maybe he can hire a New York Times proof-reader to help.

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