I am an avid reader of the local paper in Milwaukee called the Catholic Herald, but this past week I saw something that bothered me. In the October 21st edition an ad for Senator Russ Feingold was printed. Senator Feingold is pro-choice. Above the ad was a notice saying that if they accept ads from any political candidate, then they must accept ads from all candidates. I didn't accept that no-endorsement statement as being enough to allow the Catholic Herald to print the ad for a Senator whose beliefs are far from Catholic, so I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Catholic Herald:
Regarding the Russ Feingold Campaign Ad in the Catholic Herald-
I am an active Catholic teen at St. Matthias Parish and I am not even old enough to vote yet, but I am very upset over the posting of the Russ Feingold ad in the Catholic Herald. The day the Catholic Herald arrives in the mail, I read it cover to cover. This is the first time that I have been incensed by what I found in it. Russ Feingold is openly for abortion and has consistently supported abortion rights. What kind of Catholic community are we when we support political candidates who oppose Catholic beliefs? Who would vote for him anyway?
I remember reading an article by Archbishop Listecki's a couple of weeks ago talking about Pro-Life. This political ad for Russ Feingold totally contradicts the Archbishop! What do you think he is thinking right now as he looks at this ad that has been printed in the paper that he publishes!
While watching the debate between Russ Feingold and his pro-life opponent, Ron Johnson, a few days ago, I couldn't help but notice that Senator Feingold showed no respect or courtesy for anyone else. He wouldn't even let Ron Johnson speak, because he continued to cut him off and interrupt him, smirk at him and laugh at him. Why should the Catholic Herald show respect for a man by printing his ad, when he shows no respect for anyone else?
And here is his response:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding our publication of the Russ Feingold ad.
The Catholic Herald has accepted political advertising for decades. One of the conditions for doing so is that if we solicit ads from one candidate for a political office, we must solicit (and accept) ads from all candidates for that office – even if his or her opponents choose not to advertise. This is not a self-imposed condition but rather one imposed upon us by the Internal Revenue Service. Here is how the legal department of the U.S. bishops explained it in 2007:
“Paid Political Advertising. A Catholic organization may not provide political advertising to a candidate, political party or PAC free, at a reduced rate, or on a selective basis. IRS has stated that acceptance of paid political ads in exempt organization newspapers, periodicals, and other publications generally will not violate the political campaign prohibition, provided: (a) the organization accepts political advertising on the same basis as other non-political advertising; (b) political advertising is identified as paid political advertising; (c) the organization expressly states that it does not endorse any candidate; and (d) advertising is available to all candidates on an equal basis. IRS places particular emphasis on the manner in which political advertising is solicited. One identified negative factor is solicitation of ads from certain candidates that support an organization’s views, but mere acceptance (without solicitation) of ads from other candidates. It is important to emphasize that once a Catholic organization accepts one paid political advertisement, it cannot selectively decline to accept others. [See: Election Year Issues at 384.]
“Factors to be considered in determining whether the provision of paid political advertising constitutes political campaign intervention include: (a) whether advertising is available to candidates in the same election on an equal basis; (b) whether advertising is available only to candidates and not to the general public; (c) whether the fees charged to candidates for advertising are the customary and usual fees; and whether the advertising activity is an ongoing activity or whether it is conducted only for a particular candidate. [See: Rev. Rul. 2007-41 at 1425.]”
In the case of the U.S. Senate race, advertising was sought from the Johnson campaign; thus it had to be sought from the Feingold campaign. The Johnson campaign expressed no interest in reaching Catholic Herald readers; the Feingold campaign did. Thus, the reason his ad appeared.
Be assured, John, that prior to the 2012 election, we will be evaluating our practice of accepting political advertising. It will not be an easy decision, so I ask that you keep the Catholic Press Apostolate in your prayers.
Again, thank you for taking time to write, and for expressing yourself in a Christian, civil manner.
Brian T. Olszewski
For more on the subject visit Badger Catholic and Imprisoned in my Bones.