Seattle Weekly staffers spill a lot of ink bashing George W. Bush. "Perhaps, one happy day in future times, we can look forward to [George W. Bush] sitting in the dock, on trial for treason, smirking like Hermann Goering at Nuremberg," Weekly editor Knute Berger wrote last year. "He would be called to account for stealing an election; he would be tried for war crimes; he would be judged for turning America into an international pariah." If you follow the Weekly's money trail, however, you'll discover that part of the Weekly's revenues are going straight to George W. Bush's campaign war chest.

Seattle Weekly co-owner Goldman Sachs employees have donated $436,199 to Bush over the course of the president's political career--and a startling $301,225 in this year's election cycle alone. The handsome donations place the Weekly's co-owner among Bush's top-10 all-time contributors, joining an elite list of donors that includes Credit Suisse First Boston and the infamous Enron.

New York-based Goldman Sachs, a $23 billion financial investment company that ranks 74th on the Fortune 500, is one of three firms that partnered to buy the Weekly's parent company, Stern Publishing, in 2000, forming Village Voice Media Inc. Goldman Sachs co-owns the Weekly with Trimaran Fund II LLC--a unit of CIBC World Markets--and Weiss, Peck & Greer LLC. It turns out that Weiss, Peck & Greer and CIBC World Markets have also donated to Bush's reelection campaign, contributing $18,000. The grand total from the Weekly's owners to Bush's 2004 campaign? $319,225.

While some might praise the Weekly for bucking its corporate chiefs by writing critically about Bush, the situation is actually quite crass. In a city where Bush took just 19 percent of the vote in 2000, the Weekly is preaching to an anti-Bush choir--and then exploiting that choir by giving some of the profits earned in Seattle (thanks to screeds like the one cited above) to Bush's campaign. Goldman Sachs seems to be playing the Weekly's readers and advertisers for fools. It would be as if Michael Moore donated profits from Bowling for Columbine to the NRA.

The Weekly's owners are following the same cynical equation that any big media company uses. For example, Clear Channel, the $8.4 billion radio giant, exploits the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll teen market with its stable of 1,200 radio stations nationwide, including local hiphop outlet KUBE 93, while directing a whopping 80 percent of its $321,251 in political contributions to Republicans.

Weekly co-owner Goldman Sachs has also donated money to Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid--$73,750--but has donated more than four times as much to the Bush camp. Similarly, employees at Weiss, Peck & Greer and CIBC, the financial firms that co-own the Weekly, have contributed $2,500 to Kerry, but have given more than seven times as much to Bush.

Neither Weekly editor Berger nor VVM returned our calls, but a Goldman Sachs spokesperson says, "While we have a stake, while we are an investor, we are in no way involved in managing the company."

As for other local papers: One of the Seattle Times' owners, Knight Ridder Inc., has donated $2,000 to Bush this election cycle (the Times' majority owner, the Blethen family, has not contributed to a presidential candidate this year); the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's owner, the Hearst Corp., has donated $4,000 to Bush and $2,250 to Kerry; and The Stranger's owner, Seattle-based Index Media, has not donated to either candidate.

josh@thestranger.com

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