Right-wing slant for free in DC's new daily paper, the Washington Examiner

On February 1, a free daily tabloid arrived on newsstands and in mailboxes in the Washington, DC area: the Washington Examiner. The new paper is owned by Denver billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, an Evangelical Presbyterian who has bankrolled numerous ultra-conservative causes and has donated at least half a million dollars to Republican committees and political candidates. The Examiner's first three editorials all took hardline conservative positions.

The February 1 edition of the paper featured an editorial trumpeting President Bush's foreign policy, titled “Hope blossoms where Bush plants democracy.” It featured glowing reviews of Bush's inaugural address, stating that he “spoke with such eloquence of America's role in spreading liberty and democracy.” It went on to laud Bush's leadership as more successful than that of past foreign policy officials including James Baker, Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, stating: “Today there's a better chance of peace in the Middle East than the wise men of foreign policy achieved in their decades at the helm.”

The lead editorial in the February 2 edition, titled “Social Security robs future to pay for past,” touted the Bush administration's plans to privatize Social Security, making misleading blanket statements that retirees stand to gain far more by investing their Social Security taxes in the stock market than by paying them into the Social Security system. As Media Matters for America has noted, many economists believe that Bush's proposed private investment accounts will increase retirees' exposure to risk without producing a better rate of return than the current system. Further, the editorial criticized Social Security as an inherently flawed system and took shots at former President Franklin Roosevelt, calling the New Deal -- of which Social Security is a part -- an example of political opportunism.

The second February 2 editorial, “Abortion isn't a game, so stop playing,” criticized Democrats and Planned Parenthood for opposing a bill in the Virginia legislature submitted by delegate John S. “Jack” Reid (R-72nd district) that would put greater restrictions on state abortion clinics. The Examiner explained that the bill (HB 2784) proposes raising safety standards for abortion clinics and asked, “Who could possibly be against that?” The editorial continued: “the proposal got a 'thumbs down' from Planned Parenthood, a group that should be squarely behind efforts to make abortions safer.” The Examiner did note that “opponents claim Reid's bill is a thinly disguised attempt to shutter abortion facilities by requiring expensive renovations.” But the paper failed to note that the Virginia Department of Health also opposes the bill because, as a department representative told the Potomac News, it would place “undue, burdensome regulations on clinics” including compliance with surgical center building codes that would require abortion clinics to “increase the size of their operating rooms, hallways and doors to accommodate equipment they don't use.” According to Planned Parenthood of Virginia figures, the bill would cost clinics between $1.5 and $2 million each, as the Potomac News also noted. While the Examiner asserted that Republicans “should admit they really want to restrict abortion,” it claimed that Democrats "just want to keep abortions cheap" [emphasis added].

Anschutz's involvement in the newspaper business adds to his already vast holdings, which include real estate, sports teams and venues, movie theaters, and film production. He ranked 33rd on Forbes' list of "The 400 Richest Americans" in 2004 and 80th on Forbes' 2004 list of "The World's Richest People." In September 2002, as non-executive chairman of Qwest Communications International Inc., Anschutz was named Fortune magazine's Greediest Executive of 2002.

A November 20, 2004, Washington Post article reported that in October 2004, Anschutz bought the Alexandria, Virginia-based Journal Newspapers Inc. chain of suburban tabloids, which he transformed into the Washington Examiner. The Post reported that 260,000 copies of the Examiner's debut edition were circulated February 1. As the Post noted November 20, 2004, Anschutz purchased the San Francisco Examiner, the Independent, and their printing company earlier that year, a move that “sparked concerns among critics in San Francisco that he wanted to use the newspaper to promote his conservative beliefs, a charge his executives deny.” According to a January 4 report in the San Francisco Business Times, in October 2004, Anschutz “trademarked variations on the Examiner name in at least 68 cities, including Washington, Baltimore, New York, Detroit, Denver and Salt Lake City.”

Anschutz has also ventured into film production. An article in the October 4, 2004, edition of Variety magazine described the “faith-driven billionaire's Hollywood forays,” noting that Anschutz “has spent close to a quarter-billion dollars on a raft of movies designed not just to generate box office dollars, but to spread the gospel of education, religious faith and family values.”

Christian self-help author Bob Buford, described in the February 20, 2004, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle as Anschutz's friend, told Fortune magazine in September 1999 that Anschutz “has a latent interest in doing something significant in American Christianity” and that Anschutz “is working deliberately and diligently on it.”

Anschutz has a history of supporting socially conservative causes. According to a recent Post article, Anschutz's family foundation gave James Dobson, the founder of the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family, an award for his “contributions to the American Family.” The Post noted that according to the foundation's website, Focus on the Family works to “counter the media-saturating message that homosexuality is inborn and unchangeable” and that one of the group's policy experts referred to abortion as an example of when “Satan temporarily succeeds in destroying God's creation.” Further, as the Post mentioned, Anschutz contributed $10,000 in 1992 to Colorado Family Values in support of the group's efforts to pass a state constitutional amendment to invalidate state and local laws that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. (The referendum passed, but the United States Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.) According to the Post, “Anschutz's money helped pay for an ad campaign that said such anti-bias laws gave gays and lesbians 'special rights.'”

In May 2003, the Orange County Weekly reported that other Anschutz Foundation beneficiaries include the Institute for American Values, which according to the Weekly “campaigns against single parenting,” and Enough is Enough, which “promotes Internet censorship.” The San Francisco Chronicle noted on February 20, 2004, that Anschutz also funds Morality in Media. As Media Matters previously noted, the Institute for American Values also receives funding from the conservative Bradley and Scaife foundations, as well as grants from the John M. Olin Foundation, another major financer of conservative organizations. Enough is Enough and Morality in Media have also received funding from the conservative Castle Rock Foundation.

Anschutz has also made significant financial contributions to Republicans. The Washington Post described Anschutz as “an active Republican donor” stating that “he, his companies and members of his family have given more than $500,000 in campaign contributions to GOP candidates and committees” since 1996. Variety noted in its October 4, 2004, edition that Anschutz has supported “a number of Republican political candidates, including John Ashcroft and Peter Coors.”

While at Qwest, Anschutz was involved in an accounting scandal that led to his resignation. According to a November 20 Post article:

In 2002, New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer sued Anschutz and four telecom executives, accusing Anschutz of making $1.5 billion in “unjust enrichment revenue,” including the sale of initial-public-offering stock Anschutz received in the hopes he would steer investment banking business to Citigroup Inc. Anschutz and Spitzer reached an agreement in which Anschutz admitted no wrongdoing and later paid $4.4 million to law schools and charities, and Spitzer agreed to drop the suit.

That same year, Anschutz stepped down as Qwest's non-executive chairman. Anschutz remains on Qwest's board and still has 80 percent of his original Qwest holdings, which have lost significant value.