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Cowles family members among large campaign donors

SATURDAY, OCT. 30, 2004

Members of the family that owns The Spokesman-Review and its corporate parent are among the donors to candidates and political campaigns this year.

But those donations are completely separate from the newspaper’s coverage or its editorial endorsements, publisher William Stacey Cowles said.

Cowles contributed $1,000 to Shaun Cross, one of the Republican candidates in Eastern Washington’s 5th District congressional primary. Cross was also the candidate the newspaper endorsed in that primary, although the contribution was made after the endorsement and was not connected, Cowles said.

“I rarely give to candidates,” Cowles said. “I’ve known Shaun for a couple of years, through his work with the chamber and the Public Facilities District.”

Cross was a vice chairman of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the PFD board that handles the expansion of the Convention Center.

James P. Cowles, Stacey Cowles’ uncle, is one of the largest political donors in Spokane County, giving more than $22,000 to various committees, mostly Republicans for federal office.

James Cowles could not be reached for a comment on this story, but Stacey Cowles said the political contributions are “entirely his personal business” and not related to the operations of the newspaper. The elder Cowles is the chairman of Inland Paper Co., which produces the newsprint for The Spokesman-Review and other papers. He has no role in the day-to-day operations of the newspaper.

The Spokesman-Review is listed as contributing a total of $3,500 to two ballot initiatives: the Spokane Transit Authority proposal in the spring and the street bond issue this fall. The Spokesman-Review also is listed as the contributor of $2,500 to the Education Accountability Alliance, which supports the re-election of Terry Bergeson for state superintendent of public instruction. The newspaper has supported both ballot measures and Bergeson on its editorial page.

But Stacey Cowles said those donations apparently are incorrectly listed, because they did not come from the newspaper. Rather, each was donated by the holding company, Cowles Publishing Co.

“The newspaper did not give any money to any campaign,” he said.

Under newsroom policy, reporters, editors, photographers and other editorial staff are not allowed to contribute to candidates or campaigns.


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