On Monday, the Editorial Board of the Arizona Republic continued its Jihad against school tax credits and--unable to make its case through mere persuasion--resorted to a classic Mainstream Media tactic.
The premise of the editorial is that the practice of “recommending” which students benefit from scholarships is illegal, and that Arizona lawmakers are gambling that the IRS won’t notice.
In order to convince the reader that the practice of “recommending” is indeed illegal, the editorial writers refer to an article written by two Republic reporters.
Unethical is one thing. Illegal is another, far more serious matter.
Reporters Pat Kossan and Ronald J. Hansen have found no shortage of tax experts who believe the practice of "recommending" specific students transgresses federal tax law.
But that’s not what the article says. In fact, the experts quoted in the Kossan/Hansen article say that while outright swapping of charitable contributions is illegal, Arizona’s policy of allowing “recommendations” is in a gray area.
The absolutes begin to get gray over the practice of "recommending" that a donation go to a specific child, perhaps a grandchild or an employer's son.
Kossan and Hansen then go on to quote three tax preparers as well as a tax professor and the Director of a School Tuition Organization. The professionals sound a common theme. Openly earmarking a contribution to a specific child is illegal and earmarking a contribution to a specific child and disguising it as a recommendation is also illegal but making a legitimate recommendation is legal.
The entire point of the Editorial is that the practice of recommending is illegal and that the legislature is taking a huge risk by gambling that the IRS is too busy to investigate. The editorial writer uses a Republic article as a source and resorts to mischaracterizing the article in order justify the editorial. Naturally, this approach only works if no one remembers the original article…or if no one is there to blog about it.
Journalists are shocked when they learn that the public distrusts the media, but shenanigans like Monday's editorial go a long way toward eroding public trust. And readers who don't trust a source eventually stop reading the source.
That my friends is one reason why the newspapers are fading away.