Newspapers and magazines run negative articles on candidates all the time. The National Review, however, raised some eyebrows with its most recent edition almost exclusively dedicated to attacking Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.
The Review is an old, conservative publication started by William F. Buckley, a noted figure in the history of American conservative thought. Once revered as a standard-bearer for right of center opinion, the magazine has seen waning subscriptions in recent years, and has struggled to remain relevant in the digital age.
Under increasing financial pressure, the current editor, Rich Lowry recently opted to re-organize National Review as a 501(c)(3). This is the tax status of churches and other non-profits that allows for donors to contribute with a tax write off. As everyone knows, one of the rules of being tax-exempt is that you must forfeit your right to participate in politics, because political donations do not merit a tax exemption.
That’s why direct political activity is very cautiously avoided by many churches and charities. They simply can’t risk losing their status.
National Review’s recent Trump hit piece raises serious questions about the future legitimacy of their 501(c)(3). As a news publication, they certainly have an obligation to cover the Presidential race. The Review went a step much further though in penning an editorial specifically advocating the defeat of an individual candidate. Further, their magazine included portions dedicated to listing out quotes from a number of notable conservatives who endorse the Defeat Trump Movement.
At this point, in what way is the National Review different than a Super PAC that collects donations and uses them in support or opposition of a campaign? As the National Review is not required to report its donors and those donors have just received an essential subsidy from the federal government, their recent edition raises serious ethical and legal questions that must be explored further.