TW nixes soft money to solons

Conglom concerned about political process

WASHINGTON — Time Warner, citing its corporate conscience, announced Tuesday that it will no longer make unregulated donations — known as soft money — to political parties and will at the same time beef up the budget for political coverage at its CNN, Time Magazine and other news outlets by more than a $2.5 million.

“We have had a growing concern about the current system of financing and conducting political campaigns,” said a Time Warner press release. “The impact of unregulated soft money and the prevalence of highly expensive, often negative advertising are increasingly distorting the electoral process.” Time Warner attributed the quote to chairman and CEO Gerald Levin and company prexy Richard Parsons.

CNN and Time Warner will allot an additional $1 million for campaign coverage that will be called “At Issue: Election 2000.” The money is earmarked for a series of “electronic town meetings where reporters from CNN, Time, Fortune and Money will join with present and former candidates, media specialists, students, political advocates and voters to tackle vital and controversial political issues.”

Time Warner has also allotted $1 million to bolster election coverage at its regional cable news outlets, including NY1 News in New York City, R/News in Rochester, N.Y., Central Florida News in Orlando, Fla., News 9 in Tampa, Fla. and Austin 8 News in Austin, Texas.

Soft money has become a target of campaign finance reform advocates because it allows companies and individuals to bypass the limits on contributions that can be made directly to candidates. The money usually goes to the Republican and Democratic political parties, which then use it to bolster their respective candidates.

“From our point of view, we are really pleased that Time Warner has decided not to participate in soft money,” Common Cause spokesman Jeff Cronin said. Common Cause is a Washington, D.C.-based campaign finance watchdog group.