By Guy Page
VT Digger said yesterday it made a mistake by giving a pro-Proposal 5 lobby group $1000 in free advertising just days before the Vermont House of Representatives voted Feb. 8.
Proposal 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to provide “reproductive liberty,” including unrestricted access to abortion regardless of age. The proposed amendment will go to Vermont voters at the general election in November.
VT Digger Anne Galloway (above, at left) promised to refrain from free underwriting – a/k/a advertising – for political organizations, candidates or advocacy groups. Also, Vermont for Reproductive Liberty has agreed to compensate VT Digger, she said.
The admission of error by Vermont’s pre-eminent online news outlet was made three days after March 20, when Vermonters for Good Government sent a letter to supporters informing them of the inappropriate donation.
As recorded on the screenshot from the Vermont Secretary of State’s webpage for lobbying records (above, right), VT Digger on Feb. 7 provided $1000 in “no-cost promotion, digital advertising.” On Feb. 8, the House voted 107-41 in support of Prop 5.
“We always knew pushing back against Proposal 5/Article 22 would come with challenges, but this one, frankly, took us by surprise,” Vermonters for Good Government Action Executive Director Matthew Strong wrote in the March 20 letter. “This $1,000 of free advertising from a supposedly neutral ‘news’ source is listed in the report as having been received on February 7, 2022 – the day before the House of Representatives voted on the proposal.”
“Biased reporting is bad enough,” Strong continued. “But a news outlet actively paying for one side’s propaganda on an issue they are covering, and timing their contribution specifically to influence a legislative vote, is beyond the pale. At least this incident makes it clear that this is what we’re dealing with.”
Publisher Anne Galloway yesterday told Vermont Daily Chronicle via email that the free advertising – referred to as “underwriting” by the not-for-profit VT Digger – was offered in the hopes of securing future business.
“As we often do with potential clients, we offered Vermont for Reproductive Liberty a promotion in an effort to secure future underwriting business,” Galloway said. “This was a mistake. VTDigger’s policy prohibits donations to political organizations or advocacy groups. In the future, we will ensure that no free promotions are offered to political organizations, advocacy groups or candidates of any kind.”
“We have asked Vermont for Reproductive Liberty to compensate us for the underwriting and they have agreed to do so. Needless to say, VTDigger’s news department had no knowledge of or involvement in this matter.”
The donation speaks for itself, Strong said.
“We see now that the Vermont media will not help us by fairly reporting the facts,” Strong said in the March 20 letter. “They are not interested in the truth about how Proposal 5 allows unregulated abortion until birth, opens the door to various avenues of eugenics, blocks parents from having a say in regard to their children’s physical and psychological sexual health, and more.”