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Newsweek Auction Gets (More) Political

Contender for CA congressional seat presses political ties of bidder’s wife.



By Jason Fell
07/19/2010

Who knew the California Congressional race would spill over into the world of magazine M&A? Well, it has.

Earlier this month, Mattie Fein, a Republican candidate for the 36th district in California, wrote an open letter to Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham questioning the relationship between audio equipment magnate Sydney Harman (who is said to be one of the players bidding for Newsweek) his wife, Democratic California Congresswoman Jane Harman, and her co-ownership of Harman International, which she says does business with Iran.

Fein’s letter goes on to say that if Harman acquires Newsweek, his wife would “be in the catbird’s seat controlling the news magazine’s reporting or editorializing because she owns millions of dollars of its stock,” and would “exert her ownership leverage to divert Newsweek’s investigative reporting away from government wrongdoing that could be politically embarrassing to her.”

Fein is campaigning against Jane Harman for her seat representing California’s 36th district.

Now, two and a half weeks later, Fein has issued a public statement calling further attention to Harman’s “influence on Newsweek” and, essentially, her own campaign. Fein says Newsweek and Harman both have been “mute” concerning her claims.

“Managing Editor Meacham has been missing in action regarding Harman's potential for diverting Newsweek from investigative reporting into a political mouthpiece for the her political agenda,” Fein says in the statement. “Meacham's silence on the Iran-Jane Harman issue begs the question, ‘Why?’ It is not because of the absence of newsworthiness. Newsweek has written recently about the re-defection of an Iranian nuclear scientist and Iranian political schisms. Perhaps Jane Harman's influence has already begun.”

Jane Harman’s camp has not posted any statement in reaction to Fein’s claims on its Web site.

Newsweek owner the Washington Post Co. put the magazine up for sale in May. In addition to Harman, Fred Drasner—a former partner of Mort Zuckerman who helped negotiate his deals for the Daily News, Atlantic Monthly and Fast Company—and TV Guide owner OpenGate Capital are among those believed to have placed bids, which were due July 1.

At the time, a Washington Post spokesperson said a decision concerning the sale wasn’t expect for several weeks. When contacted by FOLIO: today, the spokesperson said there is “nothing new to report.”

By Jason Fell
07/19/2010




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