Wash. Post Company Chairman Sells Newsweek to Harman Because of Comfort with His 'Centrist Politics'

Although it's not clear if Sidney Harman made the best offer of the suitors vying to purchase Newsweek magazine, there is one reason that was made clear by Donald E. Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Co. (NYSE:WPO).

According to Mike Allen at Politico, Harman's bid was accepted by Graham partly because he felt comfortable with Harman's politics.

"Graham felt comfortable with Harman's centrist politics, and was comforted by the idea of selling to a stalwart of the Washington establishment," Allen wrote. "Harman is expected to preserve the serious-minded, essentially New-Democratic tone [outgoing Newsweek editor Jon] Meacham set for the magazine."

But a closer look at Harman's political donations implies there is hardly anything "centrist" about his politics. According to The Center for Responsive Politics' website OpenSecrets.org, the husband of Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., has given generously to Democratic candidates - over $130,000 dating back to 1992.

And the potential conflict of interests goes beyond just the political donations, but his marriage to a sitting congresswoman. As Mattie Fein, a challenger to Jane Harman for her congressional seat pointed out in an open letter to Graham, there's potential for Newsweek to self-censor if it threatened Jane Harman's image.

"If Harman International acquires Newsweek, Congresswoman Jane Harman would be in the catbird's seat controlling the news magazine's reporting or editorializing because she owns millions of dollars of its stock," Fein wrote. "That would bode ill for your reporters and editors. Harman is an ardent foe of freedom of the press. When New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen learned of the government's warrantless Surveillance Program targeting American citizens on American soil, Congresswoman Harman attempted to kill the story to cover-up."

Harman's purchase has even received the approval of the most liberal voices in the media. What's that likely mean?  Perhaps more of the same at Newsweek.