Why does the New York Times, when it reports on a fundraiser that John Catsimatidis held for Mitt Romney, insist on describing Mr. Catsimatidis as a "supermarket magnate"? Here is Mr. Catsimatidis in a 2009 interview with Steve Forbes:
Steve Forbes: Now, in addition to groceries and real estate, you're also in the energy business. What's going to happen with that?
John Catsimatidis: That's our main business. Energy business is, we have the biggest oil refinery in western Pennsylvania. We have our own pipeline. We have gas stations. We bought that company, another good deal, back in 1985. And an interesting thing we do with those gas stations--and our gas stations are called Red Apple, which was our original name--we advertise that our gasoline is made from 100% North American crude oil. We have our own pipeline that goes into Canada that brings in our Canadian crude, and that's what we process and that's what we have at our gas stations.
Federal Election Commission records show Mr. Catsimatidis also gave to Democrats Christopher Dodd ($2300 in 2009), Anthony Weiner ($5000), Russell Feingold ($1000 in 2009), Claire McCaskill ($2000 in 2006), Jerrold Nadler ($9700 between 2005 and 2009), Charles Rangel ($2500 in 2011), Max Baucus ($1000 in 2006), Charles Schumer ($2400 in 2009), Hillary Clinton ($4600 in 2007), Harry Reid ($2400 in 2009), Ted Kennedy ($3000 in 2005) and Kirsten Gillibrand ($7100 from 2007 to 2011). He gave $25,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2005.
Now, maybe Mr. Catsimatidis has undergone some kind of sudden ideological conversion — he also has given some money to Tea Party favorites Rand Paul and Allen West. Maybe he has so much money he just gives some to any politician he figures may someday be in a position to be helpful. Maybe he's basically a free market guy who happens to have become friendly with Bill and Hillary Clinton, and when they ask him to help someone, he does. Maybe he's in a highly regulated business — energy — and he wants to make sure, entirely legally, that if he needs help in Washington he has access when he needs it.
But if you're a journalist assigned to cover a fundraiser that Mr. Catsimatidis is having for Mitt Romney, who is already under suspicion from some conservatives within the Republican Party for being not exactly what you'd call a conviction politician, might some of this be worth mentioning, rather than just calling the guy a "supermarket magnate"?
I'm not saying Mr. Romney shouldn't take his money and his help. One of the virtues of Mr. Romney is that he may prove attractive to voters and donors who have supported Democrats in previous years. And if Mr. Romney only raised money from those in businesses with no interests before the federal government, he'd have a difficult time funding his campaign. Maybe Mr. Romney would have the same energy policy he has now even if he weren't raising money from a person in the energy business. But again, merely describing the guy as a "supermarket magnate" doesn't get into any of these issues — if anything, it obscures them. The Fox TV affiliate in New York did better this morning when it interviewed Mr. Catsimatidis this morning and asked him about gas prices.