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Vanguard's Democratic Stalwart Blogger

Friday, 29 Oct 2010 | 9:52 AM ET

Ira Stoll has done admirable work bringing to light the partisanship of Stephen Utkus, the guy Vanguard has writing for the mutual fund manager's official website. Today he digs up the campaign donations of Utkus:

"The Vanguard mutual fund official responsible for the pre-election Vanguard blog post crediting the Obama stimulus bill passed by Congressional Democrats with averting a second Great Depression has given $11,600 in campaign contributions over the past seven years — every last cent of it to Democrats.

Vanguard distanced itself from the blog post and apologized earlier this week after a FutureOfCapitalism.com article that criticized it. The Vanguard official who wrote the article lauding the stimulus, Stephen Utkus, gave $1,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this year and $500 this year to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by FutureOfCapitalism.com. He donated $4,600 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008, according to FEC records.

After the original Vanguard blog post was challenged, the company defended it in part by claiming, "the focus is on certain macroeconomic principles and is not intended to endorse specific political leaders or parties." But Mr. Utkus's history of political giving raises the possibility that he was doing exactly what it looked like he was doing in the first place — using the official blog of a financial giant with about $1.4 trillion under management to help the Democrats in the election by painting a dire picture of what would have happened in the economy under Republican policies. The situation also runs counter to the common portrayal by President Obama of a financial industry donating to Republicans in an effort to avoid regulation.

If Democrats had not passed the stimulus over "mistaken" Republican opposition, the country would have faced a scenario of "unemployment of 15% or more. A Dow that would have fallen 75% off its peak—to 4,000 or less—before recovering to a level much below today's. An economic recovery that might not yet have begun. And finally a foreclosure crisis even larger than our present one," Mr. Utkus wrote."

Now $11,600 might not sound like a lot of money. But politics is run on small sums. There are probably fewer than 10,000 people across the country who have donated that much over the past seven years.

It's also striking how one-sided Utkus's donations are. Vanguard's PAC gives to both Democrats and Republicans, to Eric Cantor and Barney Frank. Utkus, however, seems to be a good soldier of the Democratic party.

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