Putting the articles together makes an implicit statement that the NYT is applying its investigative powers in a professional journalistic fashion to both candidates and delving into the questions about the nature of their wealth and their financial dealings. Putting the Trump article in larger print and on top conveys the impression that the investigation into him turned up more serious problems.
So does the language used.
The words "Trump's Empire" parallel "Foundation Donor's." It doesn't even say "Clinton Foundation." The name "Clinton" is used in "Clinton's Candidacy," which faces "obstacles." The active characters are the donors, raising obstacles for her candidacy (not even directly for her, but for the abstraction that is her candidacy). See all that distancing? She's essentially the hero of that headline, with a worthy goal and facing obstacles from other characters. Read the finer print too. See how she's the hero? A classic hero is even named: Achilles! And speaking of names, none of the donors are named. You have to click through to find the worrisome list: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei and Algeria.
But Trump has an "empire" — that doesn't sound American — and his empire has "hazy ties" — sounds spurious! — and $650 million in debt. That sounds like a lot of money! No dollar amount is specified in the headline or the squib about the Clinton foundation. The Trump debt is presumably owed to banks as part of a huge, ongoing real estate enterprise, so I don't know what's nefarious about that, but I guess something is "hazy," and it looks like he might have grossly misstated the debt in the federal electing filing, though the use of the word "apparent" — in "nearly twice the amount apparent in his federal election filing" — makes me (a detector of semantic hijinks) suspect semantic hijinks.
So, let's finally click through and see how these 2 stories compare. The one on Hillary is called "Foundation Ties Bedevil Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign." This is by Amy Chozick and Steve Eder.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated more than $10 million. Through a foundation, so did the son-in-law of a former Ukrainian president whose government was widely criticized for corruption and the murder of journalists. A Lebanese-Nigerian developer with vast business interests contributed as much as $5 million.Of course, a foundation meeting its legal requirements is a different matter from a candidate's demonstrating her suitability for President. The Clintons became wealthy amassing donations from countries that had reason to see her gaining the presidency and being in a position to favor them.
For years the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation thrived largely on the generosity of foreign donors and individuals who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the global charity....
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said the Clintons and the foundation had always been careful about donors. “The policies that governed the foundation’s activities during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state already went far beyond legal requirements,” he said in a statement, “and yet the foundation submitted to even more rigorous standards when Clinton declared her candidacy for president, and is pledging to go even further if she wins.”
Tellingly, the next paragraph of the article is about Trump! The other article, the one on the "hazy ties" of the Trump Empire, is summarized and linked. Why don't you pop over there right now and worry about that? It's as though the NYT assumes or hopes its readers will be thinking I bet there's worse dirt on Trump and instantly serves it up. Maybe you could go over there right now — perhaps with the words "even more rigorous standards" exorcising the foundation bedevilment — go away and never come back.
But if you stay, you will see the material about Gilbert Chagoury and other donors who sought and obtained meetings with government officials when Hillary was Secretary of State. You'll see the Judicial Watch accusation that Hillary has "conflicts of interest... cast in stone" that "will cast a shadow over" a Clinton Administration. You'll see poll numbers — 72% of voters are bothered by the donations from foreign countries. You'll see that the foundation has raised about $2 billion over the years and spent money to renegotiate the price of H.I.V. drugs, "bring healthier meals" to American schoolkids, and "help 105,000 farmers in East Africa increase their yields."
You'll read a lot about the Ukrainian Victor Pinchuk, "a steel magnate whose father-in-law, Leonid Kuchma, was president of Ukraine from 1994 to 2005," who gave "between $10 million and $25 million" (and loaned his private plane to the Clintons) and got plenty of access to the Clintons and to State Department officials.
If you stick with it, the last thing you'll get to is "the sale of American uranium holdings to a Russian state-owned enterprise." Hillary's State Department signed off on that deal, "which involved major Clinton charitable backers from Canada." The Times says:
There was no evidence that Mrs. Clinton had exerted influence over the deal, but the timing of the transaction and the donations raised questions about whether the donors had received favorable handling.We see this phrase "no evidence" in journalistic reports quite often. But legally, evidence is anything that affects the likelihood that a fact in issue is true. So the timing is evidence.
Now, here's the Trump article, "Trump’s Empire: A Maze of Debts and Opaque Ties," by Susanne Craig. This is a longer article, and we're primed to think there's something fishy in all the complexity. Trump, unsurprisingly, must finance his real estate projects and he uses banks, including banks he has criticized in campaign speeches — the Bank of China and Goldman Sachs.
[A]n investigation by The New York Times into the financial maze of Mr. Trump’s real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have at least $650 million in debt — twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House....I have trouble seeing the problem with the debt — other than in the same way we worry about wealth. Government action affects financial interests. Trump's numbers are very high, compared to what we've seen in other candidates, but all candidates have financial interests.
Earlier in the campaign, Mr. Trump submitted a 104-page federal financial disclosure form. It said his businesses owed at least $315 million to a relatively small group of lenders and listed ties to more than 500 limited liability companies. Though he answered the questions, the form appears to have been designed for candidates with simpler finances than his, and did not require disclosure of portions of his business activities....
That Mr. Trump seems to have so much less debt on his disclosure form than what The Times found is not his fault, but rather a function of what the form asks candidates to list and how. The form, released by the Federal Election Commission, asks that candidates list assets and debts not in precise numbers, but in ranges that top out at $50 million — appropriate for most candidates, but not for Mr. Trump. Through its examination, The Times was able to discern the amount of debt taken out on each property, and its ownership structure....
Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, said that Mr. Trump could have left the liability section on the form blank, because federal law requires that presidential candidates disclose personal liabilities, not corporate debt. Mr. Trump, he said, has no personal debt.As noted above with Clinton, there's a difference between meeting bare legal requirements and having the stellar character we want in a President, but Weisselberg is only talking about filling out a form properly, not whether there's been any sale of government influence. Trump's activities might be complex but they seem to be only about making money, which is a simple motivation.
“We overdisclosed,” Mr. Weisselberg said, explaining that it was decided that when a Trump company owned 100 percent of a property, all of the associated debt would be disclosed, something that he said went beyond what the law required.
Trump has been building his family company over many decades, accumulating great wealth. The Clinton family has amassed wealth — not as much, but within a short time and using the prestige and influence of the past presidency of the husband and the promise of a future presidency for the wife.
If you ran a newspaper, like the NYT, how would you balance coverage of the 2 stories? I'd say the Clinton problem is more worrisome, but the Trump article is longer and more detailed, which justifies giving it top billing on the front page. It's almost as if the Clinton article was generated to go along with it, to give the appearance of balance the in-depth investigation of Trump.