The St. Petersburg Times in Florida has been running lots of hard-hitting stories about Scientology lately.

So guess what? They are in the midst of selling a magazine they own in Washington, D.C., called Governing, to e. Republic, a Scientology publisher located in Folsom, Calif. E.Republic has four publications including one called Government Technology.

And there’s more: On the website page for the story about the sale in today’s St. Petersburg Times there’s a video ad for… Scientology! A source familiar with the paper and its workings says Scientology paid $1 million for the ads on the paper’s website.

A 2001 Sacramento News & Review story from 2001 about e.Republic explains more about its history.

The story, by Jim Evans, recounts the history of e.Republic and its connections to Scientology. Evans writes: “All new hires at e.Republic, a publishing company based in Folsom, California, are required to not only read [a basic Scientology manual], but also take a course based on its contents, which — notwithstanding the grandiose description above — reads much like the same kind of hokey training materials that millions of workers try to avoid daily, except Hubbard’s methods have the higher goal of ‘improving conditions in your business, your life and on Earth in general.’”

What the heck is going on here? Are publishers so hard up for cash that they’ll take money from the subjects of their exposes? Calls to Andrew Corty of the St. Petersburg Times and Christopher Swope of Governing were not returned. But the strangeness of the situation cannot be overlooked. The Times has run several exposes about abuses in Scientology just this year.’ They can be found here.

More to come…

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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