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The cash question: Murdoch, Fox and the GOP

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 10:23 AM

Rupert Murdoch, who has never been shy about making his political views known, has voted with his sizable checkbook.

Murdoch's News Corp. has made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, triggering swift criticism from Democrats that a contribution of that magnitude casts a shadow on his media properties, particularly Fox News.

"For a media company -- particularly one whose slogan is 'fair and balanced' -- to be injecting themselves into the outcome of races is stunning," Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, said Tuesday. "The people owning Fox News have made a decision that they want to see Democratic governors go down to defeat. It's a jaw-dropping violation of the boundary between the media and corporate realm."

Jack Horner, a spokesman for News Corp., said in an interview: "It's patently false that a corporate donation would have any bearing on our news-gathering activities at Fox News or any other of our properties."

News Corp., which also owns the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Times of London, said in a statement that the company "believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA's pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy." Two RGA spokesmen did not return messages.

It is hardly unusual for media companies to support candidates and political parties. General Electric, which owns NBC, has given $245,000 to the Democratic governors and $205,000 to the Republican governors since last year.

Disney, which owns ABC, donated $20,000 to committees associated with Republicans and $11,000 to Democratic committees. CBS gave $13,000 to Democratic PACs and $1,000 to Republican ones.

Asked whether such donations raise questions about other networks' coverage, Daschle said: "The Fox contribution is in a completely different league. Other media firms' donations are generally small and about equal to the many committees that receive money." His group spent Tuesday trying to drum up interest in the issue, unsuccessfully pitching a dozen Fox producers and hosts to get Daschle booked on the channel.

And the group rushed out a fundraising letter assailing what it called Murdoch's effort to help "put wild-eyed Tea Party candidates in charge of our states and Congressional redistricting" and asking potential donors to "make News Corp. regret this decision."

Fox News said in a statement: "We understand Nathan's desire to get face time on the most watched news network. And when he can offer insight on a legitimate news story instead of concocting a dishonest publicity stunt, we will consider having him on as a guest."

General Electric spokesman Gary Sheffer, asked whether the donations affect news coverage, said: "GE does not get involved in the editorial decisions of NBC News."

The $1 million donation by News Corp., made in June and first reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, is among the largest contributions to the GOP governors in this campaign cycle. The Republican group, headed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, has raised $58 million in the past year and a half, compared with $40 million for the Democratic group. Thirty-seven governorships are up for election this fall.


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