The Balance of News Corp. PAC Is Not to GOP

Posted September 28, 2010 at 6:25pm

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck devoted a portion of his Fox News Channel show to mocking a Napa Valley fundraiser hosted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year.

Seated at a table across from someone sporting a Pelosi mask, Beck held up a glass of what looked like red wine and jokingly suggested the California Democrat’s cup was spiked with poison. He pretended to point out participants at the event, noting ‘Hey, I think I see Ed Markey, the author of cap-and-trade, right over there,’ referring to the Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts.

But while the provocative TV host skewered the Democrats’ money-raising zeal, Beck’s employer has recently been bolstering the coffers of many of the same liberal lawmakers who have come under attack from Beck and Fox’s array of other conservative commentators.

The political action committee of News Corp., which owns Fox and other publications and media operations, including the Wall Street Journal, has given 57.2 percent of its $187,000 in contributions so far this election cycle to Democratic candidates. That rate is higher than the 2008 cycle, when the News America-Fox PAC sent just more than half of its money to Democrats.

The company not only leaned toward Democrats but also gave to some of the party’s most liberal Members, including $2,500 each to Pelosi and Markey this year.

Another target of conservative wrath, Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), received $5,000. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, got a $2,500 check from the media company’s PAC.

The News America-Fox PAC also donated $1,000 each to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), who faces a tough re-election in Arkansas.

But News Corp., which is headed by the Australian-born Rupert Murdoch, has not ignored Republicans. It donated $1,000 in June to Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who routinely goes after the Obama administration. And it gave $1,500 to Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), one of the top Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

As some of the network’s pundits such as Beck have cheered on the tea party movement, the company’s PAC gave $2,000 in July to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who was defeated in a GOP primary in September by the tea-party-backed candidate Joe Miller. Murkowski, who had the support of the Republican establishment before losing to Miller, has launched a write-in campaign to keep her seat.

Despite the Democratic tilt of its PAC giving, News Corp. separately made its biggest financial commitment this election season ‘ about $1.1 million ‘ to Republican groups that run unrestricted 527 political funds. The largest chunk of that money, $1 million, was sent to the Republican Governors Association.

By contrast, the company gave $50,000 to one Democratic 527 fund run by the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

The contribution to the RGA sparked an outcry from some Democrats and liberal commentators, who suggested the donation underscored Fox’s Republican bias.

A spokesman for News Corp. did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog group, said News Corp. has taken ‘a very traditional spread-the-money-around’ approach when it comes to its PAC.

But Boehlert said those contributions to Democrats are modest in comparison to the $1 million that the company gave to the RGA.

He also said Fox gives free publicity to the many Republican candidates who often appear during the network’s programming during the day and in prime time.

A staffer with Markey’s office said News Corp. owned a wide range of operations, including movie studios and information services, and is focused on issues in Washington, D.C., ‘that are more technological than ideological.’ Markey oversees communications issues as a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

When it comes to PAC contributions to candidates, News Corp. is in line with other large media companies. Some of its counterparts this cycle are favoring Democrats by even greater margins.

CBS’ PAC has given 61.5 percent of its money to Democrats, and Univision, the Spanish-language network, has doled out 88.3 percent of its PAC money to Democrats.

Among the issues for the major companies that own television networks is the national broadband plan, which calls for the reclaiming of TV airwaves for broadband upgrades.

Another looming issue is Comcast’s bid to buy NBC, which is owned by General Electric. The sale, which must be approved by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, faces some stiff opposition from unions, rival media companies and lawmakers.

In the current election cycle, Comcast has contributed 54.4 percent of its $1.5 million in contributions to Democrats, a slightly lower percentage than the party received in the previous election cycle but more than it got in 2006.

Comcast also split evenly its contributions to 527 groups, giving $225,000 each to the Democratic and Republican governors associations.

The National Association of Broadcasters, the industry trade group, has contributed almost 60 percent of its PAC donations to Democratic candidates.

Dennis Wharton, NAB’s executive vice president, said Democrats have received more money from the trade group because their party controls Congress.

‘It is not unusual for the party in power to have a modest edge in terms of giving from NAB,’ he said.