Fox’s PAC, News America Holdings, Full of Surprises

Andrew Belonsky :: Thursday, January 14th, 2010 11:30 am

If people were perplexed by news of Sarah Palin’s decision to become a “news analyst,” they were hardly shocked by her choice of television real estate: Fox News. It seems like a perfect political fit, of course, and one that Palin highlighted on the O’Reilly Factor this week when she said she looked forward to presenting “fair and balanced” views while on the air, rather than buying into other network’s “biased journalism.” Cue the collective, all-too-familiar groan: “How can they even claim to be fair and balanced?” And that’s definitely true – on the surface. A deeper look at News Corp’s political action committee, News America Holdings, reveals a more complex network: one that exhibits surprising trends.

It’s not unusual for broadcasting companies to have PACs fighting proxy political wars. Or, at least, getting involved in the fray. Comcast, Disney and Time Warner all have committees working for their interests in Washington. Considering News Corp’s right-wing slant, one would think that their PAC would be dedicated to the network’s ideological adherents. In some cases that’s true, but it turns out News America Holdings has a far more diversified portfolio than one would imagine.

For example, during the 2008 election cycle, News America Holdings donated a total of  $165,500 to House candidates, according to OpenSecrets and FEC filings. The majority of that cash, $95,000, went to Democrats, including $5,000 to Edolphus Towns, Kendrick Meek and Edward Markey, the latter of which sits on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. Though the Democrats won News America Holdings’ heart in the House, the Republicans managed to come out on top in the 2008 Senate race, during which the Fox PAC handed them $42,850, while the poor Democrats received only $33,500. The top Senate candidate back then was Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican who was fighting a fierce battle against Democrat Jeff Merkley. Smith ended up losing, we know, but never fear, because now he’s the President of the National Association of Broadcasters, where I’m sure he hobnobs with many News Corp insiders. While the Smith funding doesn’t astound, News America Holdings’ preferred Democrat last year did raise my eyebrows: Harry Reid.

News America Holdings donated $5,500 to Reid’s 2008 campaign, and have already sent over at least $3,500 this cycle to Friends of Harry Reid, which will run his already turbulent reelection campaign out in Nevada. It makes sense that News America Holdings would want to court Reid: he is, after all, the Senate majority leader. But he’s also a frequent Fox News target, as he has been this week over the now infamous “negro dialect” remark. Reid’s counterpart in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also finds herself in Fox News’ sites.

Just Monday, while hosting new analyst Palin, Bill O’Reilly suggested, quite literally, that Pelosi may be “crazy.” That doesn’t mean that News America Holdings isn’t lavishing the Democrat with funding: last year they donated $10,000 to her PAC, PAC to the Future. That’s only $5,000 less than News America sent to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, however, received double: $20,000, one of the only clues to the Fox’s on air leanings. Those leanings are also only slightly evident in the PAC’s 2008 Congressional Campaign Committee donations: the Democrats received $25,000, while the GOP took home $30,000. Still, things seem pretty even on that front.

Yes, there are some kooks among the News America Holdings candidates – like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, one of the most right-wing politicians around, and Virginian Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Goodlatte supported the so-called birther bill, which would require all presidential candidates to provide their birth certificate. His PAC, the Good Fund, received $5,000 from News America Holdings for the current election cycle. But almost all PACs, especially in the business world, will have to deal with politicians with whom the public disagrees. That’s the name of the political game. But who’s steering News America Holdings’ political ship?

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