Fox News accused of violating campaign finance laws

By David Edwards
Friday, December 3, 2010 16:30 EDT
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Fox News appears to be gearing up to defend themselves after being accused of illegally helping a Republican candidate raise money on the air.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) filed a lawsuit in August claiming that Fox News had violated campaign finance laws by allowing Republican candidate for Ohio governor John Kasich to raise money on the air.

Ohio Elections Commission filings obtained by The Huffington Post indicate that Fox News has retained Larry Noble, a nationally recognized campaign finance attorney at the firm Skadden Arps, to represent them.

The Columbus Dispatch noted that Kasich made 16 appearances on the conservative-leaning network after formally announcing his candidacy. There were 42 other appearances made while he was considering a run for office. Kasich had also hosted The O’Reilly Factor on several occasions.

His opponent, Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH), had only made three appearances on Fox News along with seven on MSNBC.

During one appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Kasich had been allowed to ask for donations while the address of his website was displayed on the screen.

“There is reason to believe that FOX News Network, L.L.C. violated Ohio election law on August 18, 2010 when John Kasich appeared on a network program, solicited contributions for his campaign, and FOX News added the graphics ‘John Kasich (R), KasichforOhio.com’ under Mr. Kasich’s image. The Kasich campaign raised more than $21,000 from the FOX News solicitation,” DGA’s complaint claimed.

DGA’s Executive Director Nathan Daschle told The Huffington Post that it was part of a pattern of activities by the network including their parent company, News Corp., giving $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

News Corp. also donated $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce which worked primarily to elect Republican candidates.

“We talked to other networks and other networks told us they have policies against putting up campaign websites like Fox did… Certainly other networks will have candidates on the air. But people don’t take it as far as Fox does,” Daschle said.

“This isn’t accidental. It is part of a pattern of activities Fox has taken to elect Republicans. This is just one more step in that direction, they gave a million to the Republican Governors Association. They are putting candidates on their air, giving them endorsements, and helping them raise money,” he added.

Kasich was elected as Governor of Ohio in November.

In the Ohio Elections Commission filings, Noble offered a defense of Fox News.

“If, based on this thin complaint, the Commission finds a violation or allows this matter to proceed, the Commission’s decision will raise serious Constitutional questions and have an immediate chilling effect on the news media’s ability to report and comment on Ohio state elections and candidates,” Noble wrote.

“This Commission cannot hold an interviewer responsible for the statements of the candidate and should not require an interviewer to chastise or censor a candidate if he or she urges people to support his or her campaign,” he continued. “[In this case], the chyron alternated between the candidate’s name, the fact that he is a candidate, the candidate’s website, and his recent authorship of a book. Micromanaging how the press decides to identify the interview subject is an unnecessary and unworkable intrusion into the operation of a free press.”

Daschle took the news that Noble had been hired to mean that Fox News was worried about the case.

“The fact that they had to call in one of the nation’s most preeminent law firms and this response has been submitted by one of the preeminent campaign finance lawyers means this is not the trivial matter they suggested it was,” he said.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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