Conglom donates $1 mil to Republican Governors Assn.

Media congloms may be hedging their bets when it comes to the midterm elections, but News Corp. has stepped forward with a whopper of a contribution to the Republican Governors Assn.: $1 million.

The contribution appears to be the largest from a media conglom this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, triggering an outcry from Democrats, who linked the donation to the slogan of News Corp. subsidiary Fox News.

Nathan Daschle, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Assn., said that the company has “crossed a bright line.”

“Fox can no longer pretend that it is a ‘fair and balanced’ news organization when [News Corp. chairman] Rupert Murdoch greenlights a million-dollar contribution to defeat Democratic governors,” Daschle said.

His sentiments were echoed by liberal media watchdog org Media Matters for America, whose Matt Gertz wrote in a blog post, “They’re not trying to hide it anymore. As the coverage its media outlets indicates, News Corp. supports the Republican Party’s platform. It’s just now started putting its money where its mouth has long been.”

But Jack Horner, a spokesman for News Corp., said that the contribution was made because the company “has always believed in the power of free markets and organizations like the RGA, which have a pro-business agenda and support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy.”

Among other issues, News Corp. has a keen interest in possible changes in FCC rules on how fees are negotiated for its broadcast stations and cable networks to run on cable systems — concerns in which governors could have some influence at the state level.

While Murdoch is a noted conservative, he’s also a businessman with a streak of political pragmatism. He hosted a fund-raiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s re-election campaign in 2006, and contributed to her presidential campaign.

As large as it is, News Corp.’s contribution does not make it the biggest corporate donor to the RGA this cycle. That distinction belongs to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which has contributed more than $2.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Republican and Democratic governors associations are so-called “527” orgs that fall outside federal campaign finance limits, meaning that companies are free to contribute unlimited sums. Such orgs must stay independent from an individual candidate’s campaign, although they can spend money on issue advocacy ads and voter mobilization efforts that leave little doubt as to their leanings.

“What is unique about this is that media organizations typically do not donate seven-figure sums to 527 groups,” said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.

Up to this point in the cycle, News Corp. had given smaller sums to various 527 orgs, such as the $25,000 it gave to the Democratic Attorney Generals Assn. in December.

The firm’s political action committee — which relies on contributions from employees rather than on corporate funds — has spread the wealth among 2010 candidates in both parties. According to the CRP, its PAC has given $48,000 to Democrats in House races and $40,700 to Republicans. The PAC gave $30,500 to Democratic Senate candidates and $25,500 to Republicans.

Other media corporations have also given substantial sums to the two governors orgs this cycle, albeit in smaller amounts. Time Warner has donated $60,250 to the Democratic Governors Assn., and Time Warner Cable has given $50,900 to the Republican group. Comcast, seeking the federal greenlight to buy NBC Universal, has given $200,295 to the DGA and $176,350 to the RGA.

While News Corp.’s $1 million contribution is unusual today, it may not be for long.

A Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision earlier this year allows companies to spend unlimited corporate funds directly on ads advocating for or against a specific candidate, beyond even the loose restrictions of 527 orgs.

The high court decision “hasn’t led to an onslaught of television ads sponsored by corporations,” Levinthal said. “Then again, we are not in the teeth of the general election season yet.”

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