Television viewers around the world watched media baron Rupert Murdoch’s July 19 testimony before the British Parliament regarding allegations that his News of the World tabloid had hacked into the cellphones of numerous Britons, including a kidnapped girl. The following day in Washington, DC, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released filings by News America Holdings Inc.-Fox Political Action Committee (hereafter referred to as Murdoch’s PAC), News Corp.’s U.S. PAC, detailing its contributions to 2012 federal candidates, as well as to other PACs (see chart on facing page).
Most Americans know the components of Murdoch’s U.S. empire–”including Fox News, the New York Post and Wall Street Journal–”as conservative outlets which are pro-Israel and anti-Muslim. Not surprisingly, Murdoch’s PAC contributions reflect these biases–”but candidates who seemingly do not adhere to them have received funds as well. Apparently, like any smart businessman, Murdoch wants to ensure that he has allies–”or, some might say, indebted congressmen–”on both sides of the aisle.
A person focused on pro-Israel PACs might initially sound like an ancient Roman, exclaiming "Mirabile visu!" ("wonderful to see") upon encountering a PAC that actually reveals on whose behalf it operates. Not only do all pro-Israel PACs describe themselves as "unaffiliated," but with rare exceptions their names–”Desert Caucus, for example–”give no indication of their agenda.
In an even more shocking comparison, from 1998, when Murdoch’s PAC began making contributions, until 2006, its filings with the FEC actually included a "Foreign Parent Company: News Corp." and "Country of Origin: Australia"–”this despite the fact that Murdoch became an American citizen in 1985. The PAC is now based in Washington, DC.
The most regular recipient of Murdoch’s PAC contributions might be Rep. Howard "Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist" Berman, formerly the chair and now the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Not only has Berman been a recipient in every election year except 2002, in 2010 he received the maximum contribution of $10,000 (as did fellow Zionist Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY]). Since 1998 Berman has received a total of $28,500 from Murdoch’s PAC.
Other frequent recipients over the years–”for all of whom Israel is a top priority–”include Berman’s Democratic California neighbors Reps. Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff and Jane Harman (the latter having recently decamped to head the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC). Nor has the House leadership been neglected: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer can count on Murdoch’s PAC, which in 2010 also gave $6,700 to soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and $10,000 to soon-to-be former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The Senate leadership did not fare quite so well, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who was in a very tight race, receiving a mere $1,000 and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was not even up for re-election in 2010, receiving $5,000.
After Kevin McCarthy, the recipient of the most Murdoch PAC funds for the 2012 election is Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat and former chair of the House Judiciary Committee. While some might think Murdoch suspected he might soon need an ally on that important committee, Conyers in fact has received PAC contributions every election year since 2002, for a total of $17,500.
The current chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) also has been a regular recipient of Murdoch’s PAC largesse, having received a total of $11,000 since 2002. This year both the Texas congressman and his Longhorn PAC have received contributions from Murdoch.
Murdoch’s PAC also gave $5,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, and has contributed to the individual campaigns of many of its members–”12 of 43, to be precise. The recipients do not appear to be chosen at random, however, since they do not include Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim-American member of Congress, or Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of either the House or Senate to vote against authorizing the use of military force following the 9/11 attacks, and one of only 36 House members who voted not to condemn the Goldstone Report on Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza. Another member voting not to condemn the report was Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD). She has not received a dime from Murdoch’s PAC, although her predecessor, Rep. Albert Wynn, whom Edwards defeated in 2008, received $3,000 in 2004.
Because senators run for office only every six years, they tend to receive less frequent–”albeit often larger–”PAC contributions. Interestingly, of the six senators receiving Murdoch PAC contributions this year (see chart), half–”Blumenthal, Landrieu and Rubio–”are not up for re-election in 2012. Blumenthal, who received no contributions from Murdoch for his successful 2010 race, has announced that he plans to keep the money. In what appears to be non-explanation, his spokeswoman Kate Hansen told Politico: "He enjoys broad support in Connecticut and across the country, and the people of Connecticut know that he’ll continue to put them first as he works to create jobs and get our economy back on track."
A former favorite Senate recipient of Murdoch PAC contributions was George "makaka"Allen (R-VA), a strong supporter of Israel who, after his election-dooming comment, "discovered" that his mother was Jewish–”meaning he is eligible to become an Israeli citizen and move to an illegal West Bank settlement should he so choose. Despite receiving $8,000 from Murdoch’s PAC in 2006, Allen was defeated that year by James Webb (D-VA). Webb is not running for re-election in 2012, and Allen is hoping to regain his old seat, but is being challenged by Tea Party activists. Perhaps he will see no money coming from Murdoch’s PAC until the Republican senatorial nominee is chosen.
Making sure he’s got both sides of the aisle covered, Murdoch’s PAC has given $15,000 to both the Democratic and Republican Congressional Campaign Committees this year. Another $5,000 went to the conservative Blue Dog PAC, perhaps to offset the $5,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Murdoch’s PAC clearly did not want to be so even-handed as to contribute $5,000 to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, however. But were that to happen, one could justifiably expect to see pigs fly.
Finally, Murdoch does not limit his financial activism to his PAC. In 2010 News Corp.’s general fund contributed $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association and $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. No pretense of even-handedness there.