The impact of Fox News on electoral politics is undeniable. In addition to being a 24 hour spin machine for the right, this past November the network stepped up as a significant fundraising vehicle for conservative candidates as well. The efforts proved so successful that at least one group, the Democratic Governor’s Association, filed suit against the network, arguing the activities violated campaign finance laws.
The lawsuit was filed shortly after it was reported that Fox’s parent company, NewsCorp., was making a million dollar donation to the Republican Governor’s Association. The suit also accuses the network of illegally fundraising for candidates like Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) by running a chyron featuring his website at the same time he was soliciting donations during an interview on the Bill O’Reilly show.
Fox has not taken these accusations lightly. The network has hired a prominent D.C. law firm and campaign finance lawyer to defend against the suit, calling the allegations baseless and designed to have a “chilling effect” on future press coverage.
The aggressive response by Fox is not surprising, but as the DGA notes, if the network is so convinced the allegations are baseless, why lawyer up with some of the most aggressive, and expensive, lawyers possible to defend the claims?
While the legitimacy of the claims cannot be measured by the quality of the legal counsel hired, the fact that the fight is going on marks an important turning point in our electoral politics. There seems to be little effort, by either the left or the right, to deny that Fox News is for all intents and purposes a communications arm of the GOP. In many ways this is unchartered territory as “news” organizations had, until Fox, kept an appearance of non-partisanship. Not any longer.
To that end, the lawsuit is significant in that it will help draw the lines between just what a partisan-affiliate network can and cannot do for candidates. The power and influence of the network are undeniable. So now is the time to mark the legal boundaries so that the left can figure out a way to fight back.
photo courtesy of Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com via Flickr