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Political Contributions

Ever debate the ethical issue of being a journalist and making a political contribution?  If Keith Olbermann were a journalist, he might re-consider. But is he a journalist?  See Politico's report below (abridged and emphasis added):

Olbermann suspended after donating to Dems
By: Simmi Aujla
November 5, 2010 06:00 AM EDT

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay after POLITICO reported that he made three campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin said in a statement Friday: “I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay."

Olbermann, who acknowledged the contributions in a statement to POLITICO, made the maximum legal donations of $2,400 apiece to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and to Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. He donated to the Arizona pair on Oct. 28 — the same day that Grijalva appeared as a guest on Olbermann’s “Countdown” show.

NBC has a rule against employees contributing to political campaigns, and a wide range of news organizations prohibit political contributions — considering it a breach of journalistic independence to contribute to the candidates they cover.

Olbermann is one of MSNBC’s most recognizable faces, and has emerged as one of the country’s most prominent liberal commentators. A former ESPN star, Olbermann’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” started in 2003 as a traditional news show but evolved into a left-leaning opinion program – and in some ways, led the network into its new identity as the cable-news voice of the left and an attempt to be a counterweight to Fox News.

Inside MSNBC, employees were shocked at the news of Olbermann’s suspension. Despite a reputation for a prickly personality off-air, Olbermann was given wide berth inside the network because of his stature – and his ratings.

Insiders were stunned that Griffin moved so swiftly to yank one of the network’s true stars off the air, and some suspected that the recent tensions with NBC News, which has grown increasingly uneasy with its sister network’s more ideological stance, contributed to the swift decision. Some have even speculated that Comcast’s coming merger with NBC Universal has heightened sensitivities about MSNBC’s ideological profile.

MSNBC has branded Olbermann as a prominent face in its new “Lean Forward” marketing campaign. He tripled MSNBC’s ratings at 8 p.m. In the past two years, MSNBC’s more opinionated hosts have helped propel it past CNN in prime time, and even lately during the daytime, too.

Despite MSNBC’s embrace of a more opinionated format, NBC News has a policy against its employees making political contributions – and it appears that Olbermann ran afoul of that policy, even by contributing to candidates he gave a platform on his show, like Grijalva.

In addition, Olbermann has been a critic of the political donations made by Fox News’s parent company, News Corp., which contributed $1 million each to a pair of organizations trying to defeat Democratic candidates.

Under FEC rules, an individual donor may give only $2,400 to a candidate per general election campaign. The FEC filings for Olbermann’s contributions list an address that is a Mailboxes Etc. storefront in New York, and it also lists his occupation as a newscaster for NBC Television.

 

Jim.Gee's picture

Let's frame the issue another way... if Olbermann was eligible to join INBA, would we let him?

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