A nonprofit foundation is calling on the board of directors of the parent company of Fox News to fully disclose the company’s political spending to shareholders at the News Corp. shareholder meeting in New York City on Friday.
Owned by Rupert Murdoch, News Corp., is a sprawling company which owns a number of media properties, including the Fox News cable outlet.
Officials with the Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) issued their challenge in an Oct. 11 letter to Roderick Eddington, the lead director at News Corp. The foundation, which describes itself as a social justice organization rooted Jewish tradition and named for the founder of the Sara Lee Corp., says it is seeking the disclosure in light of media reports that News Corp. made separate $1 million contributions from its corporate treasury to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is projecting $75 million in corporate spending to influence the outcome of the November elections.
One of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, the Chamber is highly pro-business and is funding attack ads on Democratic lawmakers. The Chamber has opposed much of the agenda of President Obama and his Democratic allies, including climate regulation, healthcare reform and Wall Street reform.
NCF, which says it is a News Corp. shareholder, expressed particular concern about apparent statements from Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch, that the company’s $1 million contribution to the RGA was not made to further the interest of News Corp. or its shareholders, but was a result of his personal relationship with Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Kasich. The foundation also expressed concern over reputational risk for News Corp. connected to the $1 million contribution to the U.S. Chamber, which has recently come under fire for allegations it is using foreign funds to pay for its election activities.
“The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to ensure that corporate funds are allocated in ways that serve the Company’s interest,” NCF President & CEO Lance Lindblom says in the letter, also signed by Laura Campos, the foundation’s director of shareholder activities.
The Supreme Court’s January Citizens United ruling swept away decades of limits on corporate influence on U.S. elections, opening floodgates to high levels of new spending.
Decrying an “apparent lack of a strategic rationale,” Lindblom expressed concern about the two million-dollar expenditures from shareholder assets, calling the apparent use of corporate funds to further the personal relationships or political agenda of the CEO a potential abuse of the corporate treasury.
“The issue of corporate political spending is particularly sensitive for media companies given the public’s expectation that they provide objective news coverage,” the NCF letter says. “News Corp. has already received criticism over its network Fox News’ right-leaning news coverage. As shareholders, we are concerned that additional association with partisan support through contributions to the U.S. Chamber and the RGA could pose further risk to the Company’s brand.”
Lindblom indicates that representatives for the foundation will attend the Friday shareholder meeting to seek a response to the concerns raised in the letter.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.