COLUMBUS, Ohio – Under assault in a phone hacking scandal, News Corp. met a self-imposed deadline Friday for reporting its latest political contributions online, revealing $115,750 in contributions mostly to Democrats.
The company reported that its single largest contribution since January went to the Democratic Governors Association, which strongly criticized the media giant's $1.25 million in donations to its Republican counterpart ahead of the 2010 elections. The sum was donated by Wireless Generation, an independently owned subsidiary that News Corp. bought in November.
News Corp. or its affiliates also have given nearly $16,000 to state chapters of the Motion Picture Association of America, $5,000 to the California Republican Party and $2,000 to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo 2014.
The company's board approved a new disclosure policy for its political giving in April after two 2010 donations by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian mogul who controls the company, raised concern among shareholders.
Murdoch gave $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and $1.25 million to the RGA, saying later that he hoped it would help Republican John Kasich, a former commentator on News Corp.'s Fox News. Kasich is now Ohio's governor.
News Corp. was the top donor to the RGA in 2010, according to research conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Other top donors were Contran Corp., Devon Energy, Altria Group and U.S. Sugar. The DGA's top donors were labor unions.
Center spokesman Michael Beckel commended News Corp. for consolidating the information.
"Certainly, posting it all in one place is a very nice thing for people who are interested in these numbers," he said. "They don't have to hunt and peck through reports filed with the IRS, the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) and elsewhere."
But Beckel said it's unclear whether the board's new policy will prompt News Corp. to reveal those politically motivated donations that are exempt from disclosure.
Ilyse Hogue, of the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, said maximum transparency will help Americans monitor the investigation of News Corp. and track political influence.
"It's an important indicator if there's evidence of wrongdoing, and there is: Are legislators going to come down on the side of the truth, of getting at the truth, or on the side of their campaign donors?" she said. "It's not a crime to take donations, but it does show a significant breach of ethics if you come down on the side of the donors when they break the law."
News Corp. posted a notice about the new policy on its website without fanfare in April. It calls for for the company — which also owns 20th Century Fox movie studio and The Wall Street Journal — to disclose political contributions first now, then once a year each January.
Joan Lebow, a spokeswoman for Wireless, said the education software company has a longstanding relationship with the Democratic governor's group and the $25,000 donation is consistent with its past support. The contribution, like some others on Friday's list, had already been reported as part of other required filings.
Wireless has partnered with the DGA to improve student achievement in schools across the country, association spokeswoman Lis Smith said. She said the relationship is not political.
The DGA filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission during the campaign alleging Fox provided Kasich with an illegal in-kind contribution when it displayed his website address during one of his appearances on "The O'Reilly Factor." It later amended the complaint to reflect Murdoch's remark that he hoped the money would help Kasich.
In December, the commission found no violation of campaign finance laws.
Denise Roth Barber, research director for the National Institute on Money in State Politics, said the Republican and Democratic governors associations took on the political role generally played by the national parties in 2010.
"The RGA became sort of the RNC (Republican National Committee), because the legislators and governors picked at the state level were the ones in charge of drawing the lines that will determine the outcome of the next congressional race," she said.
Ohio campaign filings show the RGA spent more than $5 million in the state ahead of the November election. Kasich led a Republican sweep of statewide offices and both chambers of the Legislature.
The national institute found that Fox Group affiliates and employees also gave nearly $1.5 million directly to state parties and candidates last year. Many of its 2011 donations revealed Friday also went to state-level politicians, mostly in California.
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