Fox News Lawyers Up

by Matthew Shaffer

They’ve hired attorneys at with Skadden, Arps, Meagher, & Flom, LLP, to help them ward off a legal assault from the Democratic Governors Association.

Nathan Daschle, executive director of the DGA (and son of Tom Daschle), filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission in September, alleging that Fox News made an illegal in-kind  contribution to John Kasich, now governor-elect of Ohio. The issue is obscure, but the DGA’s ostensible complaint centers on Kasich’s August 18th Fox News appearance, during his campaign. The DGA complaint reads, “There is reason to believe that FOX News…violated Ohio election law…when John Kasich appeared on a network program, solicited contributions for his campaign, and FOX News added the graphics ‘John Kasich (R),’.” Neither interviewing a candidate who then proceeds to ask for money, nor displaying his web address on-screen would be illegal. But the DGA believes that the combination of the two constitutes a forbidden in-kind contribution.

Last week, Lawrence Noble and Tyler Rosen, attorneys with Skadden, fired back in a strongly-worded letter to the DGA, filed before the Election Commission. “This Commission cannot hold an interviewer responsible for the statements of the candidate and should not require an interviewer to chastise or censor a candidate if he or she urges people to support his or her campaign,” the letter reads. And if, they add, “based on this thin complaint, the Commission finds a violation or allows this matter to proceed, the Commission’s decision will …have an immediate chilling effect on the news media’s ability to report and comment on Ohio state elections and candidates.”

Additional doubt is cast on the DGA’s legal sincerity by the fact that the suit was filed shortly after it was made public that Newscorp, Fox’s parent company, had made a $1million donation to the Republican Governor’s Association.

Fox News’ lawyers hasten to clarify that this is not a lawsuit, yet. It’s a complaint with an administrative agency. One which they consider frivolous and hope and expect to be dismissed. Daschle doubts that. “The fact that…this response has been submitted by one of the preeminent campaign finance lawyers means this is not the trivial matter they suggested it was,” he told the Huffington Post. He considers it a major violation, and notes that “The Kasich campaign raised more than $21,000 from the FOX News solicitation.” Moreover, Daschle asked, “Why doesn’t [Fox] do the same for Democrats?”

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