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Are CNN and others … violating campaign finance laws?

Are CNN and others … violating campaign finance laws?

It is generally understood that corporations are not allowed to contribute to federal campaigns.  That means no money to those running for the House or Senate in Washington, or presidential candidates.    The law also prohibits even indirect or concealed contributions – like giving executives bonuses that they are supposed to personally donate.

Corporations can donate to special independent committees that can educate on issues or indirectly aid a federal campaign PROVIDING THAT THEY DO NOT COORDINATE with the campaign or candidate.  They cannot share information or discuss strategies with campaigns.  They must maintain what is referred to as an “arms-length distance.”

All the major so-called news outlets are corporations and, therefore, forbidden from contributing to federal campaigns.  That not only means money.  It means providing any goods or services of value to a federal candidate or campaign.

It seems to me that the increasingly obvious partisan bias by so much of the major media raises a legitimate question as to whether they are, in fact, providing an enormously valuable service to federal candidates and campaigns.

By way of a little history, the major news services – print and electronic – maintained a wall between news and editorial opinion, analysis and commentary.  It was not an entirely impermeable wall, but journalism ethics and traditions mostly honored the separation.  In other words, the biases that always existed did not entirely suffocate honest news reporting.

And where editorialization took place, there was general opposition for rebuttal.  In the print media that came in the form of columnists of varying opinions – and on television with guest rebuttals.  In those days of greater objectivity, I often appeared on television with rebuttals to local station editorials.  This was the custom before the rise to prominence and power of cable news networks.

The pioneer 24/7 cable news network – founded by gadfly billionaire Ted Turner in 1980 — was still in its infancy in 1987 when the Federal Election Commission abandoned its “Fairness Doctrine” that required broadcast stations to offer up alternative viewpoints.  Because they are subscription services, cable news was not covered by the Doctrine, but generally followed the custom.

Over time, however, news, commentary and opinion evolved into an amorphous mishmash of intertwined news and opinion – with opinion dominating the delivery of what was once called “hard news.”  Today, there is truly little objective news coverage in the most influential platforms – especially what I call the Big Seven (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post).  There are many other second-tier outlets and publications.

This massive news industry is composed of a small partisan and ideological culture that is centered on Manhattan in New York City – with a notable outrigger in Washington, D.C.  The culture is composed of 80 to 90 percent actively partisan left-wing Democrats – from the faces you see on the screens to the editors, producers and management behind the scenes.

What has evolved into a small … very small … group of like-minded people who present a very narrow political viewpoint as both news and analysis.  In a very real sense, they have propagandized the news industry in favor of philosophic progressivism and Democratic Party partisanism.  Rather than reporting the news, they are constantly promoting … selling … their own political agenda.

It would not take much objective analysis to establish that what appears on the airwaves and in print from CNN and MSNNC is extremely to exclusively one-sided reporting.  It would not take much effort to show how producers and editors use and abuse their platforms to promote the fortunes of one political party over another.  Any favorable/unfavorable analysis would clearly establish that fact.

It is not just using journalistic trickery to tilt the news, but the promotion of mendacious narratives.  In consuming the so-called news on CNN and MSNBC it is obvious that they aligned behind the Democratic Party and Democrat candidates for President, Senate and House.  It is seen by who they invite to appear and how they are described and treated.

Even many left-wingers admit to the obvious bias of the mainstream media.  It is reflected in the public polls.  Most Americans believe the media is biased to the left and the Democrats.  Most Americans do not trust what they see and hear from television news – which does not get sufficiently reported in the media of obvious reasons.

I have previously described the so-called political and historic documentaries that pop up on CNN and MSNBC as infomercials for the Democratic Party and Democrat candidates.  They could not be more partisan than if they were officially produced by the campaigns or candidates.  When they do deal with the Republican Party and Republican personalities, they take on the aura of political negative advertising.

The one-sided use of so-called fact-checking segments is most-often selectively presented as a prosecution-style legal brief against President Trump and Republicans – or a defense brief for former Vice President Biden and Democrats.

AND THAT BRINGS ME TO MY CENTRAL POINT.  Has the media bias become so partisan, so unbalanced and so vicious that it amounts to a huge strategic benefit … contribution … CORPORATE DONATION to the Democratic Party and Democrat candidates?

If that is the intent of the owners, management and staff of CNN and MSNBC, it arguably represents an illegal corporate campaign contribution.  There IS a case to be made.  I do not mean a spiritual case.  I am talking about a clear and criminal violation of federal campaign laws and regulations.

Yes, I know that the working press enjoys a number of exemptions from the law to which we common folks are not entitled.  In this case, however, I believe a very serious argument could be made that the current status of political reporting has significantly exceeded any special privilege the media has historically enjoyed.

It certainly would be informative and beneficial to at least have the arguments on both sides played out in a court-of-law.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Frustrated Conservative

    Your best commentary yet, but this has been long in the making. We are long past the inflection point, meaning that this should have been thoroughly explored within the last decade, or earlier. I saw the gestation of this five decades ago when considering journalism for a career path; but the setback came early when smacked in the face while taking suggested, but unnecessary “pre-journalism” classes: my Conservatism was unwelcome in the shadows of the 60s University of Michigan. So I moved on, with a legacy of taking just about every “news article” published at the time (print and electronic) with a grain of salt. So here we are. I kick myself for going for real work with pay over a frustrating career of hard knocks.

  2. Charles Newman

    I have long thought the same, but I doubt the law can be enforced in these cases. A law that can’t be enforced equally is unconstitutional on its face, but enforcing the Constitution for other than evil purposes is difficult.

    • Larry Horist

      I used CNN and MSNBC as examples because I do believe a legal case can be made that they have crossed the line into illegal territory. But as far as the law is concerned, I would apply it to all news outlets. They should be required to present alternative information and analysis. I would even consider a law that would require a cigarette pack-like warning for shows that are purely opinion. Like: “This show presents the opinions of the hosts and guests and should not be considered a sources of balanced news.” I would apply that to Hannity as well as Rachel Maddow. I write for a conservative online news outlet — and you will see that fact honestly expressed on the masthead above. No reason that the shows on television should not be so honest.

  3. Rich

    When FAKE NEWS “Urinalists” voice the same words, phrases and outright LIES as their Demented-Dem-Masters it would seem they are contributing to the cause of Socialism/Communism in a very direct way . . . .

  4. Mike

    Glaringly obvious in your commentary is the lack of mention of Faux news. Why? Are you afraid to point out to your readers that the system goes both ways, and that their favorite source of news (fair and balanced, the no spin zone) is anything but? You might establish credibility if your articles were not in the same vein as Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson, which they are…