Keith Olbermann Made Campaign Contributions to Three 2010 Democrats…

In a story that’s going to cause all kinds of discomfort inside NBC, and uncontrollable chortling at FNC and News Corp., Politico’s Simmi Aujla writes about three campaign donations Keith Olbermann made to Democrat candidates…

Olbermann, who acknowledged the contributions in a statement to POLITICO, made the maximum legal donations of $2,400 apiece to 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.

Grijalva, a prominent liberal who was just declared a winner in his race Thursday night, was in a tight contest against tea party-backed candidate Ruth McClung when he appeared on “Countdown” — one of several appearances he made on the 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.

Here are the operative questions everyone should be asking going forward:

1) Did Olbermann follow NBC guidelines and seek permission from Steve Capus “or his designee” and was it granted?
2) Was Phil Griffin aware of the contribution prior to election night?
3) Was MSNBC at all concerned with having someone who donated to political candidates front their election night coverage?

Two days ago I wrote the following concerning MSNBC not using journalists for its election night coverage…

Until there’s an embarrassment of colossal proportions that the News Division cannot wipe away easily, and last night’s Michelle Bachman interview doesn’t come close enough, nothing is going to change that.

I was talking about “on air” embarrassments but this off air embarrassment does come “close enough”.

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65 Responses to “Keith Olbermann Made Campaign Contributions to Three 2010 Democrats…”

  1. Now it seems Olbermann is either purposely begging for controversy, or he’s looking to get fired. He had to know this would eventually get out, and his attack on News Corp for political donations make this especially egregious.

    These were not candidates who represent him or his state, rather, they were three people who appeared on his show. On many occasions, he did stories either advocating for them or brutalizing their GOP opponents.

    I don’t see how MSNBC, which has not yet commented, lets this pass without some kind of rebuke. Either their company rules exist for everyone, or they exist for no one. Once again, I’d like to see David Gregory, Brian Williams and Chuck Todd speak out on this conduct.

  2. Commentators as reporters, reporters as commentators, analysts as anchors, anchors as analysts….

    If you remove all of the lines between the two, if you destroy the church/state line between the two, you’re asking for trouble. Things like this will happen.

    Anyway, Olbermann’s been in journalism for 30 years. He knows – yes he does – that this is improper. And not disclosing it makes it worse.

    MSNBC now has to re-discover and apply its standards. And it’s going to be messy and embarassing.

  3. lonestar77 Says:

    Answers:
    1) Only time will tell.
    2) Only time will tell.
    3) Bahahahahahaha. Uh, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say prolly not so much.

  4. This gives MSNBC their first chance to prove that Olbermann is no longer their only marketable commodity. Time to smack him down and dare him to walk.

  5. I’m actually with lonestar on this one. Guess that I’ll probably go into shock soon.

  6. Time for the few remaining journalists at MSNBC to bail. Someone toss Chris Jansing a lifeline.

  7. lonestar77 Says:

    fredorth Says:

    November 5, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Just ask Joe about my dazzling dazzlement!

  8. I’ll counter, to arlingtonlaw, with the contention that MSNBC is going to be just fine. The dust will clear and they will still be rolling along.

  9. “I’d like to see David Gregory, Brian Williams and Chuck Todd speak out on this conduct.”

    Why would you expect any of these people to speak out publicly about an inside MSNBC problem? That only gets them stuck in the mess. No one at FNC or CNN ever comments when one their people steps in it; it’s no different at MSNBC.

    I’ll wait to hear what Griffin & Capus have to say before going off the deep end but if he broke the rules I expect he will & should be disciplined.

  10. Just ask Joe about my dazzling dazzlement!

    Please. Don’t.

    To paraphrase a certain night-time commentator/anchor: Keith Olbermann…is an IDIOT.

  11. Perhaps I should clarify: For the good of MSNBC, they should prove the Olbermann double standard does not exist and give him some form of official reprimand. (slap on the wrist, don’t do it again, etc.)

    That is my advice. My expectation, based on their past performance, is that they will attempt to not reply at all and let this story die. Failing that, they will tell Keith to address it tonight to the following effect.

    “I should not have made those donations, but I was motivated by principle, so that makes me better than Fox, which is motivated by evil.”

    Of course, with Olbermann delivering it, he’ll find some way to reference President McKinley, the Louisiana Purchase and it will swallow up 25 minutes of air time.

  12. The guy’s a tool..he dropped the only cool part of his show..now this. I’m not prepared to watch the full hour of The Factor every night yet, and there’s no way I’m watching Parker/Spitzer, so it may be time to time-shift an hour of Brooke Baldwin’s Newsroom to 5:00 PST. I’m not usually home for both hours of it in the afternoon, so what the heck. I’ve had it.

  13. imnotblue Says:

    fritz3 Says:
    November 5, 2010 at 8:24 am

    There is a significant difference between the way MSNBC runs and the way FNC runs, when it comes to others inside the company.

    For FNC, it’s just them… they are it. For MSNBC, they’re an arm (or some other bodily appendage) of NBC News. That means that what MSNBC does, in some ways effects the reputation of NBC News. For FNC, there is no such relationship.

    That’s why we might see some more internal fighting become public, if someone at NBC News things MSNBC is hurting their reputation.

  14. If the news article that the Politico story references is correct would be allowed to contribute to the campaign as long as he had prior permission from his bosses. Since he is not denying the donations, and they were bound to become public, I assume he has that permission.

    FNC employees can, and have, also make political donations as long as it doesn’t effect there on air duties. CNN is not mentioned in the article but I assume they would not allow any contributions at all.

    I expect MSNBC will come out and say they gave permission, even if they didn’t, and I also expect KO will deal with the matter on tonight’s show.

    As I said earlier, I have no problem with talent donating to politicians; only with them breaking rules. In the case of MSNBC (& FNC, as well) the rules have loopholes big enough to drive a truck through so I don’t think there will be a lasting effect. After all Beck gave $10,000.00 to the CoC and no one cared.

  15. What is astonishing to me is that Keith Olbermann is an enormously talented person. And so are most of the others over there (let’s be blunt: Ed Schultz is simply not).

    MSNBC can broadcast a progressive/liberal network while still having some standards. They didn’t need to pull that ridiculous stunt on election eve. And it was a stunt. They can rein in these excesses, have standards, have a greater variety of guests from the right and center-right, and still have a liberal-themed network. And one that will work.

    One of the best editors of magazines over the years was Michael Kinsley with The New Republic. It was a publication under his tenure that produced Charles Krauthammer and Andrew Sullivan among others. It had a liberal POV but with different liberal and center-left writers.

    MSNBC needs to follow the Kinsley model. If they did – time is probably out for them to rebrand things – they’d be very successful.

  16. lonestar77 Says:

    “I should not have made those donations, but I was motivated by principle, so that makes me better than Fox, which is motivated by evil.”

    Haha.

  17. I don’t think anybody working for something with the word “news” in the title should be contributing money to political causes. I didn’t know Beck gave money to the COC, and that bothers me to no end.

    As an example: say Sean Hannity is interviewing Sarah Palin. It’s possible that he is talking to an employee of the company they both work for, while making donations to her PAC, while their employer is giving millions to Republican groups. That’s icky.

  18. Joe,

    Beck donated 10 grand to the COC on his radio show as a protest over the White House’s demonization of the organization, and he also urged his listeners to do the same, which melted down their server and led to the single biggest day of fundraising in Chamber history.

    Technically, he did this within the confines of his radio show and never brought it up on TV, but I’m with you, it seems icky.

    That said, drawing an equivalency between Beck and Olbermann is the fastest way to make the latter furious with indignation.

  19. mlong5000 Says:

    Once again the double standards raises it’s ugly head..FOX is attacked over and over again as a tool for the GOP/Tea Party but if it’s suggested that MSNBC or other members of the MSM lean left and support Dems it’s laughed off as no big deal…but after this and what happen Tues on MSNBC election night it’s going to be harder to pretend it’s not a problem.

  20. “have a greater variety of guests from the right and center-right,”

    It’s a good point steve but part of the problem is that with the exception of MJ few legitimate conservatives will appear on MSNBC shows; particularly Maddow & Hardball, and after the first few shows LOD. KO solved this by not asking but Maddow in particular has had a problem getting conservitive Republicans to come on her show.

    Now it makes sense to me why they wouldn’t want to come on her show but you can’t blame her for not putting on A-list Republicans when most of those she’s asked have refused to appear. She’s left with the crazies like that Robinson guy from Oregon.

    And you also can’t say she’s unfair in her interviewing style like you can at times with Matthews. She asks hard questions, does followups and listens to the answers she is given.

  21. …it’s suggested that MSNBC or other members of the MSM lean left and support Dems it’s laughed off as no big deal…

    Who’s laughing it off?

  22. Olbermann’s earlier lack of disclosure of these donations is extremely hypocritical, especially since he has had all of these people on his program and interviewed them, too. As a consistent defender of Olbermann, I will not defend this. There is even the hypocrisy of complaining about Glenn Beck giving to the CoC while not disclosing his own donations. That screams all kinds of irony, and he should have known better. As long as NBC knew about the donations, at least, he doesn’t have to deal with any ethical issues from the network.

    So, if INB, or whoever, wants to bring this up in a few months and claim I didn’t rebuke an MSNBC employees for their ethics issues, I clearly have, and I’m not going to defend it or deflect it.

  23. imnotblue Says:

    And just as a reminder… the CoC is STILL a non-partisan group, who promotes business and candidates who help (as they see) small business owners.

    And despite the demonizing of this group for purely political purposes (because anything that helps Republicans with anything is inherently evil according to some), donating to them is not a political contribution.

    ProgLib Says:
    November 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

    So, if INB, or whoever, wants to bring this up in a few months and claim I didn’t rebuke an MSNBC employees for their ethics issues, I clearly have, and I’m not going to defend it or deflect it.

    Hooray! I’m glad to see I’ve positively influenced your political ethics. 🙂

  24. The Beck/CoC analogy is flawed. Beck announced his contrib the day he did it. He didn’t keep it secret. The CoC does not run ads endorsing a candidate; they run ads pointing out some issue or other (‘call Joe Zilch and tell him to stop supporting this or that’). The contribs to CoC do not go to a political ad fund. They go into the general fund. And the CoC supported both GOP and Dem candidates in the 2010 cycle.

    OTOH, Olbermann gave money directly to three Dem candidates. He did not disclose his contributions, either while covering these elections or on election night. He interviewed at least one of those candidates on air, again without disclosure.

    I find it highly doubtful that NBC would permit Olby to give money to candidates, and then let him cover their campaigns nightly and again on election night, without requiring that he disclose the fact that he has given them thousands of dollars. NBC would have to be brain dead to permit that knowing that the contribs would be made public. (Though MSNBC did let Alan Grayson use footage of Olby and Schultz in his campaign ads; there it’s possible that NBC News simply wasn’t aware that was going on.)

    It seems far more likely to me that Olby did it and kept it secret: from the public and from NBC. Now it’s just a question if NBC is so beholden to Olby that they will select a scapegoat to make the patently incredible claim that yes, we know about the donations and let him continue to cover the campaigns and anchor election night anyhow, without disclosing a clear conflict of interest. That kind of transparent coverup would be just as embarrassing as Olbermann’s actions themselves.

  25. “And just as a reminder… the CoC is STILL a non-partisan group, who promotes business and candidates who help (as they see) small business owners.

    And despite the demonizing of this group for purely political purposes (because anything that helps Republicans with anything is inherently evil according to some), donating to them is not a political contribution.”

    ^Beyond idiotic.

  26. Last time I checked, Beck wasn’t even on FNC’s election night coverage. I think he did his own thing through his website.

    KO could very well be in violation of MSNBC’s rules. Beck probably did not violate FNC’s.

  27. I have problems with y’all’s attempts to make the CoC “non-partisan”, but I agree that the Beck/CoC example is not a direct corollary. My hypothetical Hannity/Palin situation works better, and anyway, this thread should not devolve into a debate about Glenn Beck. KO screwed up big time, Phil Griffin is an idiot, and anchor/commentators shouldn’t be allowed to give money to politicians. Period.

  28. JohnnyDollar makes one hugely important point that bears repeating.

    No news network – NONE – would allow an employee to donate money to a candidate AND do stories about that candidate without full disclosure of the donation.

    This is a serious breach, and he’s right, it defies credulity to think MSNBC would have signed off on this as acceptable ahead of time.

  29. imnotblue Says:

    fritz3 Says:
    November 5, 2010 at 9:31 am

    ^Beyond idiotic.

    I know, right! I don’t know why folks keeps saying the CoC is some big-bad right-wing group! It’s so transparently pathetic!

    Oh wait… you were denying reality in favor of your own left-wing political spin. My mistake, I thought logic and reality had taken over for a moment. Oops.

    How do you address the CoC donating money to both Republicans and Democrats? Or is that one of those “unfriendly facts” that you’re willing to ignore?

  30. missy5537 Says:

    This is shocking!

    Not that he gave contributions, but that he gave nothing to Alan Grayson, Maxine Waters, Barbara Boxer, Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer or any of the others on the extreme left.

  31. ….anchor/commentators shouldn’t be allowed to give money to politicians. Period.

    Anchors, no, commentators, I’ve got no problem.

    If we learned that, for example, Jack Cafferty gave $1,000 to Harry Reid’s campaign, would anyone be bothered? Does that contribution somehow compromise him?

    What is the problem with opinion journalists donating to campaigns? How can it raise questions about their impartiality when they’re not impartial? They have interests by making the donations but we all know that they’re not a disinterested party.

    Would you forbid them from appearing with candidates? Saying positive things about them in interviews?

    The problem is – and always has been (for the most part) – in what Olberman is described as and what MSNBC says he is. If he and MSNBC want to call him a news anchor and “Countdown” a “news show”, then his action was unacceptable (along with alot of other things he does).

    But if they are acknowledging that he’s a commentator and his show is an opinion one, I take no issue with his contributions.

    Go for it.

    He just needs to stay out of the newsroom.

  32. My problem with opinionators donating is that I still count on them to have honest opinions, not colored by any sense of “well, he’s my friend and I’m supporting him, I can’t turn around and bag on him now”. It creates a personal connection to the politician that I’m uncomfortable with.

  33. “to have honest opinions, not colored by any sense of “well, he’s my friend and I’m supporting him, I can’t turn around and bag on him now”.

    Joe; I doubt that happens very often. And with KO you are either a friend or enemy; there isn’t much gray. Whether or not he donates money isn’t going to make him treat candidates differently. He supports his friends and attacks his foes. The money is not really relevant to his behavior.

  34. I guess NBC didn’t know about Olby’s donations after all. He’s just been suspended indefinitely (per Mediaite).

  35. ^ KO’s particular molecular makeup is irrelevant to my position. If you work for a news organization, you shouldn’t donate money to people your organization covers. Easy peasy.

  36. suspended indefinitely

    No s**t!? Wow.

  37. lonestar77 Says:

    “suspended indefinitely”?

    Holy shiite. That smog report from NYC this morning was incorrect. It was the smoke coming out of Olby’s ears. I can’t wait to hear the inside story cuz you know Olby didn’t take this news very well.

  38. That’s incredible. Good move by MSNBC. If Olbermann knows what is good for his career, he’ll take his medicine like a good boy, make a contrite apology and return to the airwaves in a week or 2

  39. a contrite apology and return to the airwaves in a week or 2

    Yeah..that’s gonna happen..

  40. Great news…Olberman just put on UNPAID Indefinite leave!!

    Parade will be held tomorrow.

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/keith-olbermann-suspended-from-msnbc-indefinitely/

  41. WOW!

    10 bucks says KO takes his ball and goes home… or so the metaphor goes. I bet he’ll rail against MSNBC for this “injustice” for a while, then wind up on one of the left-wing radio stations.

    I can imagine the folks at FNC laughing… but the only people who are really sending up balloons are Dan Abrams and Tucker Carlson.

    On the positive side (for Olbermann, because there’s always a positive), this will probably help his book sales. I think his book is scheduled to come out soon, so this might buy him a few extra points on Amazon… although, it will probably cost him some publicity too.

    Oh well.

  42. So much for the betting-pool on the on-air meltdown. Perhaps not with a bang but a whimper, eh?

  43. lonestar77 Says:

    I can’t wait for Robot Theater!

  44. Paging Mr. Shuster? Mr. David Shuster. Time for a shave. You busy tonight?

  45. I imagine there’s a middle-aged Irishman somewhere doing a little dance.

    How is he going to cover this, though? He’s loathe to mention Olbermann’s name.

    “Mr. X”?

  46. Must make a ‘strawberry’ reference. No one under 60 will get it.

    Jon Stewart. The dominoes. They’re falling…

  47. I disagree with all the Shuster talk. Did KO and Shuster have a fall out? I think he was still a fan, but couldn’t save him.

    I imagine Olbermann sauntering into the ex-MSNBC, with Shuster waiting for him saying, “I told ya.” And Carlson and Abrams in the back party room with the balloons.

  48. — back party room —

    It’s like a dream-sequence from The Sopranos.

  49. lonestar77 Says:

    I don’t think MSNBC looks that great here. I imagine the conservative take (cuz it’s mine) is that yeah, this was a bad move by Olbermann but after all the outrageous things he said, THIS is what gets him in trouble. Either have standards or don’t. And yeah, I know about the employee handbook stuff but the guy should have gotten in trouble long before this. Unless MSNBC says this was “the last straw”, they end up looking even more ridiculous…if that’s possible.

  50. ^ Agreed. When you dance with the devil, and let him lead… you’re gonna get burned in the end.

  51. Chris Hayes will guest-host tonight. Wonder if fans will boycott, leading to noticeable drop-off.

    I think O’Reilly will not mention Olbermann’s name or show his face, as is SOP on Fox.

    More likely, he’ll discuss with Goldberg the pattern of unprofessionalism at MSNBC culminating with suspension of one of their most left-leaning hosts.

  52. All the talk about Fox, all the ‘Fair & Balanced’ hoo hah, all the Edward R. Murrow references. This is almost as good as the Juan Williams/NPR take-down.

  53. Ya know, I just did what most of the libs around here have refrained from doing. Drawing Fox into an MSNBC story. My bad.

  54. ….. but after all the outrageous things he said, THIS is what gets him in trouble. Either have standards or don’t.

    Indeed, this is like, to use a tired cliche (it’s Friday so the standards are low), arresting Al Capone for tax evasion.

    If MSNBC was really concerned about appearances of partiality or bias they’d never have five liberal/left commentators anchoring their news coverage of the election. Acting like juveniles on occasion. Rude, abrasive, mocking.

    Now that’s unprofessional.

  55. I’ll take a bit of a counter motion. If MSNBC had verified the same information that you all refered to, then this action was unavoidable. I didn’t always agree with Keith, especially when he pushed facts out of contest or reality, but, I wouldn’t want this kind of thing to happen to Beck, Roberts nor BOR either.
    There is probably a ton more about this result that may take a very long time to come out. There is certainly a good possibility that what we find out later will be different than what we are now concluding. Patience is a virtue.
    Regardless of the cause/effect of this situation, I believe that it is preferable to hope Keith the best and I do hope that this will all work out for him (again, I would say the same thing for Beck and BOR).

  56. Has anybody seen Mlong? I believe he made up some hooha about this being “laughed off”. Surely he’ll return to admit he got it wrong..

  57. Do you think this is Comcast way of CHANGING the night line up after the horrible election ratings?

  58. I think Mlong may have a dimmer alter-ego.

  59. Looks like I’m in the minority here. I don’t see a problem allowing opinion heads to support political causes and candidates of their choosing provided they’re required to disclose these contributions, however.

    Where I fault MSNBC is in their allowing opinion heads to anchor news coverage. If they want to do that then they should label the network as “News Opinion Programming” and then not worry about competing with CNN & FNC.

  60. mlong5000 Says:

    Well I’m surprised they did that,,which means there my be more to the story then were told…KO’s has gotten away with a lot of crap for years now so for MSNBC to punish him for this is kinda telling there’s more going on.

    Of course if MSNBC hadn’t had made such a big deal out of Newscorp donations to the GOP and declaring such things don’t go on with them this really wouldn’t be such a big deal….but if you open yourself to the charge of being a hypocrite that’s going to happen.

    Then again this could be some ploy by KO and MSNBC to gain some attention wouldn’t put it pass them.

  61. You were doing fine ’til the last line there, Mlong. Couldn’t help yourself, eh?

  62. mlong5000 Says:

    Just covering all bases Joe..listen I’ll give MSNBC a pat on the back if their really willing to let their highest ratings maker go in the sign they have some ethics afterall….but if KO returns in a month or so like nothing happen then I’ll cry fowl.

  63. Fair enough. I doubt Griffin will have to make the call. I don’t see The Great Liberal Martyr sucking it up. He’ll take his money and join Rick Sanchez in the “new media”.

  64. I just love the firestorm that has been created by bloggers, personalities, etc., from both sides of the political spectrum regarding Keith’s suspension. From Bill Kristol’s “Keep Keith” to Bernie Sanders going after Fox for it’s own ethics issues is a pretty ridiculous ideological stretch.

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