Last night, Fox News' Greta Van Susteren hosted GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain to respond to the Politico story about past sexual harassment allegations against him. Van Susteren was once again pushing the boundaries of journalistic ethics, as she failed to disclose her husband's relationship with Cain during the interview. But Van Susteren wasn't the only Fox personality discussing the Cain allegations last night that has an undisclosed conflict of interest.
In the opening segment of Sean Hannity's show, Fox political analyst Dick Morris joined Hannity to discuss, in Hannity's words, "Politico's attempt to smear the GOP's frontrunner" (before the two awkwardly transitioned to discussing Dick Morris' new children's book about a golden retriever that goes to Washington, which "you can buy at DickMorris.com").
During the conversation, Morris said that "unless there are more facts in this, we cannot derail one of the most creative, forward-thinking, effective campaigns that's been waged this year on the strength of this kind of flimsy stuff." Morris' effusive praise of Cain is complicated by the fact that he has apparently been profiting off of Cain's campaign, which was not disclosed during his appearance.
Over the past few months, Dick Morris has conducted a series of softball interviews with Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. At least eight of the emails to Morris' mailing list promoting the Cain interviews have been "paid for" by the Cain campaign. (Morris has sent an additional two emails promoting Bachmann's interviews that were "paid for" by the Bachmann campaign.)
Each of the emails promoting the Cain interviews includes a note from Morris hyping the conversation, and most include an appeal to "please forward this email to any family or friends who are Cain supporters or would like to learn more about him." Several of the videos end with Morris praising Cain's performance in the preceding interview with comments like "wow, what a lucid and articulate presentation of how to go about creating jobs," and "wow, that was impressive."
Yesterday, hours before his appearance defending Cain on Fox, Morris sent out two emails to his list "paid for" by Cain's campaign. One was a direct fundraising appeal from Cain, which was introduced by Morris as "a special message from our paid sponsor."
The second promoted the latest of the Cain/Morris softball interviews, with a note from Morris explaining that in this conversation, "Herman lays out the case for his candidacy and tells me why he would be the strongest candidate." In the video itself, Morris follows up the conversation by declaring that Cain "would be a vast improvement over the guy we've got in there now." Like the previous emails sent to Morris' list promoting the interviews, it was "Paid for by Friends of Herman Cain" and included a direct link to the Cain campaign's fundraising site.
The Cain campaign's FEC filings for the third quarter didn't include any direct payments to Morris or his group, Triangulation Strategies (Cain's filing did include a single payment of $1,235.42 to NewsMax Media, which runs the advertising on Morris' email list, though it's unclear if that was for his use of Morris' list).
The nature of campaign disclosure documents makes it difficult to pin down how much money Morris received for the list sponsors, as it's likely Morris is being paid by consulting/marketing firms hired by the campaigns, obscuring the exact amounts.
However, Morris' website includes "rental rates" for his mailing list:
Quantity and Rental Rates
Total List Quantity: 450,000
Price per Thousand: $45.00 (full list exclusive)
Price per Thousand: $15.00 (full list sponsorship)
Minimum Order: full list
HTML Setup: $150 Flat
Morris has sent out at least nine emails -- on July 22, July 27, August 3, August 10, September 26, October 5 and October 6, and two on October 31 -- "paid for" by the Cain campaign. He has also sent out two more -- on October 10 and October 11 -- "paid for" by the Bachmann campaign. (Bachmann previously rented Morris' list in June to send out a fundraising appeal.)
If the Cain emails entailed a "full list sponsorship" -- they included banners as well as direct hyperlinks to the Cain and Bachmann campaign fundraising pages -- then the emails would have cost at least $6,750 each.
Morris has repeatedly used his platform as a Fox News "political analyst" to help line his pockets. He frequently shoehorns plugs for his website -- as he did last night when directing people to his site to buy his children's book -- and helps pad his email list during Fox appearances (most recently through repeated promotions of his offensive anti-Park51 petition), which he then sells to various GOP campaigns.
During the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to a Media Matters review of FEC filings, Morris and Triangulation Strategies received at least $229,174 in direct payments from political campaigns and groups (while Morris was going on Fox News and lying about how he had been working for the Republican Party "without compensation"):
- Americans for New Leadership: $35,228: [Search of FEC filings, via CQ Moneyline; write-up of first three payments here, and information about the fourth payment here].
- National Republican Trust PAC: $22,946. Four payments: 1/27/09: $1,500; 2/24/09: $5,802; 3/13/09: $2,454; 3/20/09: $13,190, independent expenditure in support of James Tedisco for Congress]
- New York State Senate candidate Greg Ball: $5,000
- Alabama Republican Party: $15,000
- Pennsylvania Republican Party: $10,000
- Christy Mihos for Governor: $80,000
- Steve Pearce for Congress: $15,000
- Brad Zaun for Congress: $8,000
- Nan Hayworth for Congress: $5,000
- Dan Debicella for Congress: $5,000
- Beth Anne Rankin for Congress: $10,000
- Tom Marino for Congress: $5,000
- Sam Caligiuri for Congress: $5,000
- Tim Burns for Congress: $8,000
Morris appeared on Fox News and touted the Rankin campaign and Americans for New Leadership without disclosing he was getting paid by them. Morris also repeatedly appeared on Fox News to discuss Pennsylvania politics, and shill for Pennsylvania Republicans and causes, without disclosing his payment.