Fox News ran with debunked Wash. Times column questioning legality of Elton John concert for Clinton

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Fox News' Megyn Kelly echoed a Washington Times column that questioned the legality of an Elton John concert for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, even after the Clinton campaign posted a statement from FEC spokesman Bob Biersack saying he does not believe there is "anything unlawful about Elton John performing in a concert to raise money for a US presidential candidate." Additionally, Lis Wiehl falsely claimed that a 1981 FEC advisory opinion stated that "you couldn't volunteer any time if you're a foreign national."

During the March 27 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, co-host Megyn Kelly noted that "British singer Sir Elton John is trying to help his friend, [Sen.] Hillary Clinton ... by holding a one-night-only solo concert to help support her campaign." Echoing a March 27 Washington Times column, Kelly went on to ask: "The concert could rake in a lot of dough for Clinton, but is it legal?" Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl later asserted that "there have been a couple of rulings from the SEC saying -- the FEC [Federal Election Commission], excuse me -- saying, 'Well, you know, in '81, we said no, you couldn't volunteer any time if you're a foreign national.' But then, the Clinton campaign is hooking onto a 1987 opinion, which said, 'Yes, you could.' Now, these are only advisory opinions. So, when you ask the question, 'Is it legal?' ... we don't really know." In fact, as Media Matters for America documented, a spokesman for the FEC said earlier on March 27 that he does not believe there is "anything unlawful about Elton John performing in a concert to raise money for a US presidential candidate," and the 1981 FEC advisory opinion Wiehl cited did not state, as she claimed, that "you couldn't volunteer any time if you're a foreign national."

Responding to a March 27 "Inside the Beltway" column by The Washington Times' John McCaslin, in which McCaslin wrote that FEC spokesman Bob Biersack "said he doesn't know whether the Elton John performance would be considered unlawful by FEC standards," the Clinton campaign's Fact Hub website quoted Biersack as saying: "I did not intend to convey in my conversation with the Washington Times reporter that there is anything unlawful about Elton John performing in a concert to raise money for a US presidential candidate. The Advisory Opinion 2004-26 is clear in the circumstances of the request that foreign nationals may volunteer and may even solicit contributions from non-foreign nationals, provided they are not soliciting other foreign nationals." The Clinton campaign posted Biersack's remarks before Kelly and Wiehl discussed the concert's legality, but neither one mentioned Biersack's follow-up as reported by the Clinton campaign.

Moreover, contrary to Wiehl's assertion that the 1981 advisory opinion stated that "you couldn't volunteer any time if you're a foreign national," that FEC opinion prohibited a foreign national -- an artist -- from donating his services to produce something tangible -- a painting that person created -- to a campaign; it did not prohibit donating a service alone. As Wiehl noted, the FEC found, in a 1987 opinion, that a foreign national could "provide uncompensated volunteer services to a presidential campaign."

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:

KELLY: Well, British -- this is the time for the music. Where's the Elton John music?

BILL HEMMER (co-host): Kiki Dee. Do it.

KELLY: British singer Sir Elton John is trying to help his friend, Hillary Clinton --

[Elton John song playing]

KELLY: There it is -- by holding a one-night-only solo concert to help support her campaign. It happens on April 9th -- maybe. The concert could rake in a whole lot of dough for Clinton, but is it legal? Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl is here to explain. Hi, Lis.

WIEHL: Hi. Are you going to start breaking into song now?

KELLY: No, I wouldn't force that on our viewers for anything. OK. The deal is there's a law that may prohibit this.

WIEHL: Right.

KELLY: In layman's terms, what does it say?

WIEHL: Foreign nationals, you know, people not national to this country, can't contribute money -- funds to campaigns. Well, what Elton John is saying is -- and the Clinton campaign is saying, "Wait, he's not contributing funds. He's just contributing his time and his services and all of that, so he should be able to do that." All right. So, then there was this big brouhaha that's been kind of percolating the last couple of days about this.

KELLY: Well, because you can't contribute directly or indirectly.

WIEHL: Right, or indirectly. So, is that indirect contribution by saying, "I'm going to come and I'm going to give you all this money --

KELLY: Did he say --

WIEHL: -- I'm not giving you money, but I'm going to give you all of this attention and all these people are going to come and they're spending $125 per ticket at Radio City Music Hall" --

KELLY: At least, they're going for 700 bucks online right now.

WIEHL: Exactly -- 700 bucks?

KELLY: Seven hundred bucks.

WIEHL: Oh my goodness. I thought $125 was high. But anyway, there have been a couple of rulings from the SEC saying -- the FEC, excuse me -- saying, "Well, you know, in '81, we said no, you couldn't volunteer any time if you're a foreign national." But then, the Clinton campaign is hooking onto a 1987 opinion, which said, "Yes, you could." Now, these are only advisory opinions. So, when you ask the question, "Is it legal?" --

KELLY: It's not clear.

WIEHL: -- we don't really know.

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Lis Wiehl, Megyn Kelly
Show/Publication
America's Election HQ
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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