Why you still shouldn't take Newsbusters seriously

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Newsbusters' attempts to explain away Fox News parent News Corp's $1 million contribution to the GOP would be funny if they weren't so pathetic.

Earlier this week, Tim Graham offered the utterly inane defense that "Democrats are having a fit over the RGA donation, even if the overall donation levels are about even." By "overall donation levels are about even," Graham was referring to the fact that, according to the Washington Post, prior to the $1 million contribution, "the News Corp./Fox political action committee had given 54 percent of its donations to Democrats and 46 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics … News Corp. also gave $45,000 each to GOP and Democratic campaign committees on Capitol Hill."

Now, that 54/46 split obscures the dollar amounts in question, which is roughly $78,000 to Democrats and $66,500 to Republicans. Add in the $45,000 each to the GOP and Democratic campaign committees and we're talking about $123,000 to Democrats and $111,500 to Republicans -- which is, indeed, "about even." But wait! We can't just ignore that $1 million contribution in assessing "overall donation levels." It is, after all, an actual contribution of actual money that can be spent on actual political activities. When you add it to the mix, Fox has given the GOP about $1.1 million, and Democrats about $123,000 -- that's nearly ten times as much to the GOP. And yet Graham claimed that "overall donation levels are about even"! That's just incredibly false. In doing so, he conveniently omitted any mention of the actual dollar amounts referred to by the 54/46 split, which would have given away his little ruse. That's just incredibly dishonest.

Now here's Newsbuster Noel Sheppard:

Comedian Jon Stewart on Wednesday bashed Fox News for parent company News Corporation's $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association.

Unfortunately, Stewart failed to inform his viewers that Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, has so far given disproportionately to Democrats this year.

according to Open Secrets, Viacom's Political Action Committee has so far this year contributed 62 percent of its money to Democrats and only 38 percent to Republicans

In 2008, this ratio was 58 percent Democrats, 42 percent Republicans

Sheppard stopped there, not telling readers what the numbers were for 2006, or 2004, or 2002, or 2000, or 1998. Call me a cynic, but I suspect that's because Viacom gave more than 60 percent of its PAC contributions to Republicans in 2006 and 2004, and a majority to Republicans in 2002 and 1998 (Viacom's PAC contributions were split between the parties 50/50 in 2000.)

See, PAC contributions tend to flow to the party in power, as corporate PACs tend to give money to incumbents. Given that, Viacom's contribution pattern isn't particularly noteworthy. Not to mention the fact that Sheppard has a problem of scale that he isn't addressing: According to the data Sheppard cited, Viacom's PAC has given a total of $176,700 to politicians of both parties this year, so that 62/38 split in favor of the Democrats results in about a $42,000 advantage. Now, remember, Fox/News Corp have given about one million dollars more to the GOP than the Dems this cycle. So responding by pointing to the $42,000 advantage Democrats have in Viacom contributions is pretty silly. Maybe that's why Sheppard used percentages rather than raw numbers? Nah, he wouldn't be that dishonest … would he?

Sheppard then repeats Graham's absurd argument:

Beyond this, as NewsBusters reported hours before Stewart made his comments, prior to this $1 million donation, News Corp. had actually given 54 percent of its donations to Democrats and 46 percent to Republicans.

Yes, it's true: if you don't count News Corp's $1 million contribution to the GOP, it has given Democrats slightly more than it has given Republicans! And if you don't count everything Noel Sheppard has ever written, he rarely makes a fool of himself in public.

UPDATE: Graham has appended a correction to his post, acknowledging: "Adding $1 million to the GOP side shows a more dramatic tilt to the GOP than my faulty original assumption."

Fox News Channel, NewsBusters, News Corp.
Tim Graham, Noel Sheppard
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