UPDATED: Does NBC's ethics policy apply to CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough?

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Today, MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann indefinitely for violating NBC News' policy and standards. As Politico first noted, Olbermann donated $2,400 apiece to three Democrats and "NBC has a rule against employees contributing to political campaigns."

If NBC News' policy extends to CNBC, the network may have a problem with Larry Kudlow, the anchor of CNBC's primetime show Kudlow & Company and co-anchor of the noon show The Call.

As Salon.com's Alex Pareene noted, in May 2009, Kudlow donated $1,000 to Christopher Shays for Congress (R-CT). Pareene wrote: "Unless Kudlow got explicit permission from the president of NBC News, this places him in direct violation of the NBC News ethics policy that led to the indefinite suspension of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann today.'

In June 2006, Kudlow also donated $200 to Shays. In both instances, Kudlow listed his employer as "CNBC, ABC." Kudlow also hosts a radio program on WABC Radio and is syndicated nationally by Citadel Media.

As Politico noted, a "2007 MSNBC.com story laid out the rules for the network regarding such contributions":

"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the president of NBC News or his designee."

UPDATE: The Politico's Ken Vogel wrote the following on his Twitter account about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough: "AL records: $5k Joe Scarborough contrib to campaign in April http://politi.co/a7nTZv & he headlined an Aug FR for county GOP, sezs candidate."

To add to Vogel's tweet, Scarborough is listed as headlining The Tuscaloosa County Republican Party's August 2009 Lincoln-Reagan Dinner. Scarborough is pictured on the website of John H. Merrill for State House; a description on the website states of the picture, "John is pictured here with Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' Joe served as the keynote speaker for the 2009 Lincoln-Reagan Dinner honoring Governor Bob Riley."

From an August 9, 2009, Tuscaloosa News article about Scarborough's appearance at the Tuscaloosa fundraiser:

Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" political talk show, will be the featured speaker at the Tuscaloosa County Republican Party's

Lincoln-Reagan Dinner on Thursday.

This year's dinner will honor Gov. Bob Riley, who served in Congress with Scarborough in the 1990s. Both men are University of Alabama graduates.

John Merrill, county chairman of the Republican Party, said the drawing power of the two guests has broken the record for ticket sales for the annual fundraiser.

"We've already sold over 450 tickets, and the most we've ever sold before was 410," Merrill said Friday. "And I am still getting calls and expect to right up until the dinner."

The dinner will begin at the Bryant Conference Center at UA at 7 p.m. Thursday. It will be preceded by a reception and silent auction at 5 p.m.

The Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, first held in 2006, honors "an individual who has demonstrated exceptional conservative leadership in the state of Alabama," according to the county GOP's Web site.


Tickets for the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner are priced at several levels.

A $1,500 gold sponsorship includes a reserved table, 10 dinner tickets, 10 pre-dinner reception tickets and 10 individual tickets for a photo opportunity with Riley and Scarborough.

A $1,000 silver sponsorship includes a reserved table, 10 dinner tickets, two pre-dinner reception tickets and 10 photo op tickets.

A Friend of the Party sponsorship costs $500 and includes a table for 10 for the dinner and two photo op tickets.

Individual tickets for the dinner alone are $50. Another $50 entitles one to a photo op, Merrill said.

TPMDC noted a previous donation by Scarborough to Derrick Kitts (R-OR) in 2006.

UPDATE 2: Vogel adds more on his previous reporting about Scarborough in a November 5 article:

MSNBC, which suspended the liberal Olbermann after POLITICO revealed he had contributed to three Democratic campaigns this past cycle, apparently condoned Scarborough's maximum $4,200 contribution to the Oregon congressional race of close friend Derrick Kitts in 2006, when Scarborough was host of the evening show "Scarborough Country."

"That contribution was made in accordance with (network) policy," said MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines. "Joe sought permission in advance. Since 2007 we have recommitted ourselves to following these important standards."

But Alabama state campaign finance records show a $5,000 contribution in April from Scarborough, the former Republican congressman who now co-hosts an eponymous morning show on MSNBC and writes a weekly column for POLITICO, to Alabama state legislative candidate John Merrill, who said the two have been close friends since they attended the University of Alabama together.

That contribution should have been in the name of Scarborough's wife, Susan Scarborough, according to Scarborough's co-host on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski, as well as John R. McGregor III, a representative from the Scarborough's Pensacola, Fla., bank.

"The Scarborough's expect John Merrill will amend his campaign report to accurately reflect that reality," said Brzezinski. "If he does not, I will recommend they file an ethics complaint against him."

Brzezinski also challenged Merrill's recollection of having brought Scarborough to Tuscaloosa for an August 2009 fundraiser for the county Republican Party, which Merrill said "was unbelievably successful. We raised a ton of money that we used to help local candidates."

That event was "was billed as a tribute to Gov. Bob Riley on his retirement from politics," said Brzezinski, noting that Riley and Scarborough served together in Congress and asserting, "Any suggestion that Joe Scarborough went to the University event to raise money for a political party is false. Sadly, many politicians try to elevate their standing by exaggerating their connection to Joe. This is one of those cases."

Friday evening, Merrill issued a chastened statement to POLITICO asserting that the $5,000 donation - his biggest individual donation of the campaign - was "from Susan Scarborough ... I am very appreciative of her support."

But earlier in the day, Merrill, who cruised to an easy win this week, was under a very different impression when he spoke with POLITICO.

"We've been friends for 28 years and we stayed in touch all those years, when he was in Congress and when he got the show," Merrill said of Joe Scarborough. "When I announced, he told me he was going to help me and he wanted me to be successful," Merrill said, recalling Scarborough's offering to lend his star power to the campaign.

"He told me he'd do whatever I wanted him to do - if I wanted him to be in a spot or participate in a fundraiser or do anything like that," said Merrill, recalling "his schedule is such that we never really could" make good on the offer.

Lawrence Kudlow
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