EXCLUSIVE: News Corp. Board To Review Political Donation Policy

Blog ››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

News Corporation is in the process of developing a policy for oversight and disclosure of political contributions that will be presented to the company's board of directors at an upcoming meeting, according to a shareholder that has publicly pressured News Corp. regarding the matter.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation -- a private foundation and News Corp. shareholder -- caused a stir at the company's annual meeting last October with its request that the board "disclose to shareholders the use of corporate assets for any and all political spending" in light of news reports at the time that News Corp. had donated $1 million each to the Republican Governors Association and the GOP-leaning Chamber of Commerce.

Weeks before the meeting, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch told Politico that the company "didn't expect" the Chamber donation to become public, raising the question of whether the company had made additional, undisclosed political contributions. Murdoch also told Politico, "The RGA [gift] was actually [a result of] my friendship with John Kasich" -- a former Fox News host and then-Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Responding to questions about the controversial donations at the October 15 meeting, Murdoch said the donations were "unusual" and that it was "in the interest of the country and of all the shareholders ... that there be a fair amount of change in Washington."

Sir Rod Eddington, who chairs the News Corp. Board's Audit Committee and also took questions at the meeting, said he understood shareholders' calls for transparency and told a representative from the Nathan Cummings Foundation that their disclosure proposal would be reviewed and that the company would "act expeditiously."

Laura Shaffer Campos, Director of Shareholder Activities at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, told Media Matters that on December 21, 2010, she spoke with Laura Cleveland, the corporate secretary at News Corp., regarding the foundation's disclosure proposal. Campos said that according to Cleveland, the Board's Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee (NCG) discussed the issue and reported to the full board on their discussion.

According to Campos, Cleveland also said that the company is now in the process of developing a policy for oversight and disclosure of political contributions and that the policy will go to the NCG for review at their February meeting. That policy is expected to be presented to the full board at either the February or April meeting.

Campos added that the Nathan Cummings Foundation is planning to follow up with News Corp. in late February or March, and told Media Matters:

As a News Corporation shareholder, the Nathan Cummings Foundation continues to believe that News Corporation's Board has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to ensure that corporate funds are allocated in ways that serve the Company's interest and will ultimately drive the creation of shareholder value. The Foundation is hopeful that News Corporation's Board will develop a robust policy for oversight and disclosure of political spending. However, in the absence of clearly defined oversight and disclosure mechanisms, we will continue to press the Company on this issue.

Karina Litvack -- Head of Governance and Sustainable Investment at F&C Investments, another News Corp. shareholder that expressed concern about the company's political contributions last October -- told Media Matters that F&C "welcomed [Eddington's] swift response" in October and that they "look forward to seeing the policy."

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