Fox's Scott Brown Problem

As evidence grows that former Republican Senator Scott Brown is going to run for Senate in New Hampshire, he continues to cash a paycheck from Fox News, where he's currently employed as a contributor. Brown is just the latest in an ever-expanding roster of conservative Fox employees who have used a job at the network to set up a run for political office.

Fox hired Brown in February after his failed re-election bid for the Massachusetts Senate seat he won after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The network had been perhaps his biggest champion during his successful 2010 senate run, allowing Brown to plug his fundraising website on-air while hosts and contributors fawned over him.

Since taking the Fox job, Brown has repeatedly dropped hints that he might consider challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in 2014. According to National Journal, while Republican leaders in the state previously dismissed Brown's supposed interest in running as a “fallen political star desperate for attention,” they have “begun taking Brown seriously.” Though he is scheduled to give a speech at the New Hampshire GOP's holiday fundraiser later this month, Brown continues to play coy about whether he has made up his mind about a run.

At Politico, media reporter Dylan Byers explains that the best indication of whether Brown is serious about running is whether Fox News severs his contract, as they did in 2011 when former employees Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were in the early stages of mounting presidential bids. (More recently, Fox terminated former contributor Liz Cheney's contract when she formally announced her run for the Senate in Wyoming.)

Until such time as Fox ends his contract, Brown will operate in an ethically dubious grey area. It benefits him to delay a formal declaration of any kind so that he can continue to utilize his Fox platform, while both Brown and the network reap rewards from the related “will he or won't he” attention. As Byers explains, “you can rest assured that he'll use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters.” And in recent weeks, Brown has done just that.

In what was surely not a coincidence, Brown penned a column for earlier this month on the “harmful impact” of Obamacare “across the country” -- but specifically in New Hampshire.  (Brown later sent the column out to his political mailing list, which listed a New Hampshire address for the former Massachusetts senator.)

In a December 10 appearance on Lou Dobbs' Fox Business program, Brown railed against the Affordable Care Act for several minutes before Dobbs shifted gears and asked Brown for his thoughts “on what you think of draft movements, particularly for the United States Senate in New Hampshire. You're one of those people being drafted.” As usual, Brown left the door open while remaining non-committal, telling the host that he is busy focusing on “the holidays, taking care of my family and contributing as I'm doing right here, right now,”  which Dobbs deemed “extraordinary priorities...very positive ones.” Dobbs added, “I personally - I think the draft movement is a terrific idea, get some sort of sense of what the people want early on.”

During a November appearance on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Brown about the PAC he formed in October in New Hampshire and whether he was mounting a Senate run in the state. Again, Brown was evasive, explaining that he needed to form a PAC in order to raise money for other conservative candidates and that it was most important to let “people know who we are as a party and how we can move forward with a positive message to convince people how to vote for us.”

Wallace replied, “I'll take that as a definite maybe.” 

Fox News has been a key player in helping to keep Republicans in the conservative spotlight after leaving political office. Rick Santorum joined Fox News while planning his eventual presidential run after losing his Pennsylvania Senate seat and later told National Review that his platform at the network had “been big” and “helped folks remember who I am.” 

Brown is likely also thankful for the boost.