For at least the third time in the past year, right-wing website Newsmax has provided positive coverage to a Florida politician whose campaign or political committee has received money from Newsmax or its CEO, Christopher Ruddy. This financial support has not been disclosed in campaign endorsements or other articles about these politicians at Newsmax.
Newsmax's Ruddy Co-Hosted Fundraiser For Florida Senate Candidate
Fundraiser Netted $100,000 For Haridopolos' Senate Campaign. On February 18, Newsmax Media CEO and president Christopher Ruddy served on the "host committee" for a fundraising luncheon for the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Mike Haridopolos, president of the Florida Senate. [TrustedPartner.com, retrieved 3/8/11] The luncheon reportedly resulted in donations "in excess of $100,000" for Haridopolos. [BizPac Review, 2/20/11]
Newsmax Has Not Disclosed Ruddy's Fundraising Work For Haridopolos. Neither a March 4 Newsmax article nor a March 3 article that also featured an interview with Haridopolos -- both published after the February 18 fundraiser -- disclosed that Newsmax's CEO helped to raise money for Haridopolos. [Newsmax, 3/3/11, 3/4/11]
Newsmax Lets Haridopolos Explain Away Controversy
Newsmax: "Haridopolos Sets Record Straight on Book Controversy." In the March 4 article, Newsmax allowed Haridopolos to reframe a running controversy as a "a non-issue that his political opponents are seeking to take advantage of." The Newsmax article reported only Haridopolos' views on the controversy and quoted no one else. From the article, headlined "Haridopolos Sets Record Straight on Book Controversy":
A supposed controversy around a book written by Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos is a non-issue that his political opponents are seeking to take advantage of, he tells Newsmax.
Haridopolos wrote the book about politics over a four-year period beginning in 2004, while he was in the Senate, and was paid a total of $152,000 by Brevard Community College in Florida. There is reportedly only one physical copy of the book, at the community college.
Haridopolos, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Bill Nelson, discussed the issue in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV. He is viewed as a strong candidate, which is why he has come under Democratic attack so early in the game. [Newsmax, 3/4/11]
Book Went Unpublished For Four Years, Now Sold As E-Book. Haridopolos submitted the manuscript to his book, titled Florida Legislative History and Processes, to Brevard Community College in the spring of 2007. [Florida Today columnist Matt Reed, 2/28/11] Since then, the single available copy of the book could be read only at the school. [Associated Press, 2/28/11] In early March, the school made the book available in electronic format through Amazon.com for $9.99. [Brevard Watchdog blog, Florida Today, 3/2/11]
Local Reports Question Book's Depth Of Research. The Associated Press described Haridopolos' book as "basic politics and government, aimed toward an audience that wouldn't have any idea of how government or campaigns work, to the point where he explains that the Legislature is made up of two branches, the House and Senate. Most of it should be basic knowledge for lawmakers or candidates -- little research is apparent." [Associated Press, 2/28/11] Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerebino wrote that Haridopolos "somehow managed to write a political history of Florida that completely skips over the Florida recount of the 2000 presidential election." [Palm Beach Post, 3/3/11]
Newsmax Donated To Florida Gubernatorial Candidates, Gave Them Favorable Coverage
Ruddy, Dick Morris Hosted McCollum Fundraiser; Newsmax Donated To McCollum. On June 23, 2010, Ruddy and Newsmax columnist Dick Morris hosted a fundraiser for Florida gubernatorial Bill McCollum in Boca Raton, Florida. Morris appeared in a "VIP Reception" area at the fundraiser where, for a $300 donation, donors had the opportunity for a "VIP Photo Op With Dick Morris" [Media Matters, 8/27/10]. Additionally, Newsmax Media donated $500 to McCollum, as well as $10,000 to the Florida Republican Party, during the 2010 election cycle. [FollowTheMoney.org, accessed 3/8/11]
Newsmax Endorsed McCollum, Attacked Primary Opponent Rick Scott. Newsmax endorsed McCollum in the Republican primary for Florida governor:
The battle for the Republican nomination for governor in Florida, pitting Attorney General Bill McCollum against businessman Rick Scott in the Aug. 24 primary, has become one of the nastiest fights in modern political history.
It is a battle that McCollum deserves to win.
On the campaign trail, Scott has refused to answer in-depth questions about his role at Columbia/HCA, the hospital chain he founded and where he served as CEO until the 1990s.
After an FBI investigation, Scott's company pleaded guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government in the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history, and paid a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties, and damages.
Scott says he never knew about the fraud, nor was he ever personally charged. But he was forced out of the company after nabbing a $310 million golden parachute.
As Fox News commentator Dick Morris says, only two things about Scott can be concluded: Either he was incompetent and knew nothing of the massive fraud under way at his own company, or he was indeed complicit in the crime. Either way, he should be disqualified from being governor of the state of Florida. [Newsmax, 8/9/10]
Newsmax Didn't Disclose McCollum Fundraising. After McCollum lost to Scott in the primary, Ruddy wrote in a post-election "Personal Note" that he "was honored to join Bill McCollum on election night in Orlando," adding, "I am glad Newsmax supported him and befriended him during this campaign." Ruddy did not disclose that he raised money for McCollum. [Newsmax, 8/26/10]. Newsmax's endorsement of McCollum also failed to disclose Ruddy's fundraising.
Newsmax Then Endorsed Scott In General Election -- And Gave $100,000 To His Committee. Newsmax endorsed Scott in the general election, noting that Scott is "former CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain" but not mentioning Scott's alleged involvement in what it had previously called "the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history." [Newsmax, 10/19/10] The same week the endorsement was made, Newsmax Media donated $100,000 to Let's Get To Work, a 527 group associated with Scott. [American Independent, 10/20/10] FactCheck.org described Let's Get To Work as "a federal committee created by Scott to help him raise and spend money that's not subject to state campaign finance limits." [FactCheck.org, 7/6/10] As it had with McCollum, Newsmax then gave favorable coverage to Scott, publishing several articles praising Scott and attacking his Democratic opponent, Alex Sink. [ConWebWatch, 11/8/10]
Newsmax Endorsement Did Not Disclose Scott Donation. Newsmax's endorsement of Scott did not mention that Newsmax Media had donated to Scott's committee.
Newsmax Has History Of Questionable Ethical Behavior
Newsmax, Morris Teamed To Promote Financial Schemes. Since President Obama's inauguration, Newsmax has repeatedly used inflammatory anti-Obama rhetoric and stoked readers' fears of hyperinflation and economic collapse to drive sales of the financial-services products it offers, including newsletters and investment programs. Morris and Steve Forbes have played key roles in promoting Newsmax's financial products and economic rhetoric. [Media Matters, 4/26/10]
Newsmax Used O'Reilly Video To Hawk Financial Products. A video of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly discussing taxes appeared in a Newsmax-produced webcast aimed at selling investments in municipal bonds and other financial products. [CBS Moneywatch, [8/17/10] Fox News stated that O'Reilly was not aware that an interview he granted would be used to solicit subscribers to a financial newsletter, while Newsmax responded by claiming that "both parties agreed that Newsmax could offer financial newsletters during our broadcast." Newsmax has since removed references to O'Reilly from the video. [The New York Times, 8/19/10]
Newsmax Hosted Morris-Linked PAC's Website. In October 2010, Morris announced the creation of Super PAC for America, whose goal was to raise money to help Republicans win House seats in the 2010 midterm elections. Shortly after its creation, the WHOIS file for the superpacforamerica.com domain posted at the domain registrar, GoDaddy.com, showed an email address for administrative and technical purposes that went to Newsmax, and the phone number listed as a contact was registered to Newsmax. The person listed as the administrative and technical contact, Cleta Mitchell, is an attorney representing numerous conservative groups and candidates, including Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle. Further, the PAC's website displayed the same blue "N" favicon (icon that appears in the browser's URL line) that Newsmax's main website also displays. [Media Matters, 10/14/10] The WHOIS information has since been changed. [GoDaddy.com, accessed 3/9/11]