Rupert Murdoch could face FEC fines if he tipped off Jared Kushner about Biden’s presidential ads before they aired
- Dominion claims Rupert Murdoch shared info about Biden ads with Trump’s campaign in 2020.
- Experts said the info could be seen as an “in-kind donation” by the Federal Election Commission.
- An FEC spokesperson said a “monetary civil penalty” could occur if the commission finds a violation.
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Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch could face monetary penalties from the Federal Election Commission if Dominion Voting Systems’ allegations that he shared confidential information with Donald Trump’s son-in-law hold true, experts say.
In a recent filing in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News, the voting systems company alleged that Murdoch provided then-President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, with information regarding then-candidate Joe Biden’s television ads.
“During Trump’s campaign, Rupert provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy (providing Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public),” Dominion’s lawyers alleged in the filing.
The allegation appears to cite a deposition Murdoch took for the lawsuit, as well as internal Fox communications obtained through the discovery process, though the underlying exhibits remain under seal.
If true, in addition to being an ethical violation, campaign finance and ethics experts said the information Murdoch gave to Kushner could be considered to be an unreported “in-kind” donation.
“Non-monetary goods or services, including non-public opposition research, provided to a candidate free of charge or at a discount for campaign purposes is defined under the campaign finance law as an in-kind contribution, subject to the reporting requirements and contribution limits,” explained Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen.
“If the allegations are true, this is precisely what Murdoch provided to the Trump campaign,” he said.
Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, echoed Holman.
“From a campaign finance law perspective, a corporation or its agents would be breaking the law if they were to give anything of value – including intangible things like information – to a campaign or its agents in connection with an election,” Ghosh said.
“Although we don’t presently have enough information to determine if that’s what happened here, if a corporate agent passed nonpublic information to a campaign agent, that would likely be considered an illegal in-kind contribution, warranting an investigation and possible enforcement to uphold the law and protect our elections,” she said.
A press officer with the FEC declined to speak about the allegations against Murdoch but told Insider “if the Commission finds that a violation occurred, possible outcomes can range from a letter reiterating compliance obligations to a conciliation agreement, which may include a monetary civil penalty.”
A representative for Fox Corporation, where Murdoch is the chair, declined to comment on the record.
Dominion filed its blockbuster lawsuit against Fox New Network and its parent company, Fox Corporation, in March 2021. The election technology company claimed it was defamed by the media organization when Fox hosts interviewed Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two conspiracy theorist lawyers who worked for Trump and falsely claimed that Dominion rigged election results by flipping votes from Trump to now-President Joe Biden. The Fox News hosts endorsed those false claims or didn’t sufficiently push back against them, Dominion alleges.
Subsequent court filings paint a portrait of a right-wing media juggernaut anxious about losing audiences to Newsmax and possibly One America News, both of which more forcefully endorsed the falsehood that Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election. Dominion has also filed lawsuits against Newsmax and OAN, although they have not progressed as far as the Fox lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial in April.
Evidence cited in Dominion’s filings shows how Murdoch wanted Fox News to support Republican candidates, in part to ensure conservatives continued to watch the network.
After Trump lost, Murdoch shifted attention to two runoff elections in Georgia for US Senate seats. In a message to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott in October 2020, Murdoch asked if she would ask host Sean Hannity to “say something supportive” about Lindsey Graham, who at the time was a candidate in the South Carolina US Senate race.
“We cannot lose the Senate if at all possible,” Murdoch wrote.
As Fox News called the swing state of Arizona for Biden in November of 2020, Murdoch described getting a call from Kushner complaining, according to a message obtained by Dominion.
“My friend Jared Kushner called me saying, ‘This is terrible,’ Murdoch wrote. “And I could hear Trump’s voice in the background shouting.”