My loyal fans know that I’ve long had issues with MSNBC, specifically related to GE’s and Lorne Michaels‘ campaign contributions, but I’ve also had a soft spot for Keith Olbermann who once referred to me on air. So like my fellow neocon pundit (and sometime squash-partner) Bill Kristol, I’d like to weigh in on Keith’s defense:
Perhaps one reason MSNBC’s Phil Griffin suspended Keith Olbermann last week has to do with their new boss being a big contributor to the National Republican Campaign Committee - the very committee that was helping to defeat the candidates that Olbermann was supporting. Steve Burke, the Comcast exec who will be taking the CEO reigns at NBC/Universal has personally contributed $19,500 to the National Republican Campaign Committee over the last four years, including $5,000 this year alone, according to FEC filings, plus $2,000 to incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. According to Public Citizen, Burke, who was appointed to George W. Bush’s President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology was also a major fundraiser for George W. Bush’s reelection campaign - an official “Ranger”! - raising at least $200,000.
And just for good measure, Griffin’s current boss, GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt personally gave $10,000 to the NRCC this year, too. So the real question is whose job was Griffin really worried about: Olbermann’s, or his own?
So maybe Griffin reinstated Olbermann today because he also realized that the political action committees of both General Electric and Comcast are frequent supporters of two of the same candidates to whom Olbermann contributed money. If Olbermann was looking at who else besides him gave money to the campaigns of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Rep. Raul Grijalva - both Democrats running for reelection in Arizona - he might have thought he was in good company.
According to FEC filings, General Electric Company Political Action Committee (GEPAC) has given $7,750 to Gabrielle Giffords‘ campaigns over the years (including $4,500 for this campaign cycle). GEPAC has also contributed $5,000 to Raul Grijalva over the years, though those contributions ended in 2007. GEPAC did not contribute to either Giffords’ or Grijalva’s opponents this year. Nor did it contribute to either Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway (whom Olbermann did) or his opponent, Rand Paul.
NBC/Universal’s soon-to-be new owner is Comcast, which also has an active PAC. Comcast’s PAC has given $8,000 to Giffords’ campaigns (including $2,000 for her 2010 reelection effort), and it’s donated $5,000 to Grijalva’s campaigns (including $2,500 for this campaign).
Griffin might have also checked in with Steve Burke’s wife, Gretchen Burke. Identified by FEC filings as a “non-employed/homemaker,” she contributed $17,600 to Democratic candidates this campaign season, plus $2,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. If Gretchen’s ultimately the one controlling the remote (and the checkbook) at the Burke house, Olbermann’s and Griffin’s jobs seem secure.
In conclusion, probably the one guy who should start to worry is the NBC employee who really does have the power to influence an election: my good friend Lorne Michaels (who in this election cycle alone, gave $1000 to Al Franken’s Midwest Values PAC, and $4800 to losing Missouri Democratic congressional candidate Tommy Sowers).