Keith Olbermann Donations to Democrats May Have Violated NBC Ethics Policy

Keith Olbermann Sunday Morning Countdown MSNBC CBS

Keith Olbermann
CBS

UPDATE: Olbermann has been suspended. Story here.

Liberal MSNBC host Keith Olbermann donated to three Democratic candidates in the 2010 election cycle, potentially in violation of NBC's ethics policy.

Olbermann acknowledged the contributors - to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords - in a statement to Politico, which first reported the donations.

Olbermann said he made the donations on October 28th, a day on which Grijalva appeared on his show "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." He gave the maximum $2,400 donation to each of the three candidates, and said the donations came "after a discussion with a friend about the state of politics in Arizona."

"I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level," he said in the statement.

As CNN reports, the donations are confirmed in the Federal Election Commission filings of all three candidates.

NBC's ethics policy generally bars political activity, including contributions, without the approval of the president of NBC News, Steve Capus, according to a 2007 story on MSNBC.com.

"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest," it says. "Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."

It is not known whether Capus granted Olbermann permission to make the donations. MSNBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The candidates Olbermann donated to had mixed results. Conway lost his race to Tea Party-backed Republican Rand Paul, but both Grijalva and Giffords lead in tight races that CBS News has not yet projected. All three appeared on Olbermann's show, and Grijalva has appeared multiple times.

As Politico notes, Olbermann and MSNBC President Phil Griffin have been critical of Fox News over its two $1 million donations to Republicanand Republican-leaninggroups during the midterm election cycle.

On October 7th, in reference to the Fox News donations, Olbermann asked House Majority Whip James Clyburn if there is a legislative response available when a cable news network "goes beyond having a point of view and actually starts to shill for partisan causes and actually starts to donate to partisan groups of one party."

MSNBC has cast itself as a liberal alternative to the conservative Fox News channel, a move that has helped the network improve its ratings, though not to the level of Fox News.


Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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