Big Media Publicly Proffers Peanuts to Kerry

11 February 2004

Backing both runners in a two-horse race is normally for losers. Not so in the case of American media mammoths News Corporation, Viacom and Sony Corporation of America.

All are generously showering sums of rather less than their annual sandwich budget on the senator for Massachusetts, John Kerry, now seemingly unstoppable as the Democrat most likely to Bush-whack the president in this fall's election.

NewsCorp president/coo Peter Chernin, one of Rupert Murdoch's most trusted lieutenants, is one of several media honchos promising to raise between $50,000 (€39,188; £26,724) and $100,000 to support Kerry's campaign for the White House. Other bettors who can't lose are Viacom chairman, Sumner M Redstone and Sony's British-born chairman/ceo, Sir Howard Stringer.

But this kind of money is petty cash compared with the billions invested quadrennially in securing the next sympathetic pair of White House ears. Under the McCain-Feingold reforms enacted in 2001, individual donors are limited to $4,000 for a presidential candidate -- $2,000 during the primaries and another $2,000 during a general election.

So most of the money overtly raised by these media benefactors will come from the pockets of business associates, friends and relatives. And almost certainly the same sources will donate peanuts in similar quantity to the Bush campaign.

But where there is a will there is a way. Some of the big-money donations that once went openly to political parties and politicians now flows to specially formed groups, often organized by Washington insiders, which are subject to far less stringent restrictions on donations.

One such group is America Coming Together. Its goal is to raise and spend $75 million to defeat Bush next year. The income comprises both federally regulated hard-money donations and a soft-money account. Among ACT's donors is billionaire speculator George Soros, who has pledged at least $10 million.

Each-way bets by big business are commonplace in the run-up to elections, so Soros has also given $250,000 to Democracy 21, a watchdog group that advocates campaign finance reform.

Data sourced from: and The Olympian (Washington); additional content by WARC staff