More than lavish dinners, snazzy mailers, and email blasts, GOP candidates are flocking to the best fundraising tool this election season: Fox News. As Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) so aptly pointed out, just one mention of a campaign website on a “friendly press outlet” like Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show can translate into millions of campaign cash. Delaware’s colorful senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R) even flaunted Hannity’s support before a meeting of GOP strategists, saying “Sean Hannity’s in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys.”
Indeed, Hannity’s TV and radio spots are proving to be more GOP fundraiser than anything else. And no other Republican candidate has benefited more than former Fox News host and Ohio gubernatorial candidate John Kasich (R). Hannity has hosted Kasich at least ten times since he’s declared his candidacy. After Kasich promoted his campaign website in his ninth visit to Hannity’s TV show last week, Hannity responded “I want to put this — put some emphasis on this because this is really important. Explain to people why — we cannot afford to lose that race?” But it was in their tenth exchange on Hannity’s radio show yesterday that Hannity and Kasich clearly spelled out this fundraising relationship:
HANNITY: John Kasich, we’re watching Ohio really really closely. We appreciate you being with us and thanks for taking time out of your busy day and we wish you the best. This is a very important election, I think, for the country. And we’ll be watching in the next 14 days, and on election night, we’ll be watching very closely.
KASICH: And Kasich for Ohio.com. K-A-S-I-C-H. We need your help all over the country.
HANNITY: By the way, there are some in the liberal media think that I really meant to support Barney Frank over you and the fact that I, as a conservative commentator, support you shock some people. But you know what I stand proudly in Kasich’s corner with an endorsement as long as it doesn’t hurt you.
KASICH: We need all the help you can give us, Sean. They love you out here.
HANNITY: Alright, John Kasich. This is an important race, really important race.
Listen to it:
If Angle’s $40,000 intake is any indication, there is no way that Hannity’s endorsement could hurt. As Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik noted, the only thing Hannity’s actions hurt is the credibility of Fox as a news organization. “What Hannity allowed Kasich to do [on last week's show],” Zurawik states, “crosses the line as to what’s acceptable for any news organization, and we all know it isn’t the first Hannity time has done this. If Fox News management wants mainstream critics to defend the organization’s right to be treated like a news organization, it needs to behave like one — all the time. Hannity’s bosses need to publicly put an end to such partisan on-air fund raising now — not sometime in November after the election.”
But Kasich’s distinguished “friendship” with Hannity’s boss Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of Fox News’ parent company News Corporation, led to repeated donations directly to the Republican Governors Association rather than any kind of reprimand. And with almost every major contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination on the Fox News payroll and all but one speaking exclusively on Fox, GOP candidates can count on a long, fruitful relationship with the network that, contrary to Hannity’s belief, will shock absolutely no one.
For more on how Fox News factors into the GOP, check out today’s Progress report here.