Last week, ThinkProgress raised questions about the timing of a $1 million contribution from News Corp. to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that came shortly before the Chamber launched a high-profile campaign to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) — the very same anti-bribery law that News Corp. could be prosecuted under in the United States. The Chamber quickly dismissed any links between the News Corp contribution and its campaign as “preposterous.”
Today, however, it was revealed that News Corp. has retained Debevoise & Plimpton, the firm of former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the very same lawyer who just so happens to be leading the Chamber’s campaign to weaken the FCPA.
The legal blog Main Justice, which has been covering the unfolding scandal, spoke to a legal expert about News Corp.’s new lawyers and writes:
The reports linking the two “might have been described fairly speculative before today,” said Heather Lowe, legal counsel at Global Financial Integrity. But the decision to hire Mukasey “goes a long way toward shoring up that allegation,” Lowe said.
Last month, Mukasey testified before Congress and suggested changes to the FCPA, some of which would appear to potentially benefit News Corp., such as limiting the liability of a parent company if it can prove it was not aware of its foreign subsidiary’s criminal activities. (Yesterday during testimony before Parliament, James and Rupert Murdoch both disclaimed any knowledge of the alleged criminal activities taking place at U.S.-based News Corps’ U.K. subsidiary, News International.)
For Mukasey’s services fronting their campaign to weaken the anti-bribery law, the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) paid Debevoise & Plimpton, News Corp’s new firm, $10,000 during the first quarter of this year. Just two days ago, Debevoise & Plimpton reported that it had been paid another $110,000 by the Chamber’s ILR during the second quarter. The Chamber’s ILR has also engaged several other DC lobbying firms to assist it with its campaign.
The Chamber’s campaign to weaken the FCPA is already paying dividends, with Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the chair of a key subcommittee on the House Judiciary Committee, indicating that he is writing a bill to weaken the FCPA based on the Chamber’s complaints and Mukasey’s testimony before his committee during last month’s hearing.
For its part, News Corp’s PAC has contributed $28,000 to Sensenbrenner’s campaigns since 1989 (the oldest year available) — enough to make News Corp. Sensenbrenner’s 11th largest all-time donor.