ABC's Michael Falcone reports:
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s recent admission that his “friendship” with Ohio gubernatorial candidate John Kasich spurred his company's $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association has sparked fresh complaints from Democrats.
Officials with the Democratic Governors Association, which in September filed an official complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission alleging that News Corp.-owned Fox News had made an in-kind contribution to the Kasich campaign, suggested on Thursday that Murdoch’s comments were essentially an attempt to earmark the funds for Kasich.
Following an event in Washington, DC on Wednesday night, Murdoch said in an interview with Politico that the company's sizable contribution to the RGA “had nothing to do with Fox News” but instead was the result of his “friendship with John Kasich.”
DGA spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement that Murdoch “finally admitted” that his company “gave $1 million to defeat Ohio's Democratic governor and put one of its own hosts in control of one of the most important states for 2012.”
Kasich, who is running against Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio, is a former Republican Congressman who hosted the Fox News program “Heartland with John Kasich” until 2007. Since then, he has been a frequent guest on the cable channel.
After Kasich appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show over the summer, the DGA filed a complaint charging that “FOX News Network, L.L.C. violated Ohio election law on August 18, 2010 when John Kasich … solicited contributions for his campaign and FOX added the graphics ‘John Kasich (R), KasichforOhio.com’ under Mr. Kasich’s image.”
The complaint went on to state that it appeared Fox News was "pursuing a multi-pronged strategy to support and elect Republican candidates.”
The DGA is planning to amend its original complaint to reflect Murdoch’s statement about Kasich on Wednesday.
Catherine Turcer, director of the Money in Politics Project at Ohio Citizen Action, a non-profit watchdog group in the state, said that while Murdoch’s comments may not be direct evidence that the media mogul wanted the money channeled to Kasich, that is certainly the implication.
“We have created a system of legalized money laundering,” Turcer said in an interview with ABC News. “The money gets where the donor intended it to go.”
Meredith McGehe, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, echoed Turcer’s point, saying that a “reasonable person” could view Murdoch’s comments as a “wink and a nod” in Kasich’s direction.