Fox News Channel parent News Corporation may be wrapped up in the sexual harassment accusations surrounding host Bill O’Reilly, but the company is facing another long-running scandal involving what appear to be exuberant payments to a Democrat — payments that occurred even as News Corp. was lobbying the New York State executive branch, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversees.
The New York governor, whose memoir was published by the News Corp.-owned HarperCollins in 2014, saw his gross income more than double last year, to $417,748 for 2016 (from $196,243 the year before), the Buffalo News reported Tuesday.
Cuomo attributed $218,100 of that increase to sales of his memoir, “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Successes in Politics and Life.”
In 2015, the governor reportedly earned zero income from book sales and in the nearly three years that it's been on the market, it has sold just 3,200 copies. But Cuomo, the Buffalo News found, reported that he received a total of $783,000 from HarperCollins in book sales over the past three years, a number that would translate to royalty payments of nearly $244.69 per copy. On Wednesday, the book was selling on Amazon for $13.05.
A spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo told International Business Times, “This payment was contractual and per the agreement with the publisher.” A spokesperson from HarperCollins said the publisher does not “comment on financial matters relating to our books.” News Corp. did not respond to IBT requests for comment.
News Corp., in the meantime, was registered as a lobbying client as recently as December 2016, according to the New York State government lobbying database. The mass media company, created and headed by Executive Chairman and former CEO Rupert Murdoch, has a long history of lobbying Cuomo’s office for the passage of bills beneficial to its businesses, as previously reported by IBT.
Government documents reviewed by IBTimes show that News Corp. and its subsidiary Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc., through the law firm Greenberg Traurig, put tens of thousands of dollars behind efforts related to state legislation from the executive branch that affected the media industry, while paying Cuomo book royalties. In 2014, for example, those measures included the Fair Broadcast Employment Act, which would “authorize the use of certain contract provisions for the employment of key employees in the broadcast industry.” News Corp.’s lobbying efforts that year also included an Assembly bill and its State Senate version that required “awarding of costs and attorney fees in frivolous action involving public petition and participation,” which tend to involve reporters, and broadened “application of actions involving public petition and participation.”
Murdoch’s company was also involved in 2015 legislation related to the requirement that a hospital or other medical facility get consent from a patient before the patient’s treatment can be filmed, photographed or broadcast, and a law that would exclude newspaper delivery workers from minimum wage laws, which Cuomo later vetoed.
In 2016, News Corp. once again participated in lobbying efforts related to the latter three initiatives, as well as legislation involving property rights of deceased individuals — namely, whether a person retains their property rights 70 years after their death.
Update 4/19, 7:45 pm: This story was updated to include a statement from a spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo.