Nancy Pelosi is creating waves because of a deal to take a massive group of TV stations private.
Pelosi and The TV Station Deal
Pelosi and a few House Democrats got more than $500,000 in campaign donations from Byron Allen, a comedian who is now a media mogul who wants to block the deal.
Pelosi sent an October 6 letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel expressing “serious concerns” about the Tegna agreement.
The Tenga agreement is a publicly traded chain of 64 local TV stations to sell itself to the hedge fund Standard General for $8.6 billion.
Federal Election Commission, FEC, filings show in 2021’s fourth quarter, Pelosi received $271,300 in campaign donations from Allen, who owns a group of cable-TV networks including The Weather Channel, and wants to purchase Tenga’s nationwide broadcasting to broaden distribution.
More About Byron Allen
During the same quarter, Allen, who just bought a $100 million estate in Malibu, California, also donated $275,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The DCCC backs Democratic candidates for the House, FEC filings show.
“If she is helping out a major donor it doesn’t look good, quite frankly,” said Craig Holman, the Capitol Hill lobbyist for advocacy group Public Citizen. “When it comes to campaign finance, this is often how it works. A donor gives money with the expectation of some return.”
Pelosi’s October 6 letter came despite the fact there aren’t any Tegna TV stations in her San Francisco congressional district. The donation from Allen was his only on record to Pelosi. Allen cut the checks late last year as his own bid to buy Tegna began to unravel over financing problems, according to sources close to the situation. Tegna agreed to sell itself to Standard General in February.
“It is legal unless there is an actual agreement between the parties. Then it is a bribe,” Holman told The Post. “But when there is no obvious agreement, it does not run afoul of the law.”
A spokesman for Pelosi, Henry Connelly, declined to comment on Allen’s donations. He said Pelosi and Pallone wrote to the FCC with similar concerns in 2017 about Sinclair Broadcasting’s proposal to buy stations from Tribune Broadcasting. That deal, which was scrapped a year later, had been controversial over Sinclair’s ties with Donald Trump.
“Evidently, there are some ‘legal experts’ who will be surprised to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives does in fact routinely weigh in on issues of national importance, not just her own district,” Connelly said in a statement. “Democrats have long expressed concerns to the FCC about the consolidation of local news outlets raising costs on consumers and hollowing out the local news reporting that is vital to the health of our democracy.”
An FCC spokeswoman said, “Under longstanding precedent, the Commission does not comment on pending transactions. In this case, as in all cases, the Commission has a statutory obligation to determine that an assignment or transfer serves the public interest.”
The FCC on September 29 a week before Pelosi sent her letter, asked for more information from Standard General and Tegna, pushing the close of its merger investigation at least a few weeks beyond an initial Oct. 18 deadline.
It’s likely that the House’s Office of Legislative Affairs let the FCC Chairwoman know the letter was coming, according to one lawyer.
“You don’t want to surprise an agency head when they are in your own party,” the lawyer said.
Other Pushback On The Deal
Sometimes powerful people put pressure on FCC commissioners on behalf of big donors, but “since she has no constituent who would be affected, it is unusual,” said Mark Lipp, a partner at law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth who worked at the FCC for 14 years.
“I’ve seen some commissioners withstand that kind of pressure and seen others buckle,” Lipp said.
The loudest opponents of the Tegna deal, NewsGuild-CWA and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA unions, have prodded the FCC for records about why Tegna rejected the Allen bid.
The union’s lawyer, David Goodfriend, works as a lobbyist for Allen’s Weather Channel, according to the US House of Representatives Clerk Site. “That sounds like more than a coincidence,” according to Lipp.
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