Will the Democrats go after Murdoch?

By Nicholas Wapshott
The opinions expressed are his own.

“Rupert Murdoch wanted to become an American citizen,” Barbara Boxer, a leading member of the Senate Commerce Committee, told the BBC last week. “He needs to obey American law.” She cited the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, under which “he cannot … bribe officials anywhere in the world,” and the Wiretaps Act, that would snare the News Corp employees who, it has been suggested, hacked victims of the September 11 attacks on America.

Senator Boxer listed actions the U.S. could take if it deemed News Corp guilty, among them “the FCC [’s] ability to take away the [broadcasting] license from corporations who break the law.” Last week she and Senator Jay Rockefeller prompted an FBI probe into criminality by News Corp employees and this week urged the “special committee” that is charged with overseeing Dow Jones to discover whether former News International were implicated in illegality. They appear to have in their sights Les Hinton, the Dow Jones CEO who resigned last week after failing to properly investigate hacking at News of the World, and current Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson, who gave the top policeman who called off the hacking investigation regular employment at The Times of London.

Senators Boxer and Rockefeller are not alone. Other Democrats looking for News Corp scalps include Senator Frank Lautenberg, who called on the Justice Department and the Securities Exchange Commission to do their worst, saying that “current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News Corporation,” and Anna Eshoo of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, who demanded a full exposé of “this burgeoning scandal at News Corporation.” Dick Durbin, the Democrats’ number two in the Senate, threatened Murdoch with congressional hearings.

It seems that nothing would please Democratic leaders so much as to call to account the company that causes them so much daily grief in the form of Fox News, the besmircher of liberals and their motives, the champion of the Tea Party, and the inevitable cheerleader for whomever the Republicans choose to challenge President Obama. As the stock in trade of Fox News is derision, dismissal, disinformation, and humiliation of all things progressive and Democratic, there is little, you might think, the Dems stand to lose. So, how far are they prepared to go to embarrass the owners of Fox News?

If the British skulduggery does not lead to a smoking gun here, there is no shortage of News Corp targets in America to scrutinize, starting with the free-wheeling newsroom culture at the New York Post, whose key Australian and British executives included until 2007 Colin Myler, the final editor of the shuttered News of the World, and the strange case of President Clinton’s friend Ron Burkle, who alleged that a reporter on the Post’s gossip page, Page Six, tried to extort him: $100,000 down and $10,000 a month to keep him out of the paper. There is also the near-forgotten New York Times scoop last February that Roger Ailes, the boss of Fox News, advised the former HarperCollins publisher Judith Regan to lie to investigators in 2004 about her affair with New York police chief Bernard Kerik.

The case against the bribery case against Murdoch

By James Ledbetter
The opinions expressed are his own.

Ever since reports surfaced that executives at News of the World paid bribes to members of the UK’s Metropolitan Police, there have been lots of people in the United States who would like to see News Corp and/or its top executives prosecuted under American laws. News Corp is an American company, goes the argument, and paying bribes abroad is explicitly prohibited by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Those observations are true as far as they go, and they appear bolstered by reports Friday morning that the Justice Department is preparing subpoenas as part of a preliminary investigation into News Corp. But the argument that a successful U.S.-based bribery case can be built against Murdoch’s company involves at least as much wishful thinking as it does legal acumen. There may be some effective ways to use the FCPA against News Corp, but nailing News Corp executives in the U.S. for police bribes in the UK requires an enormous, unprecedented stretch of the FCPA, and one which seems unlikely to stand up in court.

The FCPA was a groundbreaking piece of anti-corruption legislation when Jimmy Carter signed it into law in 1977. But even its most passionate fans would admit that a) its enforcement over the decades has been spotty, and b) no one involved in the creation of the FCPA ever envisioned it being used to punish checkbook journalism, legal or illegal.

Behind Wendi Deng’s billion-dollar spike

By Eric Ellis
The opinions expressed are his own.

Tiger wife or Trophy wife? Slam-down Sister or caring partner doing a Tammy Wynette? New York socialite or about-to-be global media mogul?

When Wendi Deng soared on Tuesday, 42 and pretty-in-pink, left across our TV screens to clobber the idiot cream-pieing her struggling octogenarian billionaire husband, my first thought was of Messrs Wang Chongsheng and Xie Qidong, two hale and delightful old men retired in the central Chinese city of Xuzhou, where Wendi grew up as Deng Weng Ge, or “Cultural Revolution Deng” as was a parent’s political imperative of those dark Maoist days.

Wendi Deng's middle school volleyball team in Xuzhou, China, early 1980s. She is in the middle of the back row.

Murdoch vs. parliament: No curtain call yet

Near the end of his dramatic testimony, at the end of what he called his most humbling day, a prankster tried to tag Rupert Murdoch with a pie in the face. He missed.

It may be the defining moment in the whole sordid ordeal of the cell phone hacking scandal which has beset News Corp: try as many MPs might have, it would appear at first blush that Murdoch father and son delivered the finessed performance of contrition, cooperation and combativeness that could change the tempo of the outcry against the media empire, now under fire on two continents — and possibly a third.

Murdoch’s answers will be picked apart for days — why was this the most humbling day of his career, and not his life? — but for the sake of appearances, which matter most because they will frame the meme, Rupert and James Murdoch did themselves every possible favor in an arena that could have resulted in unmitigated disaster.

from UK News:

Constitution in crisis as tyrannical journalists devour cowed politicians

A sordid tale of excess and brutality, of a world dominated by journalists with their ears to the keyhole, of tyrannical newspapers wielding remarkable power and of a political class not only cowed, but consumed, by that power.

Sound familiar? With two of Britain's most senior policemen out of a job, the prime minister under pressure for his serenading of News Corp and one of the world's most powerful press barons, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, summoned to testify to parliament, it would be one way of describing the current state of affairs.

In fact, it is how Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde saw the state of Britain 120 years ago.

The best questions to ask Murdoch

By Nicholas Wapshott
The opinions expressed are his own.

The avalanche of information gushing out of London about the criminal practices passed off as journalism at Rupert Murdoch’s British papers will make it almost impossible for members of the House of Commons media committee to find out this week exactly what went wrong with the company’s corporate culture. That will have to wait for the full judicial inquiry and the rekindled police investigation; even then the whole truth may not come out. Commons committees are not made up of criminal lawyers. Like Congressional committees, they are large and unwieldy, and their members are too often tempted to grandstand for the cameras than oblige witnesses to provide truthful answers. But there is one line of questioning that may elicit some valuable evidence about how far up News Corp. knowledge of the malfeasance went.

The policeman who led the original 2007 investigation into hacking at News International was Andy Hayman, who was in charge of counter-terrorism for Scotland Yard. The probe went nowhere. News executives obstructed the main investigator, Peter Clarke, who complained to MPs last week that “if at any time News International had offered some meaningful cooperation instead of lies, we would not be here today.” At the time, Mr. Hayman enjoyed dinner with some of the obfuscating Murdoch senior executives, but instead of demanding that they provide answers or face the consequences, according to his account, he did not even mention the investigation. Then, instead of redoubling his efforts, Mr. Hayman called off the investigation, despite the 3,870 victims we now know to have been hacked.

Mr. Hayman did not stay much longer at the Yard. He was accused of fiddling his expenses and charging taxpayers for dinners costing $500. Worse, he was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a member of the independent press complaints commission, the body charged with investigating his misleading remarks to the press about the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian citizen who was shot dead by police in London in the mistaken belief he was an al-Qaeda terrorist. Mr. Hayman also fell out with the head of the Metropolitan Police, adding to his job insecurity.

from Breakingviews:

James Murdoch shouldn’t be kicked out of BSkyB

By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

James Murdoch shouldn’t be kicked out of BSkyB. Some observers want to use the Murdoch clan’s troubles at News International, their UK newspapers company, to run them out of town completely. But BSkyB, the pay-television group, is a separate business. And Murdoch Jr has done a good job first as its chief executive and now as its chairman.

Admittedly, Murdoch Jr hasn’t covered himself in glory in handling the alleged phone hacking and police bribery scandal. As well as being chairman of BSkyB, he has indirect responsibility at News Corp for the UK newspaper arm. He was slow to grip the problems -- not least by allowing Rebekah Brooks, who ran the papers and reported to him, to stay in her position for too long. There are now multiple probes into the saga which could embroil him further. But nothing has yet come out which should disqualify him from his BSkyB role.

Live Coverage: News Corp phone hack scandal

This liveblog has expired, updates past 10am on July 20th, 2011 can be found here. is liveblogging House of Commons debate

Factbox on today’s committee hearings:

Timeline of events in the hacking scandal so far:
Who’s who in the hacking scandal:

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July 20, 2011

Latest (10am ET)

Liveblogging the House of Commons debate : Reuters

Special report - Murdoch affair spotlights UK’s dirty detectives : Reuters

Dow Jones Hinton’s resignation letters

Memo to employees

Dear all,

Many of you will be aware by now that I resigned today from Dow Jones and News Corp. I attach below my resignation letter to Rupert Murdoch.

It is a deeply, deeply sad day for me.

I want you all to know the pride and pleasure I have taken working at Dow Jones for the past three-and-a-half years. I have never been with better, more dedicated people, or had more fun in a job.

News Corp under Rupert’s brilliant leadership has proved a fitting parent of Dow Jones, allowing us to invest and expand as other media companies slashed costs.  This support enabled us together to strengthen the company during a brutal economic downturn, developing fine new products – not to mention one of the world’s great newspapers led by one of the world’s great editors, my dear friend and colleague Robert Thomson.

from Breakingviews:

Tip for the Murdochs: don’t be yourselves

By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Don’t be yourselves. That’s probably the best tip for Rupert and James Murdoch as they prepare to face UK lawmakers over the phone hacking scandal engulfing the UK newspaper arm of News Corporation.

Rupert is used to pushing people around. James argues with a passion when challenged. These are great skills in business, but will be handicaps in an event that is part investigation, part show trial.