Is the Air America Radio Bailout a Violation of Campaign Finance Laws?

At the very end of this post on January 27, I asked this question about Air America Radio (AAR), which at the time was surviving by the good graces of one rich guy's wallet:
Are Al Franken’s ridiculously outsized earnings (including a LOT of money up-front) from a network that is funded by one guy a “clever” way of circumventing campaign-finance law and underwriting a possible Franken run for the US Senate in Minnesota?
My question only concerned Franken. But now that The Democracy Alliance (no working web site; an April 2005 article about the organization's plans is here), a far-left liberal group that includes billionaire George Soros, Peter "the Progressive" (Insurance) Lewis, and Rob "Meathead" Reiner as prominent members, has, according to Radio Equalizer Brian Maloney, promised to underwrite up to $8 million of Air America Radio's future losses, the scope of the question has expanded, and others are asking it, including Bill O'Reilly at Fox News. In an interview on O'Reilly's TV show (transcript here), Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who specializes in campaign finance law, called AAR's financial maneuvers "money laundering."

Brian also makes an important point for those who thought that AAR would actually compete with the rest of Talk Radio as we currently know it:

Removing any remaining doubt Air America (which has never been willing to comment on our investigations) is a non-commercially-viable charity case, the network will likely need additional infusions to continue operating over the long haul.
So now we have taxpayer-funded, outrageously-salaried public broadcasting AND the wealthy elitist-funded money-sucking Frankenstein Monster that is AAR, both operating without the normal financial constraints private-sector enterprises face, and both of which would fall flat on their bloated carcasses if the non-market-driven funding spigots got turned off.

You might be tempted to say, "Look at the bright side -- Soros et al could probably spend their money more effectively in other ways and accomplish more politicallly, so on balance it's a good thing to watch them flush it down the tubes on the microscopically-rated AAR."

Not so fast. Melanie Morgan at World Net Daily made the point back on February 17 that AAR is openly helping liberal candidates campaign for political office in a way that leverages the rich-libs' money:

Francine Busby is a Democrat candidate to fill the vacant congressional seat that had been held by Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Cunningham was forced to resign after admitting his guilt to a number of corruption and bribery charges.

Yet despite the focus on ethics in the race, Democrat Busby has now appeared on Air America programs several times, including on Al Franken's nationally syndicated show. Busby's campaign events are also promoted on the website of Air America's San Diego radio affiliate.

With Air America's help, Busby has raised approximately $520,000 – more than any other Republican or Democrat candidate for the seat.

So almost $22,000 a day ($8 million in losses spread over a year) is being funneled into AAR by George Soros and the gang to promote candidates they would otherwise be limited to donating some multiple of $2,100 to (of course they can still do that too), while at the same time giving these candidates air time and web site promotion to raise money from others.

From here, this looks like an end-run around campaign finance laws, not that it will mean much to the rest of the media.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.