Chris Matthews Accused of Pay for Play for Wife's Congressional Campaign

March 12th, 2016 11:57 AM

It's going to be mighty interesting to watch the next episode of MSNBC's Hardball. Host Chris Matthews has been accused of pay for play with his show's guests to help his wife's campaign. The details were originally reported by The Intercept yesterday and has now gone viral on numerous other websites as well as at the New York Post. Here are some of the accusations leveled by The Intercept but read the site for the full story.

One day last June, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opened his show with some news: His wife, Kathleen Matthews, a former local news anchor and Marriott hotel executive, had announced a run for Congress, seeking to replace Chris Van Hollen in Maryland’s 8th District. Matthews enthusiastically endorsed his wife’s candidacy, and vowed to “offer Kathleen whatever help I can.”

The longtime host of Hardball added: “As a journalist, I also know how important it is to respect certain boundaries on my support for her both in my public role and here on MSNBC. And while most of you know that our show doesn’t typically cover congressional races, I will continue to fully disclose my relationship with her as part of MSNBC’s commitment to being transparent and fair in our coverage.”

In the ensuing months, Kathleen’s name has rarely come up on Hardball. But many of the guests on the show have become generous donors to her campaign. And the transparency Matthews promised has not extended to mentioning that to his audience.

Here are the pay for play details unearthed by The Intercept:

Using Federal Election Commission data and Hardball transcripts, The Intercept has identified 48 frequent guests of Matthews’s program who have made donations to the Kathleen Matthews for Congress campaign. These individuals, their spouses, or their political action committees donated $79,050 as of December 31, 2015 — about 5 percent of the $1.5 million Matthews had raised as of that time.

Some of the guests made the donations after they were on the show — in some cases, long after. But in at least 11 of these cases, the Hardball guests appeared on the program after Kathleen Matthews announced her candidacy, and without any disclosure of the donations. And in at least three of those cases, the donations came within days of the MSNBC appearance.

Names? You want names? Okay, here are some names:

Donors include current Democratic members of Congress like John Larson (who gave $2,000), Claire McCaskill ($1,000), and Ed Markey ($2,000), whom Matthews personally endorsed for the Senate back in 2013. They include ex-legislators like former Reps. Martin Frost ($1,250) and Susan Molinari ($1,000) and former Sens. Tom Daschle ($2,500 from him and his wife), John Breaux ($1,000), William Cohen ($1,600 from him and his firm, the Cohen Group), Kent Conrad ($250), and Evan Bayh ($2,000), all of whom are now corporate lobbyists.

They include veterans of the Obama, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, and Nixon White Houses. They include members of the media, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, advocacy organization leaders, consultants, campaign managers, and one current cabinet official. The list defines a bipartisan coterie of insiders and backslappers, many of whom have a reserved spot in the Hardball rolodex.

Hmmm... How very, very establishment. There are many more names but one standout in terms of timing of donation followed by show appearance is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

Several donations stand out for their timing. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Off the Sidelines PAC, which supports female candidates, donated $10,000 to Matthews on June 20, 2015. On June 22, she appeared on Hardball to talk about sexual assault on college campuses.

And another suspicious donation by a senator followed by a show appearance:

Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her endorsement of Kathleen Matthews on January 11, 2016, and her campaign committee, known as PAC for a Change, contributed $1,000. The next day, Boxer appeared on Hardball to talk about the State of the Union address, one of several recent appearances.

Finally, this could explain why Chris Matthews changed his Iowa primary prediction from a Bernie Sanders win to a Hillary Clinton victory in just over a minute on February 1:

The Washington Post in October noted the number of Matthews campaign contributions from people tied to Bill Clinton’s administration. Campaign adviser Mandy Grunwald ($500), former Chief of Staff Mack McLarty and his wife ($5,400 in all), one-time Commerce Secretary William Daley ($2,700), and ex-Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick ($2,700) are all donors. Aside from Daley, these individuals have also been guests on multiple Hardball shows, and critics have charged that the support from Clinton associates has colored Matthews’s commentary of the Democratic presidential primary.

Exit question: If Chris Matthews is forced off Hardball, will he be replaced by Brian Williams?