NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd has a wife who’s active in Democratic Party strategic communications, and sometimes donates to Democrats. In 2012, Kristian Denny Todd contributed $2,500 to Sen. Tim Kaine. Todd never felt any need to disclose this during his three recent Kaine interviews on NBC (August 7, September 18, and October 23).
But Maverick Mail & Strategies, the firm Mrs. Todd founded in 2007 with fellow James Webb aides Steve Jarding and Jessica Vanden Berg, did heavy lifting for openly socialist Bernie Sanders for President this year. Open Secrets shows a bill for $1.992 million made in ten payments to Maverick from January to April. Todd has never disclosed this business relationship in 11 Sanders interviews this year. (If the work began in 2015 before the payments, Todd failed to disclose any tie in six Sanders interviews in the second half of 2015). We didn't even count any Todd interviews with Sanders on MSNBC.
This isn’t meant to suggest Todd's interviews have gone soft on Sanders, or at least softer than he was with Hillary Clinton. (Although there was this May 29 Meet the Press introduction: “This morning, my interview with the only candidate still viewed favorably by the voters, Bernie Sanders.”) It simply means there’s a significant conflict of interest that Todd and NBC News have never found necessary to mention. Transparency isn't really in their interests here.
NBC and Todd would not go on the record in response to my requests about this information on the public record.
Nevertheless, Todd on Sunday mocked the idea that political reporters were too close to the Democrats, despite the report that WikiLeaks included the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Todd hosted a dinner party in 2015 honoring Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri.
Todd has made disclosures on other Maverick matters. On October 5, 2014, Todd interviewed former Sen. Jim Webb as a potential presidential candidate. He said Webb was "a successful author and screenwriter and has written eight books over the years. And I do want to mention that my wife helped Jim Webb in his 2006 Senate campaign." Months later, Mrs. Todd was traveling with the short-lived 2016 presidential candidate as an aide.
On January 4, 2015, The Washington Post reported an interview Todd did that included Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of the nation’s capital:
Early on in the seven-minute Meet the Press interview that followed, Todd paused to note that his wife, Kristian Denny Todd, worked for Bowser's campaign.
"Full disclosure, my wife worked as a paid adviser to Muriel Bowser's mayoral campaign in 2014," Todd said.
Denny Todd's name does not appear separately on Bowser's campaign finance reports, but Maverick Strategies and Mail LLC, a firm she founded and where she was formerly a principal, was paid more than $634,000 last year by Bowser's campaign.
Other Sunday-show participants have made disclosures over the years. George Will has disclosed on air at ABC (and later at Fox) his wife Mari Maseng’s work with Michelle Bachmann in 2011 and Scott Walker in 2015. On Fox, Nina Easton mentioned in the last two election cycles that her husband Russ Schriefer worked for McCain and Mitt Romney.
How would liberals feel if Fox News insisted its pundits refuse to disclose their spouse's professional ties to a presidential candidate? NBC News bosses should have made Todd disclose this business relationship and let someone else do Sanders interviews. They knew it would look bad if their newly minted Meet the Press moderator -- covering his first presidential campaign in that powerful chair -- had to step back from interviewing Sanders or Kaine.
Instead, NBC looks like they'd rather just hide these lucrative family ties to Democratic campaigns. They obviously hoped no one would dig this up. But we did.