MSNBC's appearance of a 'pay to play' problem

Face it: credibility has not been much of a consideration at MSNBC, the far-left cable news network majority-owned by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable television provider.  The biggest (but far from sole) problem at MSNBC is Al Sharpton, race agitator, who mixes the roles of activist and news commentator.  But now, thanks to work by National Review’s Jillian Kay Melchior, we know that:

Since Politics Nation [Sharpton’s show] debuted on MSNBC on August 29, 2011, Al Sharpton’s nonprofit National Action Network has collected more than $2.38 million in contributions from unions, according to Department of Labor records. Meanwhile, Sharpton has often used his show to promote pro-labor viewpoints, also inviting union leadership on as guests.

For example:

Lee Saunders sits on the board of National Action Network, and he’s also president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, which has given Sharpton’s nonprofit $541,500 in donations since Politics Nation launched, according to Department of Labor records. Saunders has appeared twice on Politics Nation in the last 16 months.


Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has also appeared twice in the past 16 months. AFT’s headquarters and New York Local 2 have given Sharpton’s nonprofit $445,000 since August 29, 2011, records show.


Service Employees International Union’s president, George Gresham, has also made appearances on Sharpton’s show. The union has given National Action Network $436,133 over the past four years, the Department of Labor reports.

In the past, with his radio show, the Sharpton pay-to-play practice has been in the open:

In 2010, before Sharpton’s show debuted, National Action Network had offered “the opportunity to appear bi-monthly on Reverend Sharpton’s nationally syndicated radio show” in exchange for a donation of $100,000 or more, according to records from the nonprofit reviewed by National Review. A source close to Sharpton notes that “MSNBC’s rules are more stringent than syndicated radio shows” but also adds: “I think Sharpton’s providing a vehicle for pro-labor organizations gives him access to dollars, that’s for sure.”

There is probably nothing illegal here.  MSNBC doesn’t use the public airwaves, for one thing.  But if Sharpton owned stock in or received money for touting a publicly listed company’s prospects on even cable TV, the SEC would come a-calling.

Does MSNBC offer the best political coverage money can buy?