Bloomberg News announced that it would continue its tradition of not investigating its owner, Michael Bloomberg, even as he entered the 2020 presidential race. The outlet also claimed it would refrain from investigating the other Democratic candidates. Yet the outlet also announced it would investigate President Donald Trump, Bloomberg’s potential competitor. According to a new Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint from the Media Research Center (MRC), this likely violates the law.
“Bloomberg News is making a mockery of legitimate journalism. They have consciously chosen to abandon their journalistic responsibilities in favor of what is politically convenient,” MRC President Brent Bozell said in a statement. “This is a public declaration that Bloomberg’s newsroom is adopting media bias as an official policy,”
“This is not only categorically unethical, but potentially illegal, which is why we are calling for an investigation,” Bozell added.
Bloomberg first filed to appear as a 2020 candidate on or about November 8, close to the qualifying deadline in the state of Alabama. On or about November 22, he filed papers with the FEC to run for president. The billionaire and former mayor of New York City is also the founder and 89 percent owner of Bloomberg News.
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries,” Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said in a memorandum on November 23. However, he announced the news outlet “will continue to investigate the Trump administration.”
“Bloomberg News’s decision to avoid investigating the Candidate may constitute an improper contribution to the Campaign under FEC regulations and appears to violate FECA regulations, and/or establish Bloomberg News as a political committee required to register and report under FEC regulations, which it has not done,” the MRC complaint alleges.
Under the “media exemption,” any cost in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by a media outlet is not a political contribution “unless the facility is owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate, in which case the costs for a news story: That represents a bona fide news account communicated in a publication of general circulation or on a licensed broadcasting facility; and That is part of a general pattern of campaign-related news accounts that give reasonably equal coverage to all opposing candidates in the circulation or listening area, is not a contribution.”
The FEC complaint alleges that “Bloomberg News’s decision to refrain from investigating the Candidate is a thing of value given by Bloomberg News to the Candidate to influence a federal election.”
The MRC complaint asks the FEC to investigate the news outlet. If the commission agrees with the complaint, MRC asks that the FEC require Bloomberg News to “register and report as required of any political committee.”
The 2020 campaign certainly puts Bloomberg News in a pickle. The candidate has a few options: he can sell the news outlet, he can direct the outlet to cover all candidates equally, or he can admit that the outlet will be biased — in which case, he may have to register Bloomberg News as a political action committee.
Bozell is right to complain about institutionalizing media bias, but Bloomberg News also has few options. If Michael Bloomberg will not divest himself and if he directs the outlet to refrain from investigating him, the company will either have to refrain from covering the Trump administration as a whole or admit it is a political enterprise. Neither option bodes well for Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg News has not responded to PJ Media’s request for comment. This article will be updated with any response.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.