Nothing Personal About CBS’s Affinity for the G.O.P.

Ira Forman set off a furor in the blogosphere this week when he reported that CBS‘s pick for senior VP of communications, Jeff Ballabon, had once suggested “that Democrats are inherently bad people.” (Forman–who is the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council–maintains that this is what Ballabon had stated during a debate between Republican and Democratic Jews in New York ten years ago, while Ballabon has denied the charge.)

Yet for the billionaire who owns the controlling shares of CBS, the question of whether or not the Democrats are “bad people” was ruled a moot point years ago. During the ’04 election campaign, Sumner Redstone, who was at the time the CEO of CBS‘s then-parent company Viacom, expressly stated that while “the Democrats are not bad people,” he backed the Republicans–simply because he perceived the G.O.P. to be good for business.

As FAIR has noted, Redstone stated at a gathering of corporate leaders in Hong Kong in 2004 (Asian Wall Street Journal, 9/24/04):

I don’t want to denigrate Kerry… but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on. The Democrats are not bad people…. But from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company.

Redstone repeated these sentiments in an interview with Time (10/4/04):

There has been comment upon my contribution to Democrats like Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry is a good man. I’ve known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.

As it turned out, CBS‘s fortunes were not looking too hot by the end of eight years of G.O.P rule. Yet CBS‘s backing of Republicans carried on through the 2006 election, during which 57 percent of its political action committee financing went toward Republican federal candidates (43 percent went to Democrats), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the last election, CBS appears to have anticipated the declining fortunes that Redstone’s favorite party was to suffer at the polls; in a near reversal from the previous election, 58 percent of CBS‘s PAC funds went to Democratic federal candidates and 42 percent went to Republicans.