House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised concerns over a proposed business merger on the heels of her campaign and two Pelosi-affiliated political action committees raking in hundreds of thousands in donations from a businessman who wants the deal quashed, records show.
Pelosi’s campaign, as well as her leadership PAC and joint fundraising committee, took over $271,000 combined between October and December 2021 from Byron Allen, the owner of several cable TV networks who is aiming to buy the broadcasting company Tegna, which is selling its 64 local TV stations. Allen raised $10 million for his Tegna bid to compete with the investment firms Apollo Global Management and Standard General, Reuters reported in November 2021.
Standard General cut a $5.6 billion deal with Tegna in February to purchase the company. But earlier this month, on Oct. 6, Pelosi and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) raised “serious concerns” that the deal could restrict “local news coverage,” cut jobs, and raise consumer prices in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission — the agency that must approve the merger.
“As you have noted in the context of previous mergers, the FCC has ‘long-standing duties to ensure that the use of our airwaves is consistent with the values of localism, competition, and diversity,'” wrote Pelosi and Pallone in the letter. “Localism is a core tenet of broadcast journalism that serves the public interest — but we fear the proposed transaction could jeopardize that important goal.”
“The proposed new owners previously told investors they believe TEGNA’s local stations have too many employees, a potential signal of their intent to lay off local journalists,” the lawmakers wrote.
One ethics watchdog group told the Washington Examiner the situation seems suspicious.
“Although there may not be anything illegal that occurred, the facts and the timeline certainly smell bad to an outside observer,” said Pete McGinnis, a spokesman for the Functional Government Initiative.
A source close to Allen Media Group, which is Allen’s Los Angeles-based company, told the New York Post the mogul “was going to cut 30% of expenses if he bought Tegna and that meant job losses.”
However, Allen denied the allegation to the outlet, calling it “not true.” The businessman also told the outlet his “donations to numerous Democratic politicians and PACs have nothing to do with Tegna and everything to do with protecting our democracy.”
Between 2018 and 2021, Allen gave almost $276,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, filings show. His largest donation to date has been $250,000 to the presidential campaign for Joe Biden in 2020, according to a filing.
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for the left-leaning think tank Public Citizen, told the New York Post that if Pelosi is “helping out” her donor, “it doesn’t look good, quite frankly.”
“When it comes to campaign finance, this is often how it works,” he said. “A donor gives money with the expectation of some return.”
Pelosi’s office did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.
Allen Media Group did not respond, nor did Tegna or the FCC.