Tolbert: Is Huckabee Using His Fox News Show To Appeal To Donors?

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 81 views 

In case you missed my story a couple weeks ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is showing some major signs of gearing up for a potential run for President in 2016.

The primary indicator is a rebranding and refocus on his 501(c)(4) organization “America Takes Action.” According to The Washington Post, Huckabee is staffing up this group with some of his political inner circle – his daughter and chief political consultant Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his former campaign manager Chip Saltsman, his top media strategist Bob Wickers, and his former communications director Alice Stewart.

But this activity is raising some red flags for Fox News executives who claim that they do not keep Presidential candidates on their payroll. When they cross the line to being candidates is somewhat of a gray area.

“We are taking a serious look at Governor Huckabee’s recent activity in the political arena,” Bill Shine, executive vice president for programming at Fox, told The Washington Post. He said the network is “evaluating his current status. We plan on meeting with him when he returns from his trip overseas.”

At that time, Huckabee was leading a group of pastors from the early primary states on Huckabee’s European Vacation touring sites that highlighted political figures such as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. But he is now back. No word from Fox yet if that meeting has occurred.

He was back on the air with his “Huckabee” show on Saturday. You might think that in light of the controversy over the conflict of interest between his show and his possible Presidential run, he would be careful on this front. However, if you think this, you don’t know Huckabee very well.

Rather than back off, Huckabee made a not-so-subtle appeal to potential major financiers of his Presidential run. Here’s how it went.

Huckabee had former Democratic Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln as a guest on his show discussing the dangers of internet gambling. The two discussed how dangerous the new internet gambling was and how it is targeting children who are running up gambling debts on their parents’ credit cards. Lincoln then begins to sing the praises of the traditional casinos and how much better they are than internet gambling.

“The fact is when you look at gaming as we have seen it traditionally it is really built around entertainment. You have full time regulations – probably the most regulated of all the brick and mortar. But they also have oversight; they have law enforcement there; they actually have psychiatrists there as well.  When they see someone who they know is getting over their head, they may have had too much to drink, then they have the ability to come in and actually get that individual pointed in the right direction which may be out the door for the time being. And not to mention the jobs that we talk about – from the restaurants from the shopping to the shows and all the other things that are really combined with brick and mortar gambling,” said Lincoln.

To sum it up – YEAH! Casinos are awesome!

If you have not kept up with our former U.S. Senator since she lost her re-election to Sen. John Boozman in 2010, she has become one of the top lobbyists in Washington. And one of her top clients is now casino billionaire tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has hired her to lead his campaign against internet gambling. Obviously, internet gambling is competition for his ability to make millions.

Huckabee is certain to win favor with Adelson by having Lincoln on his show with a major profile on his campaign.

But how does this play into Presidential politics? Adelson is not only a casino tycoon, but he is a major funder of Republican Presidential primary candidates. He has shown he is willing to write big checks to candidates who share his views and candidates are scrambling to get in his good favor so they can be his latest beneficiary. Last cycle, he doled out $93 million for primary candidates such as Newt Gingrich.

Adelson would be a major target of fundraising for Huckabee’s 501(c)(4) which would allow Adelson to quietly funnel millions to help his non-profit organization, plenty of funds to cover the payroll of Huckabee’s top staff while they lay the groundwork for his Presidential campaign.

It is not hard to connect these dots. The question remains what will Fox News do. They recently cut ties with Dr. Ben Carson when he dipped his toes too far into the Presidential waters. But until Huckabee is told by the Fox News executives to fish or cut bait, it appears he will continue to use his weekly show to appeal to both donors and voters.

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