Keith Olbermann Donations to Arizona Congressional Candidates May Have Violated Ethics Rules

Liberal MSNBC host Keith Olbermann apparently took a few minutes away from ripping off Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow to drop some cash on a couple of Arizona's Democratic Congressional candidates. Only problem is he may have violated NBC's ethics policies in doing so.

Olbermann acknowledged donating money to the campaigns of Representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords, as well as Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, who was running against Senator-elect Rand Paul.

The donations came on the same day Grijalva appeared on his show -- just five days before election day.

Olbermann gave the maximum donation allowed by law, $2,400. In a statement to Politico, he says he decided to contribute to the campaigns "after a discussion with a friend about the state of politics in Arizona."

"I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns, nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level," he said in the statement.

Either way, a 2007 story on the MSNBC Web site clearly says that MSNBC employees are not permitted to donate money to political campaigns without the consent of the president of NBC News, Steve Capus.

"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest," it says. "Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."

Gifford's race against Jesse Kelly is still too close to officially call. But Giffords has a slim lead and results are expected to be made official later today.

Grijalva and the Associated Press have declared Grijalva the victor in that race, beating out Republican candidate Ruth McClung. McClung, however, is yet to concede.

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James King
Contact: James King