[I]t is hard to believe that the misbehavior in Murdoch’s media empire stopped at the water’s edge. Given the frequency with which he shuttled his senior executives and editors across the various oceans—Pacific as well as Atlantic—it is unlikely that the shoddy ethics were limited to Great Britain.
Much more importantly, the facts already pretty well established in Britain indicate violations of American law, in particular a law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Justice Department has been going out of its way to undertake FCPA prosecutions and investigations in recent years, and the News Corp. case presents a pretty simple test for Attorney General Eric Holder: If the department fails to open an immediate investigation into News Corp.’s violations of the FCPA, there will have been a major breach of enforcement at Justice. Having failed to pursue Wall Street with any apparent vigor, this is an opportunity for the Justice Department to show it can flex its muscles at the right moment. While one must always be cautious in seeking government investigation of the media for the obvious First Amendment concerns, this is not actually an investigation of the media, but an investigation of criminal acts undertaken by those masquerading as members of the media.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was written in the 1970s to prevent American corporations from “bribing overseas officials in order to secure business deals, … to bring some baseline of ethics to international business.” Thus, as Spitzer writes:
[A]cts in Britain by British citizens working on behalf of News Corp. create liability for News Corp., an American business incorporated in Delaware[.] … The rampant violations of British law alleged—payments to cops to influence ongoing investigations and the hacking of phones—are sufficient predicates for the Justice Department to investigate. Indeed, the facts as they are emerging are a case study for why the FCPA was enacted.
That “payments to cops” part is troubling, since as Spitzer writes in the start of this column, the “pseudo-investigations conducted by Scotland Yard are likewise proving to be corrupt and unreliable.” That’s the Scotland Yard. Murdoch tars everything he touches.
Interesting test for Holder, don’t you think? Let’s just see what he does. (Think Murdoch will charge “political investigation”? Think that will throw Obama/Holder off the scent? What’s an un-reelected administration to do?)