April 18, 2010

Many of you here and on Twitter asked about who might be funding a large-scale venture such as RightNetwork. Given the enormous costs to fund production and broadcast of a network startup -- especially in the early days -- some fairly hefty money has to be underneath it. So I started digging. Before I share the results of the dig, there is one caveat: It is likely that I won't actually ever have the kind of hard evidence (like cancelled checks or disclosure statements) to say with firm and complete confidence that I KNOW the money trail goes this way. However, I can build a compelling circumstantial case linking up a few players who have a past history of trying to influence elections and media. Especially broadcast media.

There are two geographical areas of focus: Philadelphia and Las Vegas. Let's start with Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, Ed Snider, and Comcast Comcast-Specticor

Shoq pointed me to the domain registration for RightNetwork.com. Here it is:

Jonathan Weingarten

3601 South Broad Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148

United States


Looking at the Google Map for that address points us straight to the Wachovia Center, home to the Philadelphia 76ers, Comcast-Spectacor, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Wings. Here's a photo, just to give some clarity on my degree of certainty about relationships:

Screen shot 2010-04-17 at 4_0278c.07.10 PM.png

Of course, as further evidence, there is Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider extolling the virtues of having a network serving "the majority" in RightNetworks' sales materials.

A search of YouTube for RightNetwork yields the name of the face to be associated with the network: David Jaget, Las Vegas chiropractor. I'll get to him next.

A closer look at Ed Snider first. Here are some fast facts:

  • In October, 2008 during the end days of the campaign for the general election, he invited Sarah Palin to drop the puck at the Flyers' first season game, offering her a little local boost just before the election in a hotly contested state.
  • Snider's 2010 cycle political contributions add up to $24,800 and include support for Eric Cantor, Arlen Specter (before Specter made the switch to the Democratic Party), the NRCC and NRSC.
  • Snider gives speeches extolling the principles of Ayn Rand and is reportedly a major donor to an institution established to teach Objectivist principles.
  • Snider, along with several other major players, funded Freedom's Watch. Freedom's Watch was the 501(c)(4) group created to sing the praises of the Iraq war, run ads against candidates who opposed the war, and generally support the Cheney-Bush administration.
  • Before Snider loved Palin, he loved Rudy-911 Guiliani, donating the maximum to his failed 2008 campaign bid.

Ed Snider's politics are pretty clear. When taken in concert with the registered address for the domain, his remarks published in RightNetwork's little "lookbook", and his tendency to put his money where his politics and philosophy are, I think we can safely assume Comcast Comcast-Specticor and Snider are major partners, but I don't believe they're the only partners.

When Las Vegas chiropractor turned "channel founder" David Jaget emerges, it leads the trail westward, toward old allies and new projects.

Las Vegas: A closer look at Ed Snider, Freedom's Watch and Sheldon Adelson

Until Freedom's Watch closed down in December, 2008 it was primarily funded by Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Sands Hotel and a high-value Las Vegas conservative mover and shaker. Ari Fleischer was the Freedom's Watch spokesman, and it had the backing of others associated with the Republican Jewish Coalition.

A read of the articles surrounding Adelson make it sound like the rapid drop in Sands' stock was the driving reason behind the Freedom's Watch shuttering. In fact, Adelson was giving as fast as he could, but he'd found a new love in Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future. In the 2007-2008 cycle, Adelson donated $5 million dollars to this organization, scoring the "top donor" designation for that cycle.

Another big 2008 donor to Gingrich's organization? John M. Templeton, Jr, a Bryn Mawr, PA resident, Republican, and contemporary of Ed Snider.

The Giuliani Connection

I'd be remiss if I didn't note Rudy Giuliani's connection in all of this. He may be a passive actor, but he's a common thread. Kelsey Grammer is featured in one of their "official" launch videos. Kelsey is an ardent Rudy supporter. Ed Snider was another ardent Rudy supporter before he found Sarah Palin. Sheldon Adelson donated the use of his private jet to Giuliani during the primary season in 2007. And last, but certainly not least, Newt Gingrich thinks Rudy would make a darn good New York State Governor. I'd call that a meeting of right-minded minds.

Things Newt Gingrich Does

Newt Gingrich has lots of interests. In fact, he has as many interests as there are donors. In addition to American Solutions for Winning the Future, there is GingrichProductions.com. And guess who Gingrich Productions teams up with to make videos like "Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny" and "Nine Days that Changed the World"? That's right. Citizens United Productions.

Now I think a pretty strong case can be made that Citizens United, Ed Snider, Sheldon Adelson and Gingrich Productions along with other Gingrich groups are the major funders behind RightNetwork, but again, my case is circumstantial. Feel free to add to it, put more substance behind the trail, give suggestions for other dark corners to peek in, or anything else you might come up with.

Note: This post was updated to reflect Comcast's denial of any funding or partnership with RightNetwork

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