National media outlets call out WDIO & KSTP for "political activism"

By KBJR News 1

August 7, 2014 Updated Aug 7, 2014 at 12:20 AM CST

DULUTH, Minn. (NNCNOW.com) --- National media outlets are criticizing two Minnesota television stations for removing an anti–Republican ad from its stations' airwaves.

The television advertisement was prepared and paid for by the Democratic leaning House Majority PAC and AFSCME.

"Stewart Mills inherited his millions and got a family job paying $560,000 a year," the ad says.

Democratic leaning groups say the conservative political leanings of Hubbard Broadcasting executives were a defining factor on why the anti-Republican ad was recently taken down.

In a letter to television stations in the region, Republican Congressional candidate, Stewart Mills, claimed the ad was misleading and demanded television stations pull the ad from station airwaves.

After Mills' letter of concern, WDIO in Duluth and KSTP in the Twin Cities pulled the advertisement from station airwaves.

MSNBC.com and the National Journal are taking aim at Hubbard Broadcasting Chairman, Stanley S. Hubbard, who oversees operations at the two stations.

"So the government can’t police campaign ads but apparently, it’s ok for this one guy who is a clear partisan political activist to act as his own personal Ministry of Truth when ads don’t look so good for one of his candidates," said Krystal Ball, the host for Krystal Clear at MSNBC.com.

It is true that Mr. Hubbard is a major financial backer of Republican causes, including Mills' campaign for Congress.

Mr. Hubbard has donated some of his personal funds to Democratic candidates in the past, but according to a Star Tribune analysis, Mr. Hubbard has only given money to Republican causes and candidates in the 2014 election cycle.

According to the analysis, Mr. Hubbard is the second highest Republican donor in Minnesota this election cycle, having donated more than $320,000 to Republican candidates and causes

According to FEC reports, Hubbard Broadcasting executives and their family members have given $14,000 to the Mills' campaign for Congress.

"The fact that Stanley Hubbard and his New York City billionaires are pulling the ad, I don't think is any coincidence," Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) said Tuesday. "They are trying to do whatever they can to get their friend, super millionaire Stewart Mills, elected to the Congress."

Democratic leaning groups like Take Action Minnesota claim Mr. Hubbard's conservative leanings have played a role in removing anti-Republican television advertisements from his owned and operated television stations..

"This actually isn't about Stewart Mills or Rick Nolan," said Dan McGrath, Executive Director of Take Action Minnesota. "What this is about is a billionaire who is using his influence to limit political dialogue and free speech in this election season."

"It's a difficult place to be in and if they are going to make those decisions, if they are going to fact check those ads and make choices about what gets aired, they need to be transparent," Geoffrey Sheagley said.

Sheagley, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said viewers should have the option to view such political advertisements, but adds that "misleading" television ads have increased dramatically in recent years.

WDIO General Manager, George Couture, said the station found the attack ad against Mills, "misleading." Couture did not comment specifically on what part of the ad the station deemed misleading.

Couture said WDIO would consider airing the ad again if content changes are made by the advertisement's producers.

Nick Minock
nminock@kbjr.com