Why is CNN Not Disclosing Its Parent Company AT&T Gave $51,000 to Kamala Harris’ Campaign?

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A combination of AT&T’s employees, corporate PAC, owners, and family members donated $50,806 dollars to Senator Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign thus far in 2019


Presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris has promised to run a campaign “for the people,” and it seems like she has the backing of at least one group of people—the employees and corporate PAC of CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia/AT&T.

After employees of CNN’s former parent company, Time Warner, poured $127,175 into then-Senate candidate Harris’ campaign, a combination of employees, the corporate PAC, owners, and family members of AT&T/WarnerMedia/CNN donated $50,806 to Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign in the first three months of 2019.

With both CNN’s former and current parent companies donating significant sums to Harris’ campaigns—first for Senate and now for president—a pattern of support for Harris from the companies signing Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer’s checks has clearly developed.

In the past, Harris supporters have argued that it’s not CNN’s parent companies themselves donating to Harris—it’s employees working for them. This is true, but also lacking important caveat. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the individual donations coming from employees of Time Warner (to Harris’ Senate campaign) and AT&T (to Harris’ presidential campaign) are for $200 or more. This indicates the money being donated to Harris from these employees came from higher-level employees at the companies rather than mid to lower-level worker bees.

In the case of CNN’s current parent company AT&T’s donation of nearly $51,000 to Harris’ presidential campaign, the money came from more than just employees: according to the Center for Responsive Politics, “the money came from the organizations’ PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals’ immediate families…Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.”

The donations from AT&T came during the same time CNN hosted a town hall for Harris 24 hours after her presidential kickoff rally. The town hall was mutually beneficial and lacking in tough questions from anchor Jake Tapper and voters in the audience. This softness is exemplified by one audience member—almost assuredly screened by CNN producers beforehand—whose question went viral. The questioner asked Harris if she could give him advice on how to respond to a man trying to “mansplain” to him about how a man would make a better nominee than a woman.

This financial relationship begs the question—why doesn’t CNN disclose on-air and in print that its parent company’s employees and corporate PAC combined to rank as the number two donor to Harris’ 2020 campaign thus far? One could argue that, since the donations are a conglomeration of employees, owners, individuals, and PACs, that it doesn’t ‘count’ as a corporate donation for the benefit of AT&T or CNN. With that in mind, it might then be expected for there to be a near-equal distribution of AT&T-related donations across the board to 2020 candidates. But there isn’t: New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker comes in a distant second, with AT&T Inc being his 14th-ranked donor.

Senator Harris’ advantageous relationship with WarnerMedia, AT&T—and therefore CNN— gives the appearance of both beneficial news coverage and more news coverage than other candidates. From CNN positively framing her policies, statements, actions, and political flip-flops, to ignoring her record as a prosecutor, D.A., and Attorney General of California, to its reporters literally going shopping with Harris, the perceived bias rings serious alarm bells.

Despite Harris benefiting thus far from AT&T’s donations, she recently came out against some of AT&T’s actions by sending a letter to the telecommunications giant demanding to know why 368 union technicians in California were laid off. The Senator also pointed out that AT&T has laid off 20,000+ workers since the passage of the GOP tax law. However, her criticisms seem to stop where her campaign coffers begin.

At what point does it become incumbent upon a news organization to disclose financial relationships in its reporting, like the one it has with Kamala Harris? CNN is wrangling a large field of Democratic candidates in their coverage, and there’s no sign of them being willing to disclose political contributions of this nature to Harris, and it’s rather easy to hide under the broad umbrella of AT&T.

Status Coup did not receive a response from CNN on why its anchors and reporters have not disclosed the financial donations from its parent company to Senator Harris.

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