Pressure Persists for a U.S. Probe of Murdoch in Hacking Scandal
By David Stout | July 13, 2011 1:36 pm

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., already under heavy fire in the phone-hacking scandal roiling the United Kingdom, continues to attract the hostile scrutiny of some prominent American politicians, making the prospects of a United States investigation seem less far-fetched than they were just a day or two ago.

“The limited information already reported in this case raises serious questions about the legality of the conduct of News Corp. and its subsidiaries” under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) wrote in a letter on Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Mary Schapiro, the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Further investigation may reveal that current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News  Corp.,” Lautenberg wrote. “Accordingly, I am requesting that DOJ and the SEC examine these circumstances and determine whether U.S. laws have been violated.”

Another prominent Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, also called for a stateside inquiry. “The reported hacking by News Corp. newspapers against a range of individuals — including children — is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics,” Rockefeller said, according to a report in the International Business News, which credited the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph. “This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken US law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated.”

And Elliot Spitzer, former New York governor and attorney general, asserted on Slate that it would be “a major breach of enforcement” if the DOJ did not open “an immediate investigation” into possible violations of the FCPA.

The latest calls for a U.S. investigation of the activities of Murdoch’s empire come only a day after Just Anti-Corruption reported that an FCPA-related investigation, while quite possible from a jurisdictional standpoint, was unlikely for political and practical reasons.

Unlikely or not, a U.S. inquiry cannot be ruled out. Indeed, the odds of a U.S. probe would probably go way, way up if there were any hints of phone hacking on this side of the Atlantic.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told reporters: “It’s hard to imagine that the same things have not been happening in the United States,” International Business News said. “Republicans are very tied to Murdoch but not at the expense of constituencies of Americans such as terror victims and soldiers.”

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch has his hands full in Britain. The furor over the phone-hacking caused him to drop his bid to complete the takeover of Britain’s main satellite-TV broadcaster, British Sky Broadcasting, as The New York Times reported.

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