BY DAVE LEVINTHAL – Alec Baldwin: movie star, storied stage actor, leading man on “30 Rock.”
But this week, rumors abounded that Baldwin might leap into television news commentary as the replacement for recently dethroned MSNBC “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann, who the network had previously suspended for donating money to political candidates.
Regardless of what Baldwin’s future brings, his past and present is marked by notably high and sustained levels of political giving, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of federal campaign finance data.
Since the 1992 election cycle, Baldwin has contributed nearly $152,000 to federal-level political candidates or committees, and it almost exclusively benefited Democrats or Democratic interests, the Center’s research indicates. (This sum also includes contributions made during the mid-1990s by his then-wife, actress Kim Basinger.)
In all, Baldwin has donated $500 or more to 30 different federal-level candidates — only former Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, a Republican-turned-independent, wasn’t a Democrat. Baldwin has been most generous to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), having contributed $10,000 to him over the years.
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), presidential candidate and ex-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) have also each received more than $5,000 from Baldwin during their careers.
Such ties certainly wouldn’t hurt if Baldwin ever sought federal office.
As for the MSNBC gig, if Baldwin was to take it, it’s likely he’d avoid the kind of campaign finance-related suspension Olbermann faced. NBC News says its policy of employees obtaining approval prior to making political donations does not apply to donations made before the employee was actually employed. (Got that?)
In summary: Since Olbermann made political donations without permission while hosting “Countdown,” he got in trouble. (In a similar matter, so did MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough.) Baldwin, as an NBC news program host, wouldn’t be allowed to continue his donating ways without first asking his bosses for their OK.
Download the Center’s full history of Baldwin’s political contributions here: baldwindonations.xls
Center for Responsive Politics Senior Researcher Doug Weber contributed to this report. See more at Opensecrets.org