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Report posits that Chris Matthews has accepted hefty speaking fees from conservative groups

John Byrne
Published: March 9, 2006

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A new report advanced to RAW STORY Thursday suggests that Chris Matthews, the star of the MSNBC's daily talk show Hardball, has accepted hefty speaking fees from an array of conservative trade associations.

Matthews has given speeches to at least ten major conservative trade associations since 2001. The report's author, Dave Johnson, who blogs at Seeing The Forest and is also a fellow at the progressive Commonweal Institute, could find no records indicating that Matthews has spoken before any Democratic-leaning organizations. The report is not a product of the Commonweal Institute.

"Why is Matthews speaking at so many events with Republican-associated trade organizations?" Johnson asks. "What is NBC policy on speaking engagements and why does NBC keep it hidden? Are these trade associations paying Matthews to purchase influence?"

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Matthews is listed at a speaking bureau known to command hefty fees. While it can't be proven whether Matthews has taken money from the groups, speaking fees are a regular practice for large trade organizations who invite big-name media stars to speak to their memberships. Such fees typically run in the five-figure range, and occasionally exceed $50,000 per engagement.

Among the groups included: the International Franchise Association; the National Association of Chain Drug Stores; the National Association of Convenience Stores; the American Hospital Association; the Consumer Healthcare Products Association; the National Venture Capitalists Association; the Mortgage Bankers Association; the Credit Union National Association; the American Society of Association Executives; and the International Health and Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

The report, available here, notes that these associations have given heavily to conservative candidates for public office.

Matthews also spoke at the 2002 Conservative Political Action Committee Conference, the 2003 Building Contractors Association, and the 2005 Log Cabin Republicans' National Convention.

The MSNBC icon has remained largely immune to liberal attacks because of his record of employment by Democratic politicians. According to the report, Matthews was a presidential speechwriter for Jimmy Carter and served as a top aide to the onetime Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill.

Howard Kurtz reported in 2002 that NBC had banned the practice of journalists accepting speaking fees but the report's author suggests otherwise.

A call placed to Matthew's publicist was not immediately returned. An NBC spokesperson could not confirm to RAW STORY whether the network had banned the acceptance of speaking fees. It seems unlikely that Matthews would have spoken to so many groups pro bono. Matthews is also listed at a second speakers bureau here.

Johnson says he made numerous calls to NBC inquiring about their speaking fee policy. He says his calls were not returned.

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