Rupert Murdoch, Exercising Democracy

A demonstrator dressed as Rupert Murdoch protests outside the High Court in central London. /REUTERS

He said he did nothing wrong.

That was the testimony of Rupert Murdoch before the Levenson Inquiry, which is investigating the UK phone hacking scandal and media ethics.  He denied exerting undue influence on British politics or any illegal behavior.

Displaying a combative tone that was missing in his earlier testimony before Parliament, Murdoch said he never asked for, never got nor expected, any favors from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in a presentation that was also a walk through recent British history and politics.

As for meeting the current Prime Minister David Cameron on his family yacht, Murdoch dismissed that as “part of the democratic process.”   The scandal that has engulfed Murdoch’s British operations began last July and has centered on the nexus of political power, his media empire and tabloid tactics.

In all, the 81-year old Murdoch tried to downplay his role in British politics over the last decades.  He may have dined and attended meetings with the powerful and the elite. Still, Mr. Murdoch maintained, “I don’t know many politicians.”

His testimony came on the same day that a British official, Adam Smith, announced his resignation for the role he played in a covert effort to win approval for Murdoch’s efforts to expand his holdings of BSkyB television network and take it over.  That $12 billion bid collapsed in the midst of the hacking scandal.

Sweep to Rupert Murdoch denies corruption

Cash changed hands and cocaine and other drugs passed through airport security, according to a 22 count indictment unsealed in Los Angeles.  Two former and two current Transportation Security Administration employees were arrested on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges for accepting cash and allowing the drugs to pass through airport screeners.

The incidents took place over a six-month period and the screeners took payment of up to $2,400 from drug couriers, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte  said the defendants “placed greed above the nation’s security needs.”   The charges grew out of a federal sting operation, which had allowed the drugs to pass without inspection.  The four TSA employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison, if convicted.

This is not the first incident involving TSA screeners.  Two others have pleaded guilty in unrelated incidents involving drugs trafficking.

Sweep to TSA screeners charged in corruption probe

The Los Angeles County assessor spends his times looking at other people’s houses.  Now, the spotlight is on his own.

As part of a probe into possible influence-peddling in the assessor’s office, investigators this week searched a dozen locations, including the home and office of John Noguez, the county’s tax assessor.  According to the Associated Press, prosecutors are looking at more than 100 properties to see if their assessed values were improperly reduced after Noguez was elected.  Noguez has denied any wrongdoing.

A former county appraiser has said he had reduced the value of high-priced homes in West Los Angeles by tens of millions of dollars, hoping that the homeowners would vote for Noguez.  The appraiser resigned after it was found he lowered appraisals on 151 properties without authorization.

Sweep to DA searches home of LA County assessor 

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne, former senior editor at 100Reporters, is an award-winning business reporter, formerly at The New York Times. Ms. Wayne joined The Times in 1981 and has covered Wall Street, banking industry regulatory reform, municipal finance scandals and, most recently, the aerospace and military industries. Ms. Wayne has an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia Business School and was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economic Journalism.