Several hours after former Washington, D.C., television news anchor and Marriott Corp. executive Kathleen Matthews formally jumped into the Democratic primary race for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland, her husband, Chris Matthews, opened his MSNBC program Hardball Wednesday night with an enthusiastic endorsement of her candidacy.
Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor and one of Kathleen Matthews’s leading opponents in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the Washington suburbs, immediately raised questions about the appearance and propriety of Chris’s use of his MSNBC program to talk up his wife.
“Under Citizens United, large corporations—including media corporations—can promote political candidates as much as they want,” said Raskin, who for the last decade has served in the Maryland legislature working on a wide variety of issues and helping to enact around 100 laws.
His invocation of the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision was a not-too-veiled reference to Chris’s media platform on MSNBC and its parent company Comcast, which spends millions of dollars on lobbying office holders on the national, state and local level to influence legislation and regulatory policy, and donates large sums every election cycle to influence outcomes in specific campaigns.
“I have devoted all of my political and intellectual career to challenging the reign of big money in our politics,” Raskin continued, “and I’m going to continue to do that.”
At the top of Hardball, Chris Matthews told viewers: “I am proud that my wife Kathleen has declared her candidacy for the U.S. Congress today in the 8th District of Maryland.
“As her husband, I will of course support her in this campaign, as I do in every aspect of our lives. In our years together, I’ve always had the strongest belief in her judgment and values.”
Making no secret of his intention to be involved, Matthews went on: “I will offer Kathleen whatever help I can, including giving her any advice that might be useful.
“As a journalist, I also know how important it is to respect certain boundaries in my support for her both in my public role and here on MNSBC. And while most of you know that our show doesn’t typically cover congressional races, I will continue to fully disclose my relationship with her as part of MSNBC’s commitment to being transparent and fair in our coverage.”
In his minute-long statement—during which photos flashed on screen of the happy couple in various poses and stages of life—the 69-year-old Matthews ended with this tribute: “I love Kathleen and I’m so proud of her, and enthusiastically support her answering the call to public service.”
Under campaign finance law as it exists under Citizens United, Marriott Corp. could donate unlimited funds to an independent PAC in support of Kathleen Matthews.
Matthews herself could theoretically collect $2,700 individual donations from her former colleagues among its executives—she resigned last week—while she and her husband could also pour their own money without restriction into what is likely to be a very expensive campaign.
Given the Matthews’s celebrity status and high profile in the congressional district, where they live in the posh bedroom community of Chevy Chase, Raskin suggested that MSNBC should consider affording him and the three other declared Democratic primary candidates equal time—possibly on Hardball.
“It would be a positive and inclusive gesture if MSNBC offered the spouses and significant others of all the other candidates in the 8th Congressional District the same opportunity to endorse their spouses and significant others.”
Raskin’s spouse, like Kathleen Matthews’s, is an influential player in Washington and the world of government and politics.
Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former member of the Federal Reserve’s powerful board of governors, is deputy secretary of the Treasury—the highest-ranking woman in the department’s history.
Asked how he feels about running against Chris Matthews’s wife, Raskin shot back: “I wonder how Kathleen Matthews feels about running against Sarah Bloom Raskin’s husband.”