The dual roles of Hannity and Lewandowski might make media ethicists squeamish, but it is unlikely that the FEC would investigate — never mind penalize — them and their networks, according to Daniel A. Petalas, the agency’s acting general counsel from August 2015 until this month, when he joined the Washington office of Garvey Schubert Barer.
“Hannity is entitled to volunteer and provide input,” Petalas said. “And furthermore, given that he is a pundit, the access he gets by being involved in these discussions with the Trump campaign presumably benefits his legitimate press function as a pundit. I think there’s a very good argument that by doing this [advising], he is participating in his press function.”
Petalas noted the FEC cannot investigate a media company for an alleged campaign finance violation without first finding reason to believe that the press exemption does not apply. A case from 2000 — when The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC and CBS were accused of making in-kind contributions to George W. Bush — explains why: