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Two Democratic U.S. Senators are pressing for more answers in connection with a News Corp. (NWS, NWSA, NWS.AU) phone-hacking scandal, asking whether an editorial oversight board created following the company's purchase of Dow Jones & Co. raised questions about the executive who was appointed to lead the U.S. company.
The letter, from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), represents a new push by the lawmakers, who have already asked the U.S. Justice Department and regulatory agencies to begin probes. It comes one day after News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and his son testified before Parliament, where Murdoch apologized to victims but said he was not to blame.
In the letter, the lawmakers asked whether the special committee would "conduct a broader investigation that includes an examination of whether current or former senior Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones executives had knowledge of or a role in alleged criminal activity at News Corporation publications?"
The lawmakers also asked about Les Hinton, who stepped down as the chief executive of Dow Jones last week. Hinton's stint at News Corp.'s News International, whose papers included the now-shuttered News of the World, had come under increasing scrutiny amid allegations about reporting tactics at the newspaper.
The lawmakers asked whether the Dow Jones committee investigated "Mr. Hinton's knowledge of alleged criminal activity at News International before or after he was named publisher of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones."
News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. A News Corp. spokesman declined to comment and a Dow Jones spokeswoman declined to comment. Thomas Bray, chairman of the editorial committee, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
In testimony in 2007 and 2009, Hinton told a parliamentary committee that the company had carried out a full investigation into the matter and was convinced just one of the company's journalists was involved. In his resignation letter Friday, Hinton said that "in September 2009, I told the Committee there had never been any evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct had spread beyond one journalist. If others had evidence that wrongdoing went further, I was not told about it."
He also said that "when I left News International in December 2007, I believed that the rotten element at the News of the World had been eliminated; that important lessons had been learned; and that journalistic integrity was restored."
The lawmakers wrote the letter to the committee that was established in 2007 to protect the editorial independence of the news outlets. As part of its agreement to purchase Dow Jones, News Corp. agreed to create a five-member panel to protect Dow Jones's journalism from interference by its new owner.
The committee said in a statement last week that it has had conversations with Dow Jones officials about hacking. It also said that "to date, nothing has come to our attention that causes us to believe" that Hinton's resignation was "any way related to activities at The Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones or that any of the London offenses or anything like them have taken place at Dow Jones. We will continue to monitor the situation closely."
The lawmakers also asked whether any member of the special committee or other senior executives expressed "any concerns regarding the hiring of Mr. Hinton given his role in overseeing News International's News of the World when its employees engaged in criminal phone hacking?"
The lawmakers said that "this information will help give Americans confidence that the illegal activity that appears to have taken place at News Corporation in the United Kingdom did not spread to News Corporation entities in the United States."
-By Siobhan Hughes, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6654; email@example.com