Published December 24, 2012
The co-founder of broadcasting giant DISH Network was accused in a federal complaint last week of intimidating company executives into making political donations that largely went to Democratic causes.
The Federal Election Commission complaint, filed by conservative advocacy group Cause of Action, claimed an unnamed "insider" had come forward to report DISH executives "being compelled to make political campaign contributions."
The allegations center around co-founder and Board Chairman Charles Ergen. According to the complaint, the insider claimed Ergen "forced" Chief Operating Officer Bernard Han "to donate to a Democratic candidate and/or party in 2009/2010." The complaint went on to claim that, according to the source, Han was "encouraged" to attend Democratic functions and fundraisers.
Further, the filing said "Ergen allegedly made similar statements" to other executives.
"The insider explained that Ergen insinuated to Han that 'you still have your job,' but would suffer consequences if he failed to follow Ergen's orders," the complaint said.
A representative with DISH Network denied the claims. "The allegations in the complaint are untrue and completely unfounded," a spokesman said in an email to FoxNews.com.
The complaint said that Han contributed to the company's DISH Network PAC with a bi-weekly payroll deduction of $192.30 from 2009 to 2012. "In fact, the filings indicate that all of DISH's upper-management made similar payroll deductions" to the PAC, the filing stated.
Cause of Action's complaint went on to detail how contributions from that PAC often coincided with individual contributions from some of the DISH executives -- for instance, a $5,000 PAC donation to the campaign of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in August 2011, and a $2,500 donation from Han the same day; or contributions from two DISH executives to the campaign of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., in September 2010, followed by a $5,000 PAC contribution the following May.
The complaint said: "The close proximity in time between the donations, taken in conjunction with the anonymous source's allegation of compelled contributions, suggests a scenario in which DISH Network PAC either exceeds the contribution limit or meets it and then aggressively solicits further maximum donations from executives."
It's unclear to what extent these donations were partisan. Though the complaint detailed mostly donations to Democrats and Democrat-aligned causes, DISH Network PAC itself has donated to both parties. Ergen, too, has given thousands to both Democratic and Republican groups, according to federal records -- including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Cause of Action, though, argued that if the source's allegations are true, they would constitute a "direct and serious" violation of federal law barring corporate PACs from compelling donations by threatening job security.