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'Pay to play'? Clinton deal with Univision has Republicans raising questions

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Jan. 27, 2014: Hillary Clinton speaks in New Orleans, Louisiana. (AP)

A deal between Univision and Hillary Clinton to promote childhood education is raising questions, again, about whether TV networks are effectively giving free airtime to the possible Democratic presidential candidate.

Univision, the country’s No. 1 rated Spanish-language network, officially announced the partnership last month in East Harlem, N.Y. The “multi-year partnership” between the network and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation is part of a similar project titled “Too Small to Fail.” 

The Republican National Committee, which last year raised concerns about separate TV projects involving the Clintons, is questioning the latest arrangement. 

“Unfortunately, Univision’s decision has hurt its credibility among conservatives,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Izzy Santa told FoxNews.com. “It looks like pay to play.” 

The “Pequenos y Valiosos” (Young and Valuable) project will provide research, commentary and information across multiple Univision platforms to encourage Latinos to help their young children build vocabulary and language skills, according to the cable network. 

Though Clinton helped kick off the project, Univision has no plans for her to appear in any future elements of the campaign, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. But the arrangement has raises the argument that the powerful Democrat, who leads in just about every poll of possible 2016 Democratic presidential contenders, is getting free exposure before a key voting bloc. 

President Obama won roughly 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2012 reelection victory over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a situation that prompted the GOP to try to better connect with Hispanic voters.

Though Univision is relatively small in the cable TV industry, it appears to have growing clout. The network co-hosted 2012 candidate forums with Obama and Romney.

And in July 2013, Univision for the first time had a larger audience than its English-language competitors in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic, averaging 1.81 million viewers over the month, according to the Nielsen rating company.

After the February announcement, Univision promptly posted to its website several pictures of Clinton at the New York event but declined to tell Fox News whether she will be seen or heard in the “Pequenos y Valiosos” programming.

This is not the first time Republicans have cried foul over TV programming favoring the former first lady and secretary of State.

Last year, CNN and NBC canceled plans for, respectively, a Clinton miniseries and documentary, amid conservative complaints -- including the RNC vowing to boycott the networks' televised 2016 presidential debates.  

RNC’s Santa argues the deal also brings up several other concerns including Univision co-owner Haim Saban being a wealthy Clinton supporter.

“The Clinton–Univision partnership raises eyebrows, especially since days after the announcement [Saban] said a Hillary presidency is a 'big dream' of his," she said.

In addition, Santa asked how Univision could promote Clinton’s record on education when that record includes supporting candidates who cut charter schools and opposing "scholarships for low-income students in struggling schools -- educational options the Latino community favors.”

Clinton backed the successful 2013 New York City mayoral campaign of fellow Democrat Bill de Blasio, who recently reversed a City Hall decision to give three charter schools space and free rent in public school facilities.