This donation to the Republican Governors Association is notable for its size, but big media companies make political contributions all the time. As POLITICO and others have reported, GE (the parent of NBC and MSNBC), Disney (the parent of ABC), and CBS have all given through their political action committees in recent cycles. One can argue that GE and Disney have given to influence specific policies affecting other parts of their business, or that News Corp. is being particularly partisan and one-sided, but let's be clear - they're all attempts to buy influence, and are all unseemly for the Fourth Estate.
So the controversy over the News Corp. gift is a bit fabricated -- and I think was part of Murdoch's plan to begin with. While he undoubtedly has business interests that he believes would be better served by "free-market" Republican governors, this story brings all sorts of attention to his media empire - and probably plays quite well with a good chunk of his core audience. That $1 million may or may not buy favor from the GOP, but it's undoubtedly netted Murdoch several million dollars' worth of publicity this week.