Roger Ailes doesn't have any trouble getting face time with the nation's top conservative lawmakers because, conveniently, they're showing up in droves at his second floor office in the Fox News headquarters. As Politico's Jake Sherman and Manu Raju report, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. John McCain and, yes, Mitt Romney are just a few of the Republican leaders who have paid Ailes a behind-closed-doors visit in recent weeks. It's unclear what goes on in these meetings, but one of Ailes' followers, freshman Rep. Allen West insisted that he and the aging news executive were "not conspiring." West also said, curiously, "I’m kind of like a new shiny toy he could play with for a little while. … And that was it, and he could throw me back in the corner.”
A spokesperson for Fox News told Politico that there's nothing behind these meetings: “Roger meets with celebrities, business leaders, newsmakers and political leaders at their request, and he meets with as many Democrats as he does Republicans... Incidentally, if Roger had any influence on the Republican Party, they might be doing better than they are.”
Nice spin, but it's debatable. In a profile of Ailes in New York Magazine last year, Gabriel Sherman showed how the Fox News head has created a "circus" atmosphere at Fox News, where the featured performers are attention-grabbing non-candidates like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin who would be mere sideshow acts at any other network. Does Ailes make Fox and its News, Corp. parent company a ton of money every year? You betcha. But has Ailes actually gotten any of his favorite talking heads elected to office? Not so much.
Rather than propping up the best and brightest of the Republican party, it's becoming increasingly clear that Ailes's role is to add color and flair. Why actual lawmakers continue to flock to his office is unclear. Maybe they're hoping to line up gigs after their terms end. Or maybe Ailes just has really good coffee.