updated 5/12/2006 7:09:38 PM ET 2006-05-12T23:09:38

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News Channel and other conservative news outlets have been skewering Hillary Rodham Clinton for years, will host a summer fund-raiser for the senator, mystifying some observers and enraging others.

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Especially incensed are liberal activists, who for months have decried what they see as a shift to a right on Clinton’s part as the Democrat contemplates a run for president in 2008. They are stunned that she is associating with a man viewed as a cornerstone of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” a term Clinton herself employed.

“Hillary, help us. Who the hell are you?” thundered Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.

Liberal blogger David Sirota complained: “The brazenness of this move is almost too much to stomach.”

Neither Clinton or Murdoch has had much to say about the fund-raiser since it was first reported this week by The Financial Times.

“I think this is about New York. It’s about the kind of job that I’m doing as a senator from New York,” Clinton said Friday.

Murdoch, for his part, dismissed the event as “no big deal.”

“We think that she has been effective on state issues and local issues here in New York,” Murdoch said on a News Corp. earnings call.

The Clinton-Murdoch alliance is not entirely new. The two have been moving toward a détente since 2000, when she won her Senate seat after a campaign that included a series of not-so-flattering Clinton headlines in another Murdoch property, the New York Post.

Murdoch has also developed a relationship with former President Clinton, a prime target of criticism from Fox and the New York Post during his presidency. Murdoch participated in a conference of the Clinton Global Initiative last fall, and the former president is scheduled to address a gathering of News Corp. executives in California later this year.

A business move?
Murdoch, whose $60 billion empire is a major presence in New York, is more shrewd businessman than ideologue, and friendly relations with a powerful New York senator are in his best interest. Murdoch also organized a fund-raiser for New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, during his re-election campaign in 2004.

But Clinton’s motive for accepting a Murdoch-sponsored fund-raiser is not quite as clear. She faces minimal opposition in her Senate race — something Murdoch acknowledged this week in an interview on Fox News. And with at least $20 million in her campaign account — a figure that dwarfs that of all her potential rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination — Clinton doesn’t really need the money.

But Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said the arrangement suits Clinton and Murdoch equally well.

“She’s reaching out to a guy who’s on the right side of the spectrum, and she needs some friends there,” Carroll said.

And Murdoch?

“That’s simple — Hillary’s going to run for president, and she might win,” Carroll said.

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