Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee have two things in common, say Jonathan Martin and Keach Hagey at Politico. They're "all making moves indicating they may run" for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, and they're all paid contributors to Fox News. For a candidate-in-waiting, an on-air Fox gig offers a "lucrative and powerful pulpit" from which to "send conservative activists a mostly unfiltered message in what is almost always a friendly environment." Meanwhile, Fox benefits by gaining exclusive access to "every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office," with the exception of Mitt Romney. But is the channel's cozy relationship with what some are calling "the Fox candidates," ask Martin and Hagey, problematic for democracy? Here, an excerpt:

The idea of the four prospects — and especially the former Alaska governor — facing media questions only on a network that both pays them and offers limited scrutiny has already become a matter of frustration in the political and journalistic community — and not just among those the intensely competitive Fox is typically quick to dismiss as jealous rivals... There are figures within the network who, as the early jockeying for 2012 begins, are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the specter of paying candidates they're supposed to cover...

Of particular concern to some at the network is what the situation means when it comes to dealing with candidates who are not employed by Fox. Even before the midterm elections, top Fox figures are fielding complaints from aides to the non-Fox hopefuls that the arrangements are unfair to their candidates. "I wish we could get that much airtime, but, oh yeah, we don't get a paycheck," was what one aide told a Fox employee.

Read the full article at Politico.