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We Track Corporations and PR Spin

The Center for Media and Democracy publishes SourceWatch to track corporations.
  • We provide well-documented information about corporate public relations (PR) campaigns, including corporate front groups, people who "front" corporate campaigns, and PR operations.
  • Dating back to when tobacco companies deployed doctors to try to prevent labeling of cancer-causing cigarettes, many corporations use the "tobacco playbook" to hide behind neutral-looking "experts" as well as think tanks or non-profits in their efforts to influence or distort public policy to protect their bottom line or agenda--often a narrow agenda at odds with the broader public interest.
  • This specialized encyclopedia watches those sources and provides detailed information about corporations and special interests, using the collaborative "wiki" platform, like Wikipedia.

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Featured Work

From Receptionists to Rocket Scientists, MANPOWER Undermines Higher Wages

In 2013 a U.S. Senate committee exposed the fact that too many federal contractors are violating federal wage laws and health and safety standards, yet continue to profit off of U.S. taxpayers with repeat contracts.

On July 1, 2014, President Obama acted on recommendations in the report and signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order “to protect workers, taxpayers, and law-abiding businesses, and to make sure we’re getting what we pay for.” The order requires federal contract applicants to disclose labor violations from the past three years and it requires federal agencies to take this information into account when awarding federal contracts.

Cue the hysteria. This Labor Day, President Obama’s push to hold federal contractors to account for violating federal wage and safety laws is coming under assault from some very big companies, and it comes as no surprise that giant temp firm Manpower is crying the biggest crocodile tears. Read the rest of this item here.

Richard Berman Misleads on Restaurant Opposition to Higher Wages

Richard Berman, whose PR firm and endless industry-backed front groups have led the fight against raising the minimum wage, sinks to a new low with a website that features restaurant owners ostensibly opposed to a $15 minimum wage.

The problem? Many of these restaurant owners, when contacted by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), turned out to support the higher wage and were not happy to hear that their businesses were caught up in Berman's spin machine. Read the rest of this item here.

Wisconsin Needs Stronger Campaign Disclosure Laws

Recent efforts to gut the open records law sparked bipartisan outrage, with organizations across the political spectrum agreeing that it was contrary to democracy for government to operate without transparency.

It shouldn't be any different when it comes to the tens of millions of dollars spent supporting politicians. If we want public disclosure of an email that a lobbyist writes to a legislator, why shouldn't we want disclosure of the check that follows it? Why should billionaires and millionaires be allowed to bankroll our elected officials in secret?

The Wisconsin state director of Americans for Prosperity disagrees. He recently declared on these pages that public disclosure of election spending threatens "free speech," and could even "engulf our democracy in flames." Read the rest of this item here.

Jeb Bush Hits Up Hedge Funds in the Hamptons

Jeb Bush
image by Gage Skidmore
Jeb Bush visited the Hamptons on a lucrative fundraising tour, hitting up multi-billionaires like hedge fund manager Julian Robertson to support his 2016 campaign.

According to invitations obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, the events over the next few days include a coffee reception in the morning, and a brunch at 11, and an evening reception. The fundraisers in the wealthy New York beach community are officially organized by Bush’s 2016 campaign--even though many of the hosts and attendees have already reached the legal maximum on contributions to Bush’s primary election effort.

Thanks to Citizens United, wealthy donors wanting to support Bush beyond the $2,700 limit in the primaries will find no ceiling on the money they can donate to the “independent” Right to Rise Super PAC. Bush may not be allowed to ask donors to give more to Right to Rise, which is run by his top advisors, but there will be no shortage of hosts at today's events to explain the process to interested attendees. Read the rest of this item here.

Uihlein Goes to Bat for Ron Johnson in Wisconsin Senate Race

TV viewers in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, may have noticed that the 2016 election for U.S. Senate is getting underway, despite the fact that the election is over a year away. Russ Feingold is challenging incumbent Senator Ron Johnson, widely considered vulnerable, and outside groups are signaling they are willing to stand with Johnson.

An issue ad promoting Sen. Johnson and his opposition to Pres. Obama’s Iran deal airing in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, reportedly cost $500,000. Read the rest of this item here.

Koch Draws on Big Tobacco for New PR Hires

David Koch may once have called Koch Industries "the biggest company you've never heard of," but facing increasing scrutiny--as the Koch brothers’ plan to inject nearly a billion dollars in into the 2016 election cycle through their "Freedom Partners" dark money operation--the company seems to be on a spin doctor hiring spree.

The privately-held corporation now has hired a cadre of PR flacks with experience defending toxic clients like the tobacco industry as the Kochs struggle to refashion their public image.

Starting last year, the Kochs' PR blitz has included a $20 million ad campaign called "We Are Koch" featuring Koch employees and bucolic landscapes, which touts the company's "American values." One of its ads was famously mocked by Jon Stewart. Read the rest of this item here.

Recent Articles from

Josh Duggar-led Group Funded via Koch Brothers Freedom Partners Operation

With millions of users of the Ashley Madison cheating website now searchable, some may wonder why TV reality figure Josh Duggar’s transactions with the site that "guarantees" extramarital affairs are newsworthy.

It's the hypocrisy, as Duggar acknowledged this week, but there's more to that story.

In June 2013, Duggar was hired to work as the Executive Director of "Family Research Council Action," a 501(c)(4) political and lobbying arm of the controversial "Family Research Council" charity, which promotes "family values," particularly in elections and through its related FRC Action PAC.

According to newly reviewed tax filings, it turns out that Family Research Council Action first received funding from a little known entity called "EVANGCHR4 Trust" between June 2013 and May 2014. Read the rest of this item here.

Not Just Trump and Walker: ALEC Called for Ending Birthright Citizenship Too

It's not just Donald Trump and Scott Walker that have declared children born on American soil should no longer be considered citizens: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or "ALEC," made the same claim in 2008.

This week, Donald Trump released a six-page immigration plan that, among other far-fetched proposals (like having the Mexican government pay for a border wall), called for ending the birthright citizenship guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, calling it “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.”

In the face of declining poll numbers, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker jumped on the bandwagon, declaring that he too would dismantle the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." Read the rest of this item here.

Scott Walker's False Promise of Racial Unity

Scott Walker's solution for racial injustice? Ignore it.

When asked about race relations on the first anniversary of Michael Brown's killing at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Walker replied:

“I think in general if anyone focuses on racial discord we’re going to get more," he said. "If we focus on unity we’re going to get more of that."

In other words, acknowledging systemic problems like the documented wave ofpolice killings of unarmed black men, or the racial wealth gap, or disparities in sentencing and incarceration, creates "discord." Read the rest of this item here.

Social Security Still Strong at 80

Social Security is one of the most popular and successful government programs in U.S. history. For 80 years, in strong and weak economic times, Social Security has benefited every individual who has paid into it upon reaching retirement age, protecting millions of Americans from poverty.

Despite such a strong record, Social Security is under attack from profiteers and their political allies who claim it will not be around when people retire and is in need of drastic reform. A myth, says the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) since “Social Security is fully funded through 2033. Even if nothing is done to shore up the system, Social Security can continue to pay three-fourths of promised benefits after the trust fund runs out. Though this would be far from ideal, it’s certainly no reason to preemptively cut benefits.” A decrease in Social Security benefits would leave over half of elderly Americans in poverty, hitting African Americans, Latinos and women the hardest. Read the rest of this item here.

Featured SourceWatch Article is an interactive wiki website that depends on readers like you to improve content. If you want to help us grow SourceWatch with well documented research and become a volunteer editor, click here for more information.


Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on ManpowerGroup:

ManpowerGroup, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the world's second largest temporary staffing company (after Switzerland's Adecco). Manpower has offices in 80 countries and territories, but mainly in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. The company had revenues of $20.8 billion and gross profits of $3.5 billion in 2014, with operating profits of $719.9 million and an overall profit margin of 3.5 percent. $2.3 billion of its gross profits were from its Manpower temp. staffing business. Across all of its divisions, ManpowerGroup reports placing 2.3 million people in temporary, contract, and permanent positions in 2014.[1]

Temporary employment has become increasingly common for U.S. workers and agencies like Manpower, Kelly Services, and Adecco "are now among the largest employers in the United States," according to reporting by ProPublica.[2]

Replacing Middle-Class Manufacturing Jobs with Low-Wage Temp Work

Temporary employment is increasingly common for U.S. workers. The United States had more than 2.7 million temp workers in 2013, and nearly one-fifth of the growth in jobs since the 2008 financial crisis has been in the temp. sector. The American Staffing Association (the temp. sector's trade association) estimates that one-tenth of workers find jobs through staffing agencies like Manpower each year. Pro Publica reports that "temporary work has become a mainstay of the economy," filling positions "in the supply chain of many of America's largest companies -- Walmart, Macy's, Nike, Frito-Lay," etc.[2] Temporary workers earn an average of 25 percent less than equivalent permanent workers.[2]

One reason why manufacturing jobs in the United States are now in the bottom half of all jobs in terms of pay is an increased reliance on temporary workers, as detailed by a 2014 report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP). According to NELP, "About 14 percent of auto parts workers are employed by staffing agencies today. Wages for these workers are lower than for direct-hire parts workers."[3]

Skirting Union Opposition by Branding as "Women's Work"

Being founded at a time when labor unions were at their most influential, temp. agencies like Manpower and Kelly Services avoided union opposition by strategically presenting temporary work as "women's work" in advertising, which suggested that temps were housewives working for extra spending money, according to Erin Hatton, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York, Buffalo, writing for the New York Times.[4]

"In 1961 alone, Manpower spent $1 million to put its White Glove Girls in the Sunday issue of big city newspapers across the country" (about $7.8 million in 2015 dollars), Hatton writes. With the help of these gender stereotypes, temp. agencies established "a new sector of low-wage, unreliable work" that was exempt from many of the protections won by labor unions in other parts of the economy.[4]

Read the entire SourceWatch page on Manpower here.


  1. ManpowerGroup, "2014 Annual Report," organizational report, accessed April 10, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Michael Grabell, "The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed," Pro Publica, June 27, 2013.
  3. Catherine Ruckelshaus and Sarah Leberstein, National Employment Law Project, "Manufacturing Low Pay: Declining Wages in the Jobs That Built America’s Middle Class," organizational report, November 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Erin Hatton, "The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy," The New York Times, January 26, 2013.

Editors' Pick

Web of Secrecy Surrounding Federal Half-a-Billion Handout to Charter Schools

The U.S. Department of Education is poised to spend half a billion dollars to help create new charter schools, while the public is being kept in the dark about which states have applied for the lucrative grants, and what their actual track records are when it comes to preventing fraud and misuse.

Already the federal government has spent $3.3 billion in American tax dollars under the Charter Schools Program (CSP), as tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Throwing good money after bad, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for a 48 percent increase in federal charter funding earlier this year, and the House and Senate budget proposals also call for an increase—albeit a more modest one—while at the same time slashing education programs for immigrants and language learners. Read the rest of this item here.

Back to ALEC, Back to (Private) School

Op-ed by Rep. Chris Taylor

On the heels of a newly passed state budget that again leaves our K-12 public schools behind without ample and consistent funding, I recently headed back to where the school privatization push all began--the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC and its members, including the American Federation for Children (AFC), have become more powerful than our citizens’ voices at the State Capitol. Despite massive public urging from Wisconsin school superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students for consistent and adequate K-12 public education funding, Republicans legislators chose to dump more money into an unaccountable private voucher school system.

Since Republicans took over our state Capitol in 2011, they have cut $1.2 billion from public K-12 education. Under this latest budget, 55 percent of school districts will get less general student aid than they did last budget cycle and Wisconsin is spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008. Read the rest of this item here.

Featured Video

It's Official - The Kochs Have Chosen Their Candidate

Brendan Fischer joins Thom Hartmann. The Koch Brothers have officially picked their guy. Find out who they chose and what it means for the 2016 presidential race.

Popular SourceWatch Articles

One of our most popular articles this week is about the American Council on Science and Health, which actively solicits funding from corporations and advocates positions that back those corporate interests. Two related articles about the backgrounds of two of the doctors that are part of the ACSH PR operations, Henry I. Miller and Gilbert Ross, are also popular this week.

SourceWatch's home page is the top landing page in this website. Here are some of the other hot pages:

Get breaking news on these and other issues here, "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @PRwatch and @ALECexposed."

Koch Exposed

Follow the Money!

The Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of ALEC Exposed, brings you this unique wiki resource on the billionaire industrialists and the power and influence of the Koch cadre and Koch cash.

Read about Koch Funding Vehicles:

Visit Koch Exposed for more.

Praise for SourceWatch!

"As a journalist frequently on the receiving end of various PR campaigns, some of them based on disinformation, others front groups for undisclosed interests, [CMD's SourceWatch] is an invaluable resource."
Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire

"Thanks for all your help. There's no way I could have done my piece on big PR and global warming without CMD [the Center for Media and Democracy] and your fabulous websites."
—Zoe Cormier, journalist, Canada

"The troublemakers at the Center for Media and Democracy, for example, point to dozens of examples of "greenwashing," which they defined as the "unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government or even a non-government organization to sell a product, a policy" or rehabilitate an image. In the center's view, many enterprises labeled green don't deserve the name.
—Jack Shafer, "Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of 'green' journalism," Slate.

"The dearth of information on the [U.S.] government [lobbying] disclosure forms about the other business-backed coalitions comes in stark contrast to the data about them culled from media reports, websites, press releases and Internal Revenue Service documents and posted by SourceWatch, a website that tracks advocacy groups."
—Jeanne Cummings, 'New disclosure reports lack clarity," Politico.

"The folks at the Center for Media and Democracy have done incredible work documenting fake grassroots ("astroturf") groups. Here, they're helping protect the rights of all Americans to exercise their right to vote. They are completely non-partisan. These guys are the real deal."

Craig Newmark, Craig's List

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