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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.

CMD relies on concerned citizens like you to keep this research online. You can contribute here.

Please visit SourceWatch's sister websites PRWatch, to read our original reporting, and ALECexposed, to see our award-winning investigation of a corporate front group where corporate lobbyists actually vote as equals with elected legislators on "model" legislation to change our rights.

Also, please check out the in-depth research from around the world by our partner projects within SourceWatch: CoalSwarm and FrackSwarm.

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Lisa Graves, Executive Director

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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

Featured Work

Scott Walker Dumped as Chair of the Jobs Agency He Created

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won his election in 2010 on a promise to create 250,000 new jobs. To lead the effort, Walker created his flagship Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in 2011 and named himself Chairman of the Board.

Now, as allegations of cronyism and corruption engulf WEDC, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee has removed Walker as Chairman.

Democrats promptly characterized it as a firing. Republicans responded that Walker had "requested" removal as part of a board restructuring in his 1,900 page proposed budget.

Read the rest of this item here.

ALEC Wants to Educate High Schoolers on Balanced Budgets and Fiscal Austerity

The right-wing push to amend the U.S. Constitution by requiring a balanced federal budget is gaining momentum. In January, GOP Governor John Kasich of Kansas went on a six-state tour to rally support, and so far this year, New Jersey, Utah, and North Dakota have passed resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment. By some counts, 27 states have passed such resolutions; 34 are needed to trigger a convention.

Ronald Reagan called for a balanced budget amendment in the 1980s, Newt Gingrich included it in the 1994 Contract With America. A year later, ALEC joined the fray with a model resolution for states. Those who advocate for an amendment often cite “common sense” concerns about “fiscal responsibility.” But as history shows, the rhetoric often masks the outright hostility many proponents of the amendment have for key federal programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and for the regulatory infrastructure that protects consumers and the environment.

Read the rest of this item here.

So a Lobbyist and an ALEC Legislator Walk into a Bar...Caught on Tape by NBC

A lobbyist and a legislator got caught on tape explaining how corporations subsidize lawmakers' resort trips through the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), the controversial corporate bill mill.

In a new report aired on Atlanta's NBC TV Channel WXIA 11, Georgia investigative reporter Brendan Keefe went behind the scenes at ALEC's spring meeting in Savannah, Georgia, where he chatted with lobbyists and lawmakers--and was summarily ejected by uniformed off-duty deputies for trying to film public officials at the task force meetings where future state laws are written.

Read the rest of this item here.

Devastating Walker Budget to Be Finalized

Photo by Leslie Peterson
Governor Scott Walker likes to claim he solved Wisconsin’s budget problems in his first term when he eviscerated collective bargaining rights for state workers purportedly to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. But today the state is facing another $2.2 billion gap, due in large part to a series of tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that Walker signed into law. Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Budget Project calls the massive deficit a "self-inflicted wound." This week, the state’s Joint Finance Committee will work in marathon sessions to finalize the state's biennial budget.

Read the rest of this item here.

John Stauber on Toxic Flame Retardants and "Toxic Sludge" 20th Anniversary

"Toxic Flame Retardants Are Good For You!"

Corporations use fake front groups every day–but it’s not every day that we get to hear from an insider about the front group he ran for the chemical industry. Grant Gillham created and managed a front group for companies that make toxic flame retardants, spinning stories and deceiving consumers and legislators about the health risks from these chemicals. Now he’s speaking out against the companies and their deceptive campaign. And we hear from John Stauber, on the 20th anniversary of the publication of his classic expose of the public relations industry, Toxic Sludge Is Good for You.

Read the rest of this item here.

In Search for Truth, CMD Files Public Records Lawsuit Against Scott Walker

Madison -- On May 19, the Center for Media and Democracy filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for unlawfully withholding public records related to his office’s alteration of the University of Wisconsin System’s mission statement and the "Wisconsin Idea" contained in Wisconsin statutes.

“After trying to strike ‘the search for truth’ from the University of Wisconsin System’s mission statement, Governor Walker is now trying to hide the truth from the people of Wisconsin,” said CMD General Counsel Brendan Fischer.

Walker’s office is claiming that documents showing his office’s role in changes to the century-old “Wisconsin Idea”--that state universities have a mission to “serve people beyond the borders of the campus”--are protected by a so-called “deliberative process privilege,” a concept not recognized under Wisconsin’s strong public records law. Walker gave CMD some documents, but withheld other records showing how the Wisconsin Idea changes were developed.

Read the rest of this press release here. Read the full complaint here.

Recent Articles from

Privatization Fail: Scott Walker’s WEDC in Full Meltdown

During the 2010 campaign for governor, Scott Walker famously promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term.

Toward this end, one of his first acts as governor was to privatize the state’s economic development agency. Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) opened its doors in July 2011. After a series of damning audits, which highlighted mismanagement and incompetence, and news reports of special treatment for Walker donors, on Monday Democratic state lawmakers called for a federal investigation of the scandal-plagued entity.

When Walker created WEDC in 2011, he named himself Chairman of the Board.

Read the rest of this item here.

Groups Add to Evidence in "Whistleblower" Tax Fraud Claim Against ALEC

Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy sent federal authorities new evidence today that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is falsely passing itself off as a tax-exempt charity and effectively using taxpayer dollars to subsidize its lobbying on behalf of private interests.

Common Cause filed a supplement to its three-year-old tax whistleblower complaint against ALEC, and the two groups sent a joint letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen demanding an investigation, collection of fines and back taxes, and the revocation of ALEC’s status as a tax-exempt charity. Supporting evidence available here.

Read the rest of this item here.

Emails Show Walker Chief of Staff Oversaw Changes to Wisconsin Idea

Emails obtained by CMD under an open records request give a behind-the-scenes look at Gov. Scott Walker’s tortuous efforts to explain changes made to the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin System in his 2015-2017 Executive Budget bill.

The emails reveal that controversial edits, which struck "the search for truth" and other aspects of the Wisconsin Idea from the statutes, was far from a "drafting error" or "miscommunication." The instructions originated with Walker’s Chief of Staff Eric Schutt, who was copied at least twice on the final language. This contradicts a claim made by Laurel Patrick, the governor's press secretary, to the state's largest newspaper that the final version "was not seen or approved by our office." Read the rest of this item here.

Scott Walker Lied, GOP Prosecutor Says

Lauren Windsor of The Undercurrent and Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy have joined forces for a new segment on exposing corruption called Naked News.

In the first installment, Brendan reports on the pushback from the GOP prosecutor investigating Scott Walker, who recently claimed that the John Doe probe is a "partisan witch hunt." Two veteran prosecutors, one a Democrat and one a Republican, effectively called him a liar.

Read the rest of this item here.

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."

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.

Scott Walker John Doe Documents

Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the Scott Walker John Doe Documents:

Image by Gage Skidmore
With this webpage, Sourcewatch has attempted to gather publicly available documents on the two "John Doe" criminal investigations involving Scott Walker and his associates. The investigations have been conducted under Wisconsin’s "John Doe" statute, a closed-door investigatory process overseen by a judge that allows prosecutors to compel people to testify and produce documents. It is analogous to a grand jury investigation, but conducted in front of a judge rather than a jury.
 Grand Juries are rarely used in Wisconsin, but John Does are commonly used to conduct investigations in a variety of cases.

John Doe I: In May 2010, Judge Neil Nettesheim authorized Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, to begin a John Doe investigation involving Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, his staff and associates. The investigation resulted in 15 felony indictments for six people who have been sentenced for a variety of crimes including misconduct in office. This investigation was closed in March 2013 and no charges were brought against Walker.[1] Subsequently, documents related to the investigation were authorized for release by Nettesheim and were released by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele under Wisconsin's public records law.

John Doe II: In February 2012, another John Doe investigation (referred to as "John Doe II") was authorized by Judge Barbara Kluka to investigate potentially illegal campaign coordination between Friends of Scott Walker and outside groups during the 2011-2012 recall elections. Because this investigation involved individuals who lived in five counties across the state, the probe has involved five District Attorneys, from both the Republican and Democratic parties, and has been authorized by both Republican and Democratic judges. A special prosecutor was appointed to lead the multi-county investigation, veteran federal prosecutor Francis Schmitz, a Republican who voted for Walker in 2012.[2] As of May 2015, the case is before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Read the entire SourceWatch page on the Scott Walker John Doe Documents here.


  1. Daniel Bice and Scott Umhoefer, "John Doe probe of Scott Walker office closed with no new charges," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 2, 2013.
  2. Daniel Bice, "Secret probe spreads to five Wisconsin counties," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 21, 2013.

Editors' Pick

Special Report: Feds Spent $3.3 Billion Fueling Charter Schools but No One Knows What It's Really Bought

The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters' guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to "authorize" charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.

Read the press release here. Download a copy of CMD's full report here or read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 now.

Reporters Guide to ALEC’s "Rich States, Poor States" Report

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) rolled out its annual "Rich States, Poor States" publication recently. The document, whose lead author is economist Arthur Laffer, is sold to the press as an objective, academic measure of state economic performance, but should instead be viewed as a lobbyist scorecard ranking states on the adoption of extreme ALEC policies that have little or nothing to do with good economic outcomes.

ALEC is almost entirely funded by industry, including Koch Industries, which has long served on the ALEC board, Altria (the former Phillip Morris) and Exxon Mobil.

(See the full list of ALEC corporate members here.) Read the rest of this item here.

CMD Issues Report on Latest Assault on Clean Election Laws

Five Years After Citizens United

A bipartisan effort to enforce Wisconsin’s longstanding laws governing coordination between campaigns and independent groups has been mislabeled a “partisan witch hunt” by a well-funded legal and media campaign, with the ultimate goal of undermining what remains of limits on big money in politics, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy.

Read the rest of this item here. Read the report here.

Follow the Money! Koch Wiki Resource

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.

Featured Video

On 5th Anniversary of Citizens United, GOP Taps Koch Brothers-Backed Senator to Give SOTU Response

On 5th Anniversary of Citizens United, GOP Taps Koch Brothers-Backed Senator to Give SOTU Response

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