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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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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

Vouchers on the Move: Return to School Segregation?

Twenty-five years ago, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the nation's first school voucher bill into law. Pitched as social mobility tickets for minority students, Wisconsin vouchers allow children to attend private, and sometimes religious, schools on the taxpayers' dime.

But as shown by the murky history of the voucher movement, and by the way voucher programs have developed in Wisconsin and other states, racial equity had nothing to do with it. It was a scheme cooked up out of an ideological disdain for public schools and teachers' unions, and first used to actually preserve school segregation in the South.

Read the rest of this item here.

Wage Crushers' Prevailing Wage Claims Are Nonsense

Now that the Wisconsin GOP and its allies have rammed though an American Legislative Exchange Council "right to work" (RTW) bill, the same cast of characters is back pushing another ALEC model: repeal of the state’s prevailing wage laws. These laws require public construction projects to support local wage standards instead of undercutting them.

Who could be against repealing the laws when proponents, such as the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, tout mind-boggling savings of $300 million a year for school districts and taxpayers? But the claims are nonsense and the savings a "mirage," say experts. Read the rest of this item here.

Kochs, Corps, and Monsanto Trade Group Have Bankrolled Group Attacking Dr. Oz

A group of ten doctors has called for NBC's Dr. Oz (Dr. Mehmet Oz) to be fired from Columbia University, where he is vice chairman of the surgery department.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has long tracked the group that is connected to several of the signers attacking Dr. Oz, and CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves spoke with the Dr. Oz show about the background of that group and some of the signers. (CMD does not receive any funding from Dr. Oz or NBC.)

One of the doctors, Dr. Gilbert Ross, is a convicted felon who works for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). CMD's updated review of ACSH's funding confirms that it has been funded by a trade group of food corporations that heavily opposes GMO labeling.

Read the rest of this item here.

Walker's Dark Money Allies Orchestrate Coup of the Courts

Two court cases next week--one being heard in open court, another being considered in silence behind closed doors--will decide the future of Wisconsin campaign finance law, the independence of the Wisconsin judiciary and will impact the future of presidential candidate Scott Walker.

Read the rest of this item here.

Koch Funding of Universities Shrouded in Secrecy

In a recent column entitled "The Campus Climate Crusade," The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel spent over 800 words arguing the basic conceit of UnKochMyCampus, a campaign uniting students at universities around the country who are working to increase transparency on their campuses and fight attempts by corporate donors like Charles and David Koch from influencing their education.

Read the rest of this item here.

CREDO Rejects ALEC's Cease and Desist Letter on Municipal Broadband

The Center for Media and Democracy and CREDO Action are denouncing an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to silence its critics. CREDO Action, the activism arm of San Francisco-based mobile phone company CREDO Mobile, has refused to honor a cease and desist letter that ALEC sent to CREDO. CMD and CREDO have flagged ALEC’s opposition to municipal broadband for consumers.

Read the rest of this item here.

Recent Articles from

Reporters Guide to the International Franchise Association

Backed by big corporate dollars from McDonald's and others, the International Franchise Association is using legal maneuvers and back room lobbying to try to undermine workers in the fast food industry. A new resource, launched by the Center for Media and Democracy, provides little-known information about the IFA, its coalitions, and its front groups. Click here to see CMD's profile of the International Franchise Association and ten related pages on Sourcewatch.

Read the rest of this item here.

Hotel Industry Spins Wage Hikes as Extreme while CEOs Rake in Millions

Hotels are making a killing. Occupancy rates are exceeding pre-recession highs, and are expected to reach record levels in 2016. Profits per room are up over 11 percent this April compared to April 2014 and the average daily rate for a room is almost 13 percent higher than it was a year ago. Executive salaries have skyrocketed. But the little-known trade association representing this robust $163 billion dollar industry is a major force fighting behind the scenes on Capitol Hill and in statehouses and courtrooms across the country to keep workers wages low.

Read the rest of this item here.

Scott Walker’s Supreme Court Coup

Scott Walker unseated his sharpest opponent. But you won’t learn that from much of the media coverage. The fact that Walker and his big money allies tricked Wisconsin voters into stripping Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson of her title was not considered a story by the 100 or so national reporters now assigned to cover Walker’s run for the White House. And the fact that the GOP slipped the law change onto the ballot just as the John Doe criminal probe of Walker and his big money allies came before the court, was not worth mentioning in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Read the rest of this item here.

WMC Spends $600,000 to Demote Chief Justice as Criminal Probe of Walker Campaign Looms

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), Wisconsin's premier lobby for corporate tax breaks and low wage jobs, has unleashed a $600,000 ad blitz to strip Wisconsin's independent Chief Justice of her title just as the court prepares to take up the "John Doe" criminal probe of Scott Walker and the special interest groups that defended him against recall in 2012.

WMC's spending in the recall campaigns is one of key issues in the case. The case will be be considered in secret without oral arguments by Wisconsin's Supreme Court whose conservative majority was elected by WMC.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Read the rest of this item here.

The ALEC-Backed War on Local Democracy

After the town of Denton, Texas passed a ballot initiative banning fracking in November 2014, the oil and gas industry reacted with outrage and swiftly filed suit. Politicians in the state capitol responded with a fusillade of bills to preempt local authority over public health and safety and to subject local ballot initiatives to pre-approval by the state attorney general. There was even a bill to end local home rule altogether.

The tiny town of Denton was not alone. From New Jersey to Oregon, on topics as diverse as minimum wage, paid sick leave, community broadband, e-cigarettes, and GMOs, state politicians are stepping up their efforts to destroy a bedrock principle of U.S. governance--the right of municipal and county authorities to legally and appropriately enact and strengthen laws that reflect local needs and priorities.

Read the rest of this item here.

Pearson, ETS, Houghton Mifflin, and McGraw-Hill Lobby Big and Profit Bigger from School Tests

School testing corporations have spent at least $20 million on lobbying along with wining and dining or even hiring policymakers in pursuit of big revenues from federal and state testing mandates under "No Child Left Behind" measures and the Common Core curriculum, according to a new analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

The expanded testing has fueled a testing boom worth nearly $2 billion annually, giving the main corporations getting the testing contracts a huge return on investment for their lobbying while generating a growing backlash from parents across the country.

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.

American Hotel & Lodging Association

Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the American Hotel & Lodging Association:

AHLA logo 375x208.png
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is a U.S.-based trade group that represents the lodging industry, which includes chain and independent hotels, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and companies that manage and supply the lodging industry. AHLA has become a powerful force lobbying against higher wages and greater health care coverage for its workers, and in 2014 filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles law to raise the wage for hotel workers to $15.37.[1][2] AHLA's board includes members from major hotel and resort companies, including Omni, IHG, Wyndham International, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Carlson, and others.

Spinning Minimum Wage Increases as "Extreme Wages"

Despite its claims that most industry workers are already paid above minimum wage, AHLA actively campaigns against raising it, referring to current minimum wage campaigns as "extreme wage initiatives." The term appears to have been coined by the hotel industry, as the Center for Media and Democracy reported.[2] In an early instance, the AHLA announced in January 2014 that it would “beat back the growing emergence of extreme minimum and living wage initiatives” nationwide.[3] As part of this strategy, AHLA also commissioned John W. O’Neill with the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State to conduct a “study” on the effects of “extreme wage initiatives” on the hotel industry. Not only did they fund the research, they also instructed the former hotel executive to use the word “extreme.”[2]

O'Neill's report, issued in June 2014, argued, "Extreme minimum wage rates would not only decrease employment, but also decrease opportunities for upward mobility in the hospitality industry."[4] O'Neill completed a program at the AHLA Educational Institute in 1998 making him an AHLA "Certified Hospitality Educator" and has worked in upper management for Marriott Corporation and Holiday Inn International and as a consultant for the industry with Laventhol & Horwath and Coopers & Lybrand. O'Neill regularly writes for industry magazines like Lodging Hospitality and Hotel News Now.[5]

Read the entire SourceWatch page on the American Hotel & Lodging Association here.


  1. David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes, "Industry groups sue over L.A.'s minimum wage for hotel workers," L.A. Times, December 16, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mary Bottari and Jonas Persson, "Hotel Lobby Sues Los Angeles to Block “Extreme” Wages," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, January 12, 2015. Accessed March 12, 2015.
  3. Kevin Bogardus, "Hotel industry vows to fight back against ‘extreme’ minimum wage bills," The Hill, January 27, 2014. Accessed March 19, 2015.
  4. John W. O'Neill, "Extreme Wage Initiatives & the Hotel Industry: Impact on Local Communities and the Nation," American Hotel & Lodging Association report, June 2014.
  5. John W. O'Neill, Curriculum Vitae, accessed February 5, 2015.

Editors' Pick

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.

The ALEC entity that publishes the report, the Center for State Fiscal Reform, has received large grants from the Bradley Foundation, the Searle Foundation and the now-closed Claude M. Lambe Foundation, one of the Koch family foundations. These foundations are major funders of a national right-wing infrastructure that includes ALEC and the State Policy Network, 64 state-based think tanks that produce reports, talking points and more to advance ALEC’s agenda of tax breaks for corporations, steep budget cuts and attacks on unionized workers.

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.

Koch Brothers Declare Scott Walker Is Our Man

David Koch
Has Scott Walker won the Koch primary?

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in the world and the overseers of one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, told Republican donors in New York on April 19 that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is their man for President.

"We will support whoever the candidate is," David Koch said, "but it should be Scott Walker," according to an account in the New York Times.

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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