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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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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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Featured Work

Hot Topics at ALEC's 2015 Meeting in San Diego

frameImage by Michael Huey
This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or "ALEC," will bring together hundreds of corporate lobbyists with state and local politicians at a posh hotel in San Diego for the group's annual meeting.

ALEC alum Scott Walker, who has signed over 20 ALEC bills into law, will address this month's meeting, as well as Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who participated in ALEC meetings before he joined the U.S. Senate.

ALEC has had a mixed year. Over a dozen companies, including tech giants Google and Facebook, stopped funding the group over its role in promoting climate change denial, yet after the 2014 elections gave Republicans control of 68 out of 98 state legislative bodies, some states have had few impediments to the corporate-friendly legislation that ALEC peddles. For example, in just the first half of 2015, Wisconsin became a "right to work" state and repealed the prevailing wage; Michigan blocked local control over minimum wage and paid sick days; and Texas banned cities from regulating fracking.

Read the rest of this item here.

Five Things to Know About the Scott Walker John Doe Ruling

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has single-handedly rewritten the state’s limits on money in politics, rendering the state’s disclosure laws and contribution limits meaningless, and opening the door to unlimited funds directly from corporations and foreign firms.

In a 4-2 decision that broke along ideological lines, the Court's conservative majority ended the John Doe probe into whether Governor Scott Walker illegally coordinated with supposedly "independent" dark money groups during the recall elections. The Court declared that any coordination that did occur didn't violate the law, since it only involved so-called "issue ads" that stopped short of expressly saying "vote for" or "vote against" a candidate.

Read the rest of this item here.

The Disappearance of John Doe

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been under investigation since his first day in office. But before a national audience even becomes aware of the fact, it will all be over. This week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is likely to quash an investigation--run by a veteran Republican prosecutor--into allegations that Walker's team broke campaign finance laws during the 2012 recall elections by working in concert with dark money groups.

The prosecutor has asked two justices with ties to these same groups to recuse themselves from the case, but they have refused. And the court will rule behind closed doors, having eschewed oral arguments or even a full accounting of the case.

The expected decision in the case, now pending before the state's highest court, will take a blowtorch to what remains of Wisconsin's post-Watergate campaign finance rules.

Read the rest of this item here.

Scott Walker, Ready to Vindicate America

With Rascal Flatts' cover of "Life is a Highway" blasting through the speakers, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took to the stage at the Waukesha Expo center to the cheers of thousands of enthusiastic followers. Walker is hoping that faith, family, and his history of a "David and Goliath" battle with unions will pave his way to the White House.

It was hot in the parking lot as thousands waited in line to get into the Expo Center.

The Center for Media and Democracy spoke to a passel of Congressional interns who had come in from Illinois. "Walker is one of the few GOP candidates I am excited about," said Daniella Propati. "Immigration is really important to me. I believe in a legal path and people should wait their turn," she said. While Donald Trump this week turned out thousands on the topic of immigration at a rally in Arizona this week, oddly Walker did not mention the issue once. Read the rest of this item here.

Congress Considers Expanding Charter Program Despite Millions Wasted on Closed Schools

UPDATE July 15th -- Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked cloture on the ESEA bill, which contains provisions to expand the Charter Schools Program. The final vote will be held today. McConnell's move to bring matters to a close came as a surprise to the authors of the bill who had expected a more robust debate, and, as EdWeek reports, "especially squeezes Democrats who are still working on proposals to beef up accountability."

As both the House and the Senate consider separate bills that would reauthorize and expand the quarter-billion-dollar-a-year Charter Schools Program (CSP), the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has examined more than a decade of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as well as documentation from open records requests. The results are troubling. Read the rest of this item here.

Recent Articles from

Scott Walker Begins His 2016 Run for the White House

Scott Walker announced for president July 13. After standing for 25 primary and general elections in 25 years, Walker has now set his eyes on the White House. As he officially hits the campaign trail this week, he will tout himself as a “fresh face” and a bold reformer, a man who took on the big unions and revitalized Wisconsin’s economy, a straight shooter who says what he is going to do then does it.

From our bird’s eye view on the Wisconsin Capitol, we think all these claims deserve close scrutiny.

Read the rest of this item here.

Ted Cruz at Secret Koch-Backed Fracking Lobby Group Meeting

Senator Ted Cruz, raising cash for a 2016 presidential bid, was to meet privately Monday in Denver, Colorado with executives from major oil and gas corporations, all members of the pro-fracking lobby group Western Energy Alliance (WEA), according to details of the secret meeting shared with the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Republican presidential candidate, a climate change denier, is also a leading proponent of opening up federal lands in the west--in fact virtually all lands everywhere--to energy development, and for scrapping regulations on oil and gas development.

Read the rest of this item here.

Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State This Year

In a year with unprecedented rightwing dominance in state legislative chambers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has continued to wreak havoc in states across the country--despite an ongoing exodus of high-profile corporate members, including BP, Google, and several high-tech firms.

ALEC's legislative playbook for 2015 focused on blocking action on climate change, thwarting local democracy, attacking labor unions, and further privatizing public education in the U.S., as CMD reported last year in covering its legislative agenda for the year.

Read the rest of this item here.

Last-Minute Assault on Wages and Workers in Wisconsin Budget

The Wisconsin legislature sent a $72 billion biennial budget bill to Governor Walker's desk today, giving him just four days to process and sign the budget before his July 13 scheduled presidential announcement. The bill slashes $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System, advances school vouchers and the corporate privatization of Wisconsin public schools, and is chock full of public policy provisions that did not have public hearings or public input. Although the governor has recently been projecting surpluses for the next fiscal year, the drastic cuts in state programs will still leave the state facing a structural deficit of some $490 million, according to the Wisconsin Budget Project.

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.

Wage Theft

Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the Wage Theft:

Wage theft refers to the failure of an employer to pay workers the wages they are owed. For workers, wage theft might include "being paid less than the minimum wage or other agreed upon wage, working 'off-the-clock' without pay, getting less than time-and-a half for overtime hours, having tips stolen, being misclassified as an “independent contractor” instead of an employee and underpaid, having illegal deductions taken out of paychecks, or simply not being paid at all," according to the National Employment Law Project.[1]

Wage theft is widespread in the United States. A 2008 UCLA/UIC study of low-wage workers in large cities found that two thirds had been affected by some form of wage theft. Of those surveyed, 26% had been paid less than the minimum wage in the previous week, and 76% of those who worked over 40 hours had not been paid sufficient overtime.[2]

While low-wage service sector employees and immigrant workers may be the most vulnerable, wage theft affects workers at all levels. Even software engineers are not immune, as evidenced by a class action lawsuit brought against Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe in 2010.[3] The suit was settled in 2014 for $324 million.[4]

Read the entire SourceWatch page on the Wage Theft here.


  1. National Employment Law Project, "Winning Wage Justice: A Summary of Criminal Prosecutions of Wage Theft in the United States," research summary report, July 2013. Accessed July 16, 2014.
  2. Annette Bernhardt, Ruth Milkman, Nik Theodore, Douglas Heckathorn, Mirabai Auer, James DeFilippis, Ana Luz Gonzalez, Victor Narro, Jason Perelshteyn, Diana Polson, and Michael Spiller, "Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers," UCLA/UIC Unprotected Workers Project report, accessed July 16, 2014.
  3. David Streitfeld, "Engineers Allege Hiring Collusion in Silicon Valley," New York Times, February 28, 2014. Accessed July 16, 2014.
  4. Dan Levine, "Exclusive: Apple, Google to pay $324 million to settle conspiracy lawsuit," Reuters, April 24, 2014. Accessed July 16, 2014.

Editors' Pick

CMD Denounces Corrupt John Doe Ruling From Conflicted Court

Madison, WI--Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the state’s limits on money in politics, opening the door to unlimited, undisclosed spending coordinated directly with candidates, and handing Scott Walker a significant political victory as he begins his run for the White House. The decisions in the case can be found here.

"The dark money groups that bankrolled the Walker team's recall victories got the decision they wanted from the justices they swept into office with their spending," said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy.

Read the rest of this item here. Tracks the Groups against Family-Supporting Jobs

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of the award-winning, launched, a web resource devoted to exposing the corporations, trade associations, "think tanks," and front groups working hard against better wages, benefits, and family-supporting jobs for the American workforce.

The wage crushers have been hard at work. By 2022, three-quarters of all U.S. jobs will only require a high school education or less, according to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly all of those jobs will be low-wage service industry jobs. Americans spend an estimated $152 billion each year supplementing wages, health care, and other basic costs of living for workers, amounting to billions in indirect subsidies to profitable corporations like Walmart and McDonald's. identifies some of the key behind-the-scenes players in anti-worker campaigns.

Read the rest of this item here. Go to the portal here.

Featured Video

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

The Investigators: ALEC - The Backroom Where Laws Are Born

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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