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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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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

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.

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.

Scott Walker John Doe Documents

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.

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

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.

Recent Articles from

Why Is the FBI Spying on KXL Activists?

If you spend any significant amount of time advocating and rousing rabble against dirty corporate shenanigans and reckless government policies, you sort of take it as a given that someone's got a file on you somewhere. If you're a regular on the protest circuit, there's a pretty good chance that you've been sized up in what the cops call "threat assessment." Which means they think you might be up to no good, and they want to get a bead on you before you do something.

When you're engaging in lawful, Constitutionally protected political speech, knowing that your government is treating you like a criminal is as hurtful as it is offensive.

And so it is for opponents of Keystone XL, who learned this week that the FBI, in violation of its own rules, has been spying on them.

Read the rest of this item here.

With Sanders in the Race, Clinton Can't Dodge Trade

New data out today indicates that the U.S. trade deficit has swelled to the highest level in more than six years. This flood of imports robs American workers of jobs and saps the economic recovery. Yet President Obama is escalating pressure on Congress to approve “Fast Track” trade authority, which would limit Congressional debate on major trade agreements and speed their approval.

In a field of White House hopefuls who are busy raising money from deep-pocketed special interests and expertly dodging the press, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders stands alone in his single-minded focus on the economy. His blunt talk on jobs, rising inequality, and the erosion of the middle class will force many White House hopefuls to address topics they would rather avoid, including the most important economic vote of our times on Fast Track trade.

Read the rest of this item here.

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.)

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.

National Restaurant Association

Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the National Restaurant Association:

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is a trade association for the approximately $709 billion restaurant industry, according to its own reports,[1][2] and had a total annual revenue of approximately $71 million in 2013.[3] The NRA has been a major force in keeping the federal tipped minimum wage at $2.13 for restaurant workers for 20 years. It and its member companies represent a lobbying powerhouse working against state minimum wage increases and paid sick leave for workers.

Opposition to Paid Sick Days

In recent years, the NRA has fought hard against new laws and regulations on paid sick days , which would allow workers to stay at home when sick without risking their paycheck or their job. The NRA has called paid sick days fights a “hot button issue for the restaurant industry.” [4]

Forty percent of all workers do not have paid sick days; existing federal law covers only employees working 25 hours or more at businesses with at least 50 workers, applies only to serious and not routine illnesses, and is unpaid. [5]

Bills to block local governments from allowing workers to earn paid sick days have been introduced in at least 14 different state legislatures across the country; in most cases, the NRA has played a role in pushing the legislation.[6][7] These bills are designed to preempt local governments or voters from enacting paid sick days ordinances.

Read the entire SourceWatch page on the National Restaurant Association here.


  1. National Restaurant Association, "Positive outlook for 2015," organizational press release, January 27, 2015.
  2. National Restaurant Association, "Facts at a Glance," organizational website, accessed March 25, 2015.
  3. National Restaurant Association, "2013 IRS Form 990," organizational annual IRS filing, November 14, 2014.
  4. Paul Frumkin, "NYC Lawmakers Consider Paid Sick Leave," Nation’s Restaurant News, September 15, 2009.
  5. Esmé E. Deprez, "Coughing Cooks Stay Home as U.S. Cities Require Paid Sick Leave," Bloomberg, Mar 21, 2013.
  6. National Restaurant Association, State and Local Paid Sick Leave Mandates, document obtained by CMD, accessed February 16, 2015.
  7. National Restaurant Association, "Cities and States Debate Paid Sick Leave," Press Release, June 25, 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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