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Welcome to SourceWatch!

The Center for Media and Democracy publishes this wiki, SourceWatch.

Please check out our sister sites, PRWatch and ALECexposed, to read our original reporting and see our award-winning investigations.

Lisa Graves, Executive Director

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Featured Work

Walker Asks WI Supreme Court to Review John Doe Dark Money Probe

by Brendan Fischer

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign has asked the state Supreme Court to review the legal basis for the John Doe campaign finance probe looking at coordination between his campaign and third-party groups. And, a separate federal challenge to the investigation filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth will move forward, after the judge hearing the case denied a motion to dismiss it.

District Attorneys in five Wisconsin counties, from both political parties, have been investigating whether candidates -- including Walker’s campaign – coordinated with independent electoral groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG) during Wisconsin’s contentious 2011 and 2012 recall elections. WCFG spent $9.1 million in undisclosed “dark money” during the recall elections, and groups it funded spent millions more. Read the rest of this item here.


GMO Lobby Works Tirelessly Against Mandatory Labeling

by Rebekah Wilce

Source: CT Senate Democrats, Flickr, May 21, 2013
A coalition of genetically modified organism (GMO), pesticide, grocery and agriculture corporate trade groups are fighting mandatory labeling efforts at the state and local level by pushing preemption measures in Congress and at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The GMO lobby has found a Congressional sponsor for its "federal solution" -- a bill to override states' mandatory GMO labeling laws and replace them with optional labeling regulated by the FDA -- according to Politico. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) reportedly hopes to introduce the bill, which would "create a friendlier, preemptive set of federal rules to quell public concerns over GMOs and stem the roughly 20 pending state bills and ballot initiatives that will be costly for the industry to fight," before the Spring legislative recess. Read the rest of this item here.


Wisconsin Had Best-Run Elections in U.S., So Republicans Fixed 'Em

by Brendan Fischer

Blocking Vote button200px.jpg
Wisconsin again ranked among the best in the country when it comes to running elections, according to a new study from Pew Charitable Trusts -- yet apparently this outstanding performance is a problem, and it might be "fixed" through new limits on early voting and proposals to kill same-day registration.

In the 2012 elections, Wisconsin ranked second in voter turnout, just behind neighboring Minnesota. Both states allow election day registration and adequate time for early voting (a combination that studies show increases voter participation), and both had turnouts well above 70%. Read the rest of this item here.


Outside Special Interests Lean on MO Legislators to Push ALEC’s Anti-Worker Agenda

by Jay Riestenberg

Grover Norquist
Last week, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a measure to put an anti-union "paycheck protection" measure on the ballot in August which, if approved by voters, will make it harder for unions to raise funds and engage in the political process. "Right to work" could be next -- and both measures are being pushed by an array of out-of-state right-wing interests.

The paycheck protection measure is very similar to several American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills that attempt to make it harder for unions to raise funds, such as the "Paycheck Protection Act," "Voluntary Contributions Act," and "Political Funding Reform Act."Despite bipartisan opposition, the bill passed the House 83-69 and now moves to the Senate. It could be up for consideration as early as this week. Read the rest of this item here.


Documents from Open Records Lawsuit Further Undermine Claims that ALEC Is Legislator-Driven

by Brendan Fischer

ALEC logo magnifying lens200px.jpg
New documents released as a result of the Center for Media and Democracy's open records lawsuit against American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) vice-chair Senator Leah Vukmir provide more evidence that lobbyists and special interest groups are calling the shots within ALEC, undermining that group's latest PR spin that it is a "legislator-driven" organization.

The previously-undisclosed records from ALEC's Spring 2013 meeting show a Florida-based State Policy Network lobbying group instructing Senator Vukmir and other legislators to introduce a "model" resolution for legislators to thwart Medicaid expansion in their state, and even writing an entire "script" for legislators to parrot in the ALEC task force meeting -- contradicting ALEC's claims to reporters last year that only legislators propose model policy, and demonstrating that such claims are merely a talking point. Read the rest of this item here.


What Corruption? McCutcheon Reveals Absurdity of Citizens United

by Brendan Fischer

Corporation money flag-supreme court200px.jpg
The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission may actually undermine the Court's reasoning in Citizens United that unlimited spending from Super PACs pose no risk of corruption.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in McCutcheon, now appears to acknowledge that big donations to independent Super PACs can be useful to candidates -- and arguably, pose a risk of corruption -- yet somehow uses these facts as justification to strike down the total amount that individual donors can give to federal candidates and political party committees.

McCutcheon builds on the Court's awful ruling in Citizens United, which kicked open the door to unlimited fundraising and spending by nominally "independent" corporations like Super PACs and dark money nonprofits. Limits on both independent expenditures and direct contributions can now only be justified if they prevent "corruption," which the court has narrowly defined as "quid pro quo corruption" like bribery. Read the rest of this item here.


Recent Articles from PRWatch.org

Supreme Court Continues to Corrupt Democracy with Latest Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court just released its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, and it is bad: a narrow majority of justices voted to allow a small cadre of billionaires and millionaires to pump even more money into our political system.

The court struck down limits on the total amount an individual can give to candidates and political parties, opening the door even wider for the economic elite to dominate politics and policy.

Under the Court’s decision, the super-wealthy can now donate $3.6 million directly to candidates and parties in a single election cycle – and thanks to Citizens United, much more to “independent” groups like Super PACs.

This is an outrageous decision, and it highlights the need for a constitutional amendment to put democracy back in the hands of We the People. Read the rest of this item here.


GOP Strongholds in WI Vote to Get Money Out of Politics

by Brendan Fischer

The evening before the U.S. Supreme Court invited more big money into our elections by striking aggregate campaign finance limits, thirteen Wisconsin communities called for a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics, including in Scott Walker's hometown of Wauwatosa and Republican strongholds like Waukesha.

One community voting in favor of the referendum to reverse Citizens United was Wauwatosa, where Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has his residence, and which he represented in the state assembly between 1993 and 2002.

Wauwatosa is currently represented in the state senate by Leah Vukmir, the vice-chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council, or "ALEC."

Sixty four percent of Wauwatosa residents voted in favor of a referendum to overturn Citizens United.

Read the rest of this item here.


Wall Street Journal Spins the Facts for Scott Walker Aide

by Brendan Fischer

The Wall Street Journal opinion page has a new installment in its campaign against Wisconsin's "John Doe" campaign finance probe, this time in an effort to resuscitate the image of Kelly Rindfleisch, a top aide to Scott Walker implicated in two John Doe investigations. The error-ridden piece portrays Rindfleisch as an innocent victim "who became collateral damage in the prosecutorial pursuit of Scott Walker," but the facts suggest otherwise.

In John Doe I, the 2010-2013 investigation into corruption in Walker's County Executive office that netted six convictions for Walker's aides and associates, Rindfleisch pled guilty to a felony for doing campaign work on the taxpayer dime. Her name has surfaced again in connection to John Doe II, the ongoing probe into illegal coordination during the 2011-2012 recall campaigns between between the Walker campaign (where Rindfleisch worked as an aide) and "independent" groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth. Read the rest of this item here.


After Unprecedented Claim of Legislative Immunity, Vukmir Releases ALEC Records, Pays Damages

After nearly a year of litigation, the Center for Media and Democracy has settled its open records lawsuit against American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) National Board member and Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir.

Senator Vukmir, who had previously insisted that she had no records in her possession and made an unprecedented claim of legislative immunity, is anticipated to release numerous emails from her private email account, and pay $2,500 in damages. This may be the first time a Wisconsin legislator has had to pay damages under Wisconsin's open records law. Read the rest of this item here.


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ALEC News

A Reporters' Guide to the Koch-funded Rich States, Poor States ALEC Report

by Mary Bottari

Rich States Poor States-ALEC 6th-200px.jpg
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is slated to roll out its annual "Rich States, Poor States" publication this week. 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 more as a lobby scorecard ranking states on the adoption of extreme ALEC policies that have little or nothing to do with economic outcomes. This year, leaked documents revealed that the report is directly funded by the Kochs, on top of longstanding Koch support for ALEC itself.

Until recently, little information was available about the funders of Rich States, Poor States, but tucked in a cache of ALEC internal documents obtained by the Guardian in December was a spreadsheet (PDF pg. 40) that showed for the first time that Rich States, Poor States is funded by the Kochs' Claude Lambe Foundation, as well as the Searle Freedom Trust.

Read the rest of this item here.

Editors' Pick

Keystone PipeLIES Exposed:

Watch the movie!

Keystone PipeLIES Exposed
This film, produced by the Center for Media and Democracy, debunks the claims of proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline regarding jobs, energy security, gas prices, safety, and climate change. More information about this film and research project, "Keystone PipeLIES Exposed"


The Truth Is that Stopping KXL Matters

The Facts on Sticky Leaks, Billion Dollar Spills, and Dirty Air

The Facts on Phantom Jobs, Phony Gas Prices, and Missing Revenue

The Facts on Petroleum Politicians, Crude Money and Media Spin

The Facts on Burning Crude and Blistering Climate Change

The Fact Is that KXL Can Be Stopped

API's Veterans Group Goes to Bat for Keystone Pipeline

New Angles to Stop KXL: EPA Could Put the Brakes on KXL

Featured SourceWatch Articles

SourceWatch.org 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 $600 billion [1] restaurant industry and has an annual revenue of over $91 million, according to its 2011 Form 990. [2] NRA has been a major force in keeping the federal tipped minimum wage at $2.13 for restaurant workers for 20 years. As discussed below, NRA and its member companies represent a lobbying powerhouse working against state minimum wage increases and paid sick leave for workers.

The NRA has 53 state restaurant affiliates, and operates a nonprofit arm, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, out of Chicago, which has an annual budget of over $4.3 million. [2]

NRA has 177 corporate restaurant members representing the dominant players in this global industry, [3] and other members including supplier companies, faculty and students in hospitality education, and nonprofits “such as state hospitals, state health care facilities, state schools, state prisons, military foodservice establishments, etc.” [4]

With nearly 750 employees, the group represents 500,000 restaurant businesses. [1]

Read the entire SourceWatch page National Restaurant Association here (including source citations).


Berman & Co.

Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the Berman & Co.:

Berman Heads Phony Think Tank, Employment Policy Institute

Rick Berman
Rick Berman created EPI in 1991 to "argue the importance of minimum wage jobs for the poor and uneducated."[5]

The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is headed by Richard Berman according to tax filings. It shares the same office as Berman's PR firm and it funnels money to the PR firm as the New York Times reported in a front page story in 2014: "the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm, instead, “bills” the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements." [6]

In 2013-2014, EPI has become a primary industry attack dog, fighting minimum wage as dangerous to the economy, fighting living wages and advocating a low road economic development policy.

The Center for Media and Democracy outed EPI as a phony think tank in a Salon article in 2013 and critiqued media coverage of EPI, which consistently failed to note that EPI was run by a PR firm: [7] "We recently analyzed three years of newspaper stories from across the country that quoted from EPI or Michael Saltsman. In 83 percent of the stories we examined, reporters provided readers with no information about EPI’s relationship with Berman and Co. In most cases, journalists stated that EPI is a “Washington DC nonprofit” and called Saltsman a “research director.” In some instances, reporters took tentative steps in the right direction and called EPI “conservative” or “pro-business.” Only about 3 percent of the time did they correctly link EPI to Berman and Co." The Salon article prompted an amusing interview on MSNBC's Chris Hayes show where Hayes demanded to know how many economists EPI had on staff and the qualifications of its "Research Director" who has no training in economics: [8]

Read the entire SourceWatch page Berman & Co. here (including source citations).

New Web Resource on Outsourcing & Privatization

CMD Launches OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org to "Expose the Private Companies Behind the Corporate Takeover of Public Services"

by PRW Staff

  • Recently, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of the award-winning ALECexposed.org, launched OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org, a web resource devoted to helping taxpayers identify the corporations seeking to privatize public assets and services in their communities: including their schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, court systems, and more.
Outsourcing America Exposed

CMD has unveiled corporate profiles of America’s most notorious corporations that are quietly working with state and local lawmakers to take over public services with little accountability, along with in-depth examinations of the CEOs personally profiting from this corporate coup.

Read the profiles on featured privatizers:

Read the rest of this press release here.


Featured Video

Pete Peterson Exposed: The "Grand Bargain" Hoax

The "Grand Bargain" is a hoax. Find out more about who's behind the push for austerity in deficit hawk America. Learn more about billionaire Pete Peterson and his "Fix the Debt" group.


Take Action!

Tell Google CEO Larry Page to Cut Ties with ALEC

Google Koch ALEC logos.jpg
In December 2013, Google joined up with Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and a passel of other fossil fuel barons at ALEC’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, where bills to “tax the sun” and limit the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases were on the agenda.

What happened to "don't be evil?"

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!


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Praise for SourceWatch!

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"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

"A truly impressive project based on cutting edge web technology."
David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.

"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.

"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 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.

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