Center for Media and Democracy

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Center for Media and Democracy

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a nationally recognized watchdog founded in 1993 by John Stauber that leads in-depth investigations into the corruption that undermines our democracy, environment, and economic prosperity.[1] CMD manages this website,, and CMD publishes original research and featured documents it obtains on its blog

In March 2018, Arn Pearson became CMD’s Executive Director, succeeding Lisa Graves, who served as executive director from 2009-2018 and currently serves as board President. CMD’s team includes researchers, data experts, FOIA experts, lawyers, and fact-checkers.

CMD is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit.


The latest news from the Center for Media and Democracy can be found on its blog here.

Non-Partisan Advocacy

The group presents itself as a nonpartisan media research organization and its principals have criticized people and policies in both of the major political parties in the U.S. and interest groups across the political spectrum.

Example of CMD's Critiques

The CMD book Banana Republicans documents that the right wing in the United States regards politics as a form of "war by other means." The book notes that notwithstanding self-named "conservatives" have a "stated aversion to 'big government,' when in control of the federal government they did not hesitate to expand its powers in precisely those areas that are most threatening to individual freedoms, through the USA Patriot Act and other measures that authorize spying on citizens and detentions without trial. The likelihood that such inherently abusive powers will be misused has increased, moreover, as the conservative movement accuses its ideological adversaries of 'treason,' 'terrorism' and 'un-Americanism,' threatening long-standing traditions of tolerance and diversity. ... In sum, the direction in which forces in the GOP are moving looks - at times absurdly, at times ominously - similar to the 'banana republics' of Latin America: nations dominated by narrow corporate elites, which use the pretext of national security to violate the rights of their citizens."

The book warns that one-party domination of politics carries the danger of "incestuous amplification," a tendency for policymakers to "only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation." It notes that in one-party dictatorships like Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union, "hierarchical, command-driven social systems" were "notorious for their tendency to make disastrous decisions, in the areas of both domestic and foreign policy." With regard to the United States, the book argues that "incestuous amplification" helps explain "how the Bush administration managed to convince itself that Iraq truly did possess awesome weapons of mass destruction, that it was closely tied to al Qaeda, and that the people of Iraq would greet a U.S. invasion of their country as liberation. Much of the administration's intelligence information about Iraq actually came from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an organization created and funded by the U.S. government at the behest of the first Bush administration for the purpose of creating conditions for Saddam Hussein's overthrow. Not surprisingly, the information from the INC and its head, Ahmed Chalabi, tended to reinforce the already-existing assumptions of policymakers in the second Bush administration, even when that information contradicted other reports coming from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency."

The book argues that incestuous amplification can also distort other areas of knowledge and policy, such as science. It notes that Bush administration routinely subordinated science to politics, with potentially dangerous consequences. "To inform its decisions on issues including sex education, environmental health, global warming, workplace safety and AIDS, the Bush administration has used a variety of political litmus tests to create scientific panels stacked heavily with members who have scant scientific credentials but strong industry ties and right-wing agendas. It had altered official government websites, removing scientific information that contradicts the political views of industry groups and the conservative movement. In some cases, scientists have been ordered to remain silent by their politically appointed higher-ups."


Some contend that CMD is not neutral. CMD has been criticized for having an anti-corporate viewpoint by lobbyists such as Berman & Co., a public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman specializing in creating front groups for industry clients in the tobacco, food, biotechnology and other sectors., an industry-funded website run by Berman & Co. and associated with Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom, has run such critiques.


CMD voluntarily discloses its major funders on its website. The following foundations and generous individuals have donated $5,000 or more to support the work of CMD since January 1, 2020:[2]

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Cloud Mountain Foundation
  • Common Counsel Foundation
  • Community Shares of Wisconsin
  • Craigslist Charitable Fund
  • CREDOMobile
  • East Bay Community Foundation
  • Wendy A. Fearnside
  • Andrew J. Goodman
  • Hopewell Fund
  • Christina Jonsson Charity
  • Gordon Lafer
  • Mindy Loiselle & Lanny Levenson Gift Fund
  • Madison Community Foundation
  • Marisla Foundation
  • Mazess Fund
  • Stewart R. Mott Foundation
  • Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund
  • Park Foundation
  • Nancy D. Peterson
  • Piper Fund
  • Michael L. Schler
  • Sustainability Group
  • Sustainable Grantmaking Partners Fund
  • Tides Foundation
  • Trehan Foundation
  • Wallace Global Fund
  • Wildbasil Fund



As of February 2022:[3]

  • Arn Pearson, Executive Director
  • Eric Wittstein, Director of Operations and Development
  • David Armiak, Research Director
  • Alex Kotch, Investigative Reporter
  • Don Wiener, Contributor

Former Staff

  • Lisa Graves, Executive Director
  • Mary Bottari, Deputy Director
  • Patricia Barden, IT Director
  • Jordan Barden, Webmaster
  • Evan Vorpahl, Researcher
  • Nick Surgey, Director of Research
  • Jamie Corey, Researcher
  • Brendan Fischer, General Counsel
  • Jessica Mason, Researcher
  • Sari Williams, Office and Outreach Manager
  • Nikolina Lazic, Executive Assistant
  • Calvin Sloan, Researcher and Multimedia Specialist
  • Friday Thorn, Digital Editor
  • Jonas Persson, Writer
  • Rebekah Wilce, Reporter and Researcher
  • Harriet Rowan, Reporter
  • Wendell Potter, Honorary Senior Fellow
  • Abdul Raziq, Writer
  • Emily Osborne, Reporter
  • Sara Jerving, Reporter
  • Jonathan Rosenblum, Contributor
  • Beau Hodai, Contributor
  • Will Dooling, Researcher
  • Anne Landman, Managing Editor
  • Ben Tobias, Researcher
  • Steve Horn, Contributor
  • Dave Johnson, Contributor
  • Eric Carlson, Researcher
  • Jennifer Page, Researcher and Writer
  • Kate Rhudy, Policy Counsel
  • John Stauber, Founder in 1993, former Executive Director, retired July 2009

Board of Directors

As of February 2022:[2]

  • Lisa Graves, President
  • Deborah Bey
  • Ellen Braune
  • Cosmo Harrigan
  • Gordon Lafer
  • Nancy MacLean
  • Jan Miyasaki
  • Bo Yerxa

Former Directors

Contact Information

Center for Media and Democracy
520 University Ave
Ste 305
Madison, WI 53703


Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings



Other organizations with similar names

CMD was founded in 1993. Since then a number of other unaffiliated organizations with similar names have arisen. They also are named, or have in their name, "Center for Media and Democracy." These different groups include:

  • CMD Pakistan - a civil society group in Pakistan, which says its goal is "to ensure free, fair and transparent holding of upcoming general elections" (in February 2008) [1]
  • Schumann Center for Media and Democracy - a foundation based in New Jersey, which focuses on the environment, good governance and media issues
  • DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy - a research center at Duke University that supports "democratic free media in the United States and around the globe" [2]
  • CCTV Center for Media and Democracy - a Burlington, Vermont community media center (CCTV stands for Chittenden Community Television) with a mission of ensuring "free speech and opportunity in the increasingly centralized and commercialized world of electronic media" [3]


  1. Center for Media and Democracy, About, CMD, 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 CMD, About CMD, CMD, accessed February 2022.
  3. Center for Media and Democracy, Our Team, CMD, accessed February 2022.