Center for Media and Democracy



Introduction


The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a liberal watchdog group. It exists to investigate and malign conservative leaders, groups, and media. The Center for Media and Democracy spins the truth about conservatives and libertarians to push media and public opinion to the left. The Center for Media and Democracy often presents America’s right wing as engaging in grand conspiracies. The Center for Media and Democracy is funded by far-left ideologues including George Soros and the Ford Foundation.

The Center for Media and Democracy abhors free market ideals and advocates for an increased nanny state. The Center for Media and Democracy presents almost every narrative as a grand conspiracy perpetrated by evil capitalists bent on destroying society.

The Center for Media and Democracy’s two major projects are SourceWatch and PR Watch. SourceWatch is a wiki project that CMD uses to negatively profile conservative groups, politicos, and media outlets. PR Watch was a quarterly print publication that was discontinued in 2008.[1] PRWatch.org is now CMD’s primary website and main vessel to push its propaganda.

The Center for Media and Democracy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.


History and Mission

John Stauber founded the Center for Media and Democracy in 1993.[2] He ran the organization until his retirement in 2009.[3] Whatever its original purpose was, the Center for Media and Democracy is now a liberal propaganda machine that perpetuates conspiracy theories about conservatives and big business. The Center for Media and Democracy’s central tenant appears to be that capitalism is to blame for all of America’s social and financial woes.

In its own words, the organization claims, “[t]he Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-profit investigative reporting group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatch, SourceWatch, and BanksterUSA.”[4]

In reality, the Center for Media and Democracy is anti-capitalist and sees all corporations as vehicles for greed and corruption. According to author Ron Arnold, the Center for Media and Democracy:[5]
Works with articles, blog posts, websites and books, to manipulate media, public opinion and public policy leftward with millions from left-wing foundation grants. Run for nearly 15 years by two men, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, and their shifting staff, the Center's rhetoric is primarily in the alarmist-to-apocalyptic range of the shrillness spectrum. Even the not-so-right-leaning Village Voice said of Rampton and Stauber: ‘These guys come from the far side of liberal.’

The Center for Media and Democracy admits its own left-wing bias. In its SourceWatch entry of liberal news outlets, CMD lists its very own “PR Watch.”[6]

The authors of ActivistCash also point out the inherent double standard in CMD’s approach. They write:[7]
If someone in a shirt and tie dares make a profit (especially if food or chemicals are involved), Rampton and Stauber (then CMD’s leadership team) are bound to have a problem with it. Unless, of course, that food is vegetarian, organic, certified fair-trade, shade-grown, biodynamic, or biotech-free — in which case, the sky’s the limit!

SourceWatch

Formed in 2003, SourceWatch is the Center for Media and Democracy’s wiki project.[8] Through SourceWatch, CMD negatively profiles big business, the oil industry, conservative leaders, philanthropists, conservative non-profits, and more.[9] As of August 2011, SourceWatch maintains over 56,000 articles.[10] According to CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves, SourceWatch is a collaborative resource for citizens and journalists looking for documented information about the corporations, industries, and people trying to influence public policy and public opinion. We believe in telling the truth about the most powerful interests in society—not just relating their self-serving press releases or letting real facts be bleached away by spin. SourceWatch focuses on the for-profit corporations, non-profit corporate front groups, PR teams, and so-called ‘experts’ trying to influence public opinion on behalf of global corporations and the government agencies they have captured.[11]

The SourceWatch homepage invites readers to register, edit, and add wikis.[12] However, the link leads to a page saying that citizens cannot register.[13] Only specially approved administrators can add and edit entries.[14] Perhaps SourceWatch is afraid that conservatives and libertarians would undo spin and smears and replace them with facts and truth.

Many SourceWatch entries are written to attack conservatives. The true aim of these SourceWatch entries appears to be the diminution of free speech. SourceWatch writers cannot stand conservative and free-market opinions, so they attack these groups and try to stifle their funding. For example, SourceWatch maintains entries on the following conservative “conspiracies” and movements:
  • Global Warming Skeptics[15]
  • Global Warming Front Groups[16]
  • Climate Change Deniers[17]
  • Consumer Front groups[18]
  • Coal Front Groups[19]
  • Environmental Front Groups[20]
As of August 2011, SourceWatch focuses its vitriol on these primary issues:

  • Corporate Rights: CMD is working to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission– a case which expanded free speech rights. CMD states, “[w]e believe the decision necessitates having a national conversation about what to do about the problem that most Americans understand--that corporations and their CEOs have too much influence in our politics and policies.”[21]

  • Fracking for Gas: CMD seemingly opposes everything to do with oil and natural gas. CMD has an entire initiative dedicated to fighting fracking and other drilling.[22] According to CMD, “hydrofracking, uses millions of gallons of drinkable water to drill each well, relies on a cocktail of hazardous chemicals to lubricate the drill and keep the wells flowing, has demonstrably led to the contamination of wells and drinking water, and creates other adverse consequences for people residing near the wells, pipelines, and processing centers, in addition to contributing to greenhouse gases and climate change.”[23]

    This scaremongering is false. The Wall Street Journal article, “The Facts About Fracking,” debunks the common myths presented by groups like SourceWatch.[24] The authors explain, “[a]ll forms of energy have risks and environmental costs, not least wind (noise and dead birds and bats) and solar (vast expanses of land). Yet renewables are nowhere close to supplying enough energy, even with large subsidies, to maintain America’s standard of living. The shale gas and oil boom is the result of U.S. business innovation and risk-taking. If we let the fear of undocumented pollution kill this boom, we will deserve our fate as a second-class industrial power.”[25]


  • Toxic Sludge[26]

  • Financial Crisis: Despite evidence that federal government programs played a major role in the 2008 (and continuing) financial crisis,[27] the Center for Media and Democracy misleadingly claims, “[t]oo big to fail financial services institutions have crashed the U.S. economy, throwing millions out of work, collapsing retirement funds and college savings accounts, and forcing many hard-working Americans out of their homes.”[28]

Attacks on Conservatives

SourceWatch maintains numerous entries that malign conservative and free-market groups.

The Heartland Institute

One SourceWatch entry negatively profiles the Heartland Institute.[29] The SourceWatch writer attacks the Heartland Institute by maligning its work on climate change and claiming it is an industry funded “front” group. In fact, the SourceWatch entry claims that Heartland is a tobacco “front” group,[30] a global warming “front” group,[31] and a corporate “front” on environmental issues.[32] In additional to its basic negative profile page, SourceWatch maintains a separate page that purports to show the Heartland Institute’s ties to the tobacco industry.[33]

The SourceWatch attacks are so baseless that the Heartland Institute dedicated a portion of its website to rebut CMD’s ridiculous allegations.[34] The Heartland Institute is not a front group. A front group is a puppet organization that does the bidding of a shadow leader that funds the organization. The Heartland Institute does not have a single primary funder, and a wide range of individuals, foundations, and groups finance it. The Heartland Institute describes its funding and scholarship as diverse:[35]
Heartland has grown slowly over the years by cultivating a diverse base of donors who share its mission. Today it has approximately 2,000 supporters. In 2010 it received 48 percent of its income from foundations, 34 percent from corporations, and 14 percent from individuals. No corporate donor gave more than 5 percent of its annual budget … More than 125 academics and professional economists serve as policy advisors to The Heartland Institute, including members of the faculties of Harvard University, The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Georgetown University, Pepperdine University, Vanderbilt School of Law, and scores of other respected universities.

BanksterUSA

The Center for Media and Democracy also runs the website, BanksterUSA.org.[36] BanksterUSA (which is a combination of “Bank” and “Gangster”) is an anti-capitalist endeavor that blames America’s financial woes entirely on large banks.


Funding

The Center for Media and Democracy would have you believe that it gets most of its funding from individual Americans donating small amounts. The Center claims, “[m]ost of CMD’s supporters are individual donors who give $5 or more a year to help support the Center’s general operations.”[37] This statement is too clever by half. While the number of small contributors may be large, CMD receives much of its funding from large far-left foundations.[38] The Washington Examiner explains, the “reality behind CMD and Source Watch is not legions of small donors sending the goup $10 here or $25 there. In fact, CMD is supported by a number of the nation’s largest, most well-endowed and most liberal foundations.”[39]

The Center for Media and Democracy is largely funded by socialist billionaire George Soros and far-left foundations, including:
  • American Legacy Foundation
  • Bauman Family Foundation
  • Careth Foundation
  • Carolyn Foundation
  • Changing Horizons Charitable Trust
  • Courtney’s Foundation
  • CS Fund
  • Deer Creek Foundation
  • Educational Foundation of America
  • Ettinger Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • Foundation for Deep Ecology
  • Foundation for Political Management
  • Funding Exchange
  • Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund
  • Grodzins Fund
  • Helena Rubinstein Foundation
  • HKH Foundation
  • Litowitz Foundation
  • Marisla Foundation
  • Mostyn Foundation
  • Open Society Institute
  • Park Foundation
  • Public Welfare Foundation
  • Proteus Fund
  • V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation
  • Rockefeller Associates
  • Rockefeller Family Foundation
  • Rockwood Fund
  • Stern Family Fund
  • Schumann Center for Media and Democracy
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • Threshold Foundation
  • Tides Foundation
  • Town Creek Foundation
  • Turner Foundation
  • Wallace Global Fund
  • Winslow Foundation[40]

Leadership (as of August 2011)

John Stauber (Retired) – Founder
Lisa Graves – Executive Director / Editor-in-Chief (2009 Salary: $47,867)
Anne Landman – Managing Editor
Jill Richardson – Food Rights Network Fellow
Wendell Potter – Senior Fellow on Health Care

One Center for Media and Democracy Board Member deserves special note: Ellen Braune.[41] According to Discover the Networks, "She currently serves as Vice President of Communications at the Ms. Foundation for Women, and was formerly a Senior Vice President at Fenton Communications and a Communications Director for the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). Part of the Soviet-controlled World Peace Council, CISPES was established in America in 1980 by high-ranking members of the Salvadoran Communist Party and Cuban intelligence to support El Salvador’s murderous guerrilla bands and to influence American public opinion through protests and one-sided disinformation."[42]


Contact Information

Center for Media and Democracy
520 University Avenue, Suite 260
Madison, Wisconsin 53703
Phone: 608-260-9713
Fax: 608-260-9714
Website: http://www.prwatch.org/


The National Center For Public Policy Research publishes GroupSnoop. The National Center is a non-profit communications and research foundation that supports free-market and pro-Constitution approaches to today’s policy problems. The National Center is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

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  1. ^
    “PR Watch,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/cmd/prwatch.html as of August 3, 2011.
  2. ^
    “About Us,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/cmd as of July 25, 2011.
  3. ^ “About Us,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/cmd as of July 25, 2011.
  4. ^
    “About Us,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/cmd as of July 25, 2011.
  5. ^
    “SourceWatch and PR Watch projects of Center for Media and Democracy, Inc.,” Undue Influence – Ron Arnold’s Left Tracking Library, available at http://www.undueinfluence.com/sourcewatch.htm as of July 25, 2011.
  6. ^
    “Liberal News Outlets,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Liberal_news_outlets as of July 25, 2011.
  7. ^
    “Center for Media and Democracy – Overview,” ActivistCash, available at http://activistcash.com/organization_overview.cfm/o/12-center-for-media--democracy as of July 26, 2011.
  8. ^
    “SourceWatch: Purpose,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch:Purpose as of August 3, 2011.
  9. ^ The SourceWatch homepage is available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch as of July 26, 2011.
  10. ^ “SourceWatch: Purpose,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch:Purpose as of July 25, 2011.
  11. ^ SourceWatch Homepage, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch as of July 26, 2011.
  12. ^
    The SourceWatch homepage is available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch as of July 26, 2011.
  13. ^ “Permission Errors,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Special:UserLogin&type=signup as of July 27, 2011.
  14. ^ “User List,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Special:ListUsers/sysop as of July 27, 2011.
  15. ^ “Global Warming Skeptics,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Global_warming_skeptics as of July 26, 2011.
  16. ^ “Category: Global Warming Front Groups,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Category:Global_warming_fronts as of August 3, 2011.
  17. ^ “Climate Change Deniers,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Climate_Change_Deniers as of August 3, 2011.
  18. ^ “Category: Consumer Fronts,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Category:Consumer_fronts as of July 26, 2011.
  19. ^ “Category: Coal Industry Front Groups,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Coal_industry_front_groups as of July 26, 2011.
  20. ^ “Category: Environmental Fronts,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Category:Environmental_fronts as of July 26, 2011.
  21. ^ “Portal: Corporate Rights,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Corporate_Rights as of July 27, 2011.
  22. ^ “Portal: Water,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Water as of July 27, 2011.
  23. ^ “Portal: Water,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Water as of July 27, 2011.
  24. ^ “The Facts About Fracking,” Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2011, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398462932810874.html as of July 27, 2011.
  25. ^ “The Facts About Fracking,” Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2011, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398462932810874.html as of July 27, 2011.
  26. ^ “Portal: Toxic Sludge,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Toxic_Sludge as of July 27, 2011.
  27. ^ John B. Taylor, “How Government Created the Financial Crisis,” Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2009, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123414310280561945.html as of August 3, 2011.
  28. ^ “Portal: Financial Crisis,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Financial_Crisis as of August 3, 2011.
  29. ^
    “Heartland Institute,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Heartland_Institute as of July 25, 2011.
  30. ^ “Category: Tobacco Front Groups,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Category:Tobacco_fronts as of July 25, 2011.
  31. ^ “Category: Global Warming Fronts,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Category:Global_warming_fronts as of July 25, 2011.
  32. ^ “Category: Environmental Fronts,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Category:Environmental_fronts as of July 25, 2011. (According to SourceWatch, “Environmental fronts are front groups that claim to be concerned about environmental protection, when in fact they serve corporate or other interests at odds with the environment.”)
  33. ^ “Heartland Institute and Tobacco,” SourceWatch, available at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Heartland_Institute_and_tobacco as of July 25, 2011.
  34. ^
    “Reply to Our Critics,” The Heartland Institute, available at http://www.heartland.org/about/truthsquad.html as of July 25, 2011.
  35. ^ “Reply to Our Critics,” The Heartland Institute, available at http://www.heartland.org/about/truthsquad.html as of July 25, 2011.
  36. ^
    The BanksterUSA homepage is available at http://www.banksterusa.org/ as of July 25, 2011.
  37. ^
    “Financial Supporters,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/finances.html as of July 25, 2011.
  38. ^ Ron Arnold, “Take a Look at the Financial Sources Behind SourceWatch,” Washington Examiner, September 3, 2010, available at http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/take-look-financial-sources-behind-source-watch as of July 26, 2011.
  39. ^ Ron Arnold, “Take a Look at the Financial Sources Behind SourceWatch,” Washington Examiner, September 3, 2010, available at http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/take-look-financial-sources-behind-source-watch as of July 26, 2011.
  40. ^ “Financial Supporters,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/finances.html as of July 25, 2011.
  41. ^
    “About Us,” Center for Media and Democracy, available at http://www.prwatch.org/cmd as of July 25, 2011.
  42. ^ “Center for Media and Democracy,” Discover the Networks, available at http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=7353 as of August 3, 2011.