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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.

You can also use the sign up box below to get breaking news about our breakthrough investigations.

Lisa Graves, Executive Director

Featured Work

ED: No Records on Closed Charters Mentioned in Its "Commitment to Transparency," CMD Appeals

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On December 23, ED publicly issued a statement called "A Commitment to Transparency: Learning More about the Charter School Program."

That statement noted that it had spent more than $1.6 billion funding more than 2,600 charter schools that were "operational" in the last full school year and that it had funded 430 charters that had "subsequently closed," along with 699 "prospective schools."

However, ED released data for only the operational charter schools and did not list the 1,129 charters that either closed or had not yet opened since 2006. So, in January, CMD requested records about those other charters.

In April, ED denied CMD's request saying it had searched and found no records about the closed or not-opened charters that had received federal taxpayer monies, despite the specific numbers it used in its release. Read the rest of this item here.


ALEC's 2016 Agenda Moving in the States: A Snapshot

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In states across the country, concerned citizens are asking state and local policymakers to raise the minimum wage, enact workplace reforms including earned sick days and the right to organize, stop the privatization of public schools, and help mitigate climate change. Opposition to these initiatives is fierce and growing and often nationally-driven and coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Working in tandem with deep-pocketed corporations, trade associations, conservative groups and mega-donors--including operatives of the Koch brothers--ALEC is driving an agenda you should know about. As legislators and lobbyists fly to Pittsburgh for ALEC's Spring Task Force Summit May 6, the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org, has the lowdown on ALEC bills moving in states this year. Read the rest of this item here.

U.S. Chamber Works Behind the Scenes to Gut Whistleblower Protections

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Efforts to gut the federal False Claims Act backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce got a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday. The federal push builds on previous back-door Chamber efforts through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to discourage states from pursuing fraud claims.

The False Claims Act (FCA) allows the government to recover from businesses that defraud government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and protects whistleblowers who report suspected fraud on government contracts. According to the Department of Justice, cases brought under the FCA resulted in the recovery of $42 billion from 1987-2013, making it an important legal tool for deterring fraud and protecting public funds. Read the rest of this item here.


ALEC Spring Task Force Summit Agenda in Pittsburgh 2016

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Ironies abound in the 2016 agenda for the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which brings together corporate lobbyists and state legislators at luxury hotels to vote side-by-side on "model bills" that then pop up in states across the country.

This spring's Task Force Summit, to be held in the glittering Omni William Penn hotel on May 6 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, features a discussion on "Taxpayer Funded Lobbying Disclosure."

ALEC is not worried about the corporate lobbyists stacking its board and committees, or the taxpayer money being shelled out so some politicians can afford the swank Omni. No, ALEC is worried about city and county governments that join statewide associations to lobby state government for funds to provide services to everyday people. Read the rest of this item here.


Confirmation: the Not-So Independent Women's Forum Was Born in Defense of Clarence Thomas and the Far Right

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HBO's new film on demand, "Confirmation," revisits the painful battle over the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court in spite of the testimony of Anita Hill that he sexually harassed her.

Some pundits have attempted to disparage the film, even though it has several scenes that portray Thomas and his wife Ginny as quiet, sympathetic figures and not as the outspoken right-wing political activists that they were and are.

One of the harshest critics of the film is a group that calls itself the "Independent Women's Forum" (IWF).

IWF is hardly independent though, despite its name. Read the rest of this item here.


DCI Group Subpoenaed in Expanding Exxon Climate Denial Investigation

Image: Adbar, CC BY-SA 3.0
DCI Group, a Washington DC public relations and lobbying firm, is the latest group subpoenaed in an expanding investigation by state attorneys general into the funding of climate change denial by ExxonMobil, according to court filings reviewed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

ExxonMobil has now received separate subpoenas from both the New York and U.S. Virgin Islands U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and DCI Group have also been subpoenaed by the U.S. Virgin Islands for records relating to their role in helping ExxonMobil with climate change denial. Read the rest of this item here.


Recent Articles from PRWatch.org

Secret Money Advocates Prepare to Unload on Milwaukee DA John Chisholm

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm may soon appeal the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that ended the five-county "John Doe" criminal investigation into whether Governor Scott Walker illegally coordinated with supposedly "independent" dark money groups during the 2011-2012 recall elections to the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the rest of this item here.


Kochs' Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Shell out to Rescue Ron Johnson

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, is scrambling to hold off Democratic challenger Russ Feingold in a race that will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. But for all his claims to "outsider" status, incumbent Johnson's campaign is being driven by millions in outside spending by industry front groups, national Republican PACs and right-wing dark money groups, including the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity. Read the rest of this item here.


The Dark Money Is on a Contested Convention and Paul Ryan

With Donald Trump on the news every day declaring that the "rules are rigged" and speculation rampant that the GOP may see a contested convention, the Wisconsin GOP can be forgiven for getting all starry-eyed about the possibility that native son Speaker Paul Ryan might throw his hat into the ring.

But Ryan dashed the hopes of many when he held a press conference at the RNC to declare: "Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the Republican nomination." Read the rest of this item here.


ALEC "Right to Work" Law Tossed Out in Wisconsin

Dane County Circuit Court Judge William Faust struck down the state's private-sector "right-to-work" law late today. In February 2015, Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature pushed through a private-sector right-to-work bill over the objections of thousands of workers and 450 Wisconsin construction firms who rallied against the bill. Workers in right to work states have significantly lower wages and fewer benefits. Read the rest of this item here.

Chambers of Commerce Exposed by CMD

New materials provided to the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch reveal that a top GOP polling firm instructed state Chamber of Commerce lobbyists how to try to defeat popular measures like increasing the minimum wage, despite polling data from business leaders that shows overwhelming support for such progressive workplace policies. 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."


Editors' Pick

A Reality Check for "Charter School Week"

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One could be forgiven for thinking "National Charter School Week" already happened. The made-up "National School Choice Week" was just 14 weeks ago. It's an easy mistake to make.

For education observers in the U.S., every week seems like Charter School Week. As billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, the Koch brothers, and others put millions of dollars per year into a "reform" movement that undermines and supplants truly public education, the government diverts more and more of taxpayer money to charters and other variations of "choice."

In October 2015, the Center for Media and Democracy published "Charter School Black Hole," a special investigation of federal charter school spending and failures. That report found that the federal government has spent at least $3.7 billion on charters. Read the rest of this item here.


Wisconsin Prosecutors Appeal the Walker John Doe to the United States Supreme Court

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After the Wisconsin Supreme Court shut down the Scott Walker John Doe case in July 2015, with an unprecedented order blowing up Wisconsin campaign finance law, firing the Republican Special Prosecutor and ordering the destruction of all evidence, Wisconsin prosecutors had only one appeal--to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On April 28, three Wisconsin prosecutors filed their petition with nation's top court arguing that Wisconsin Justices Michael Gableman and David Prosser should have recused themselves from the decision because the same groups under investigation, including Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce—spent millions to elect them. Read the rest of this item here.



Featured Video

Arizona's NBC 12 and CMD Expose ALEC's Corporate Influence on State Laws

Sunday Square Off, December 9, 2015
Phoenix Arizona's NBC affiliate KPNX hosted the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves on the December 6 episode of "Sunday Square Off" to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) effort to push corporate backed model legislation in state legislatures.


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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
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