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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

IRS Gives Up, Grants Karl Rove's Dark Money Group "Social Welfare" Certification

Karl Rove
In the face of the Republican-led Congress' hostility to the IRS clarifying the rules for nonprofit political activity, the tax agency has apparently given up.

The IRS has granted nonprofit status to Karl Rove's dark money political operation, Crossroads GPS, which for the past five years has pushed the legal envelope in order to influence elections but keep its donors secret.

Formed in the wake of Citizens United, Crossroads GPS has been one of the biggest secretly-funded political players, raising and spending $330 million on election-related ads attacking Democratic candidates or praising Republicans, but without doing anything that might be described as advancing "social welfare." Although the majority opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision endorsed disclosure of donors, in the five years following the decision, spending by secretly-funded 501(c)(4) nonprofits has exploded. Read the rest of this item here.


Ordinary Americans Fought Big Money and Won in 2015

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Americans believe in democracy—and they're ready to reclaim it from the wealthy special interests that have grown ever-more dominant since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.

The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that money has too much influence over elections, and that the system for financing political campaigns needs a radical overhaul.

Over 90 percent of Iowa caucus voters—in both parties—recently told pollsters they are unsatisfied or "mad as hell" about the role of money in politics.

It is a striking consensus that is overcoming partisan divides and sparking civic action across the country, as a new joint report by the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, Demos, Every Voice, U.S. PIRG, Public Citizen, and People for the American Way highlights. Read the rest of this item here.


Koch-Fueled Playbook against WV Working Families Exposed by CMD

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West Virginia Senate President Bill Cole's spokesman said Monday that Cole "will travel throughout West Virginia and beyond...." to talk about his legislative agenda that limits workers' rights.

And, boy, did he go beyond, according to David Gutman of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Cole flew to a world far away from West Virginia when he traveled this weekend to the luxurious Esmeralda resort, which describes itself as creating “an atmosphere of luxury and relaxation unmatched” in Palm Springs, California, the winter playground of the rich and powerful like billionaire Charles Koch, who has an estate there. Read the rest of this item here.


Corporate Interests Take Aim at Local Democracy

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Across America, corporate interests are taking aim at local government.

With Congress gridlocked and a majority of state legislatures controlled by right-wing interests, cities have become laboratories of democracy for progressive policies like a higher minimum wage, LGBTQ protections, or parental leave.

In response, corporate interests and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have increasingly been turning to state "preemption" measures—some of them unprecedentedly aggressive--to override an array of progressive policy gains at the city or county level. Read the rest of this item here.


Photo Finish in Iowa Is a Victory for Sanders

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With only one precinct out, the Iowa caucuses are over and it is a photo finish.

At the start of the night, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a comfortable lead, but as more votes came in from caucuses jammed with first-time caucus-goers the needle started to swing to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who succeeded in turning his electric rallies into a political force to be reckoned with.

While Clinton quickly claimed victory, the close finish is reminiscent of her 2008 loss to insurgent candidate Barack Obama. Sanders is also claiming victory, having come from 40 points behind the "inevitable" Clinton to a "Dead Heat" as the Des Moines Register dubbed it. Read the rest of this item here.


"National School Choice Week" Fueled by Major Right-Wing Funders and Corporate Lobby Groups

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MADISON, WI -- With 32 governors proclaiming this week "School Choice Week," and more than 16,000 scheduled events listed on the promotional website, #NationalSchoolChoiceWeek has become a big deal, and not by accident.

Launched five years ago by the Gleason Family Foundation—which spent more than $4.3 million on the project in 2014—the week has grown rapidly through the backing of advocacy groups and deep pockets of funders focused on promoting charters, vouchers, and tax credits that aid private schools, including religious and for-profit ventures.

In federal and state budgets, "school choice" policies often divert or reduce Americans’ tax dollars available for traditional public schools that educate our most underserved students or for investment in sustainable and innovative community schools that are truly public. Read the rest of this item here.


Recent Articles from PRWatch.org

CMD and CREW Allege Koch-Backed Group Broke the Law

Trees of Liberty, a dark money non-profit financed and operated by the Koch political network, broke the law in helping Joni Ernst win her primary election in 2014, according to a complaint filed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Trees of Liberty was set up by veteran Koch network political operatives a few months after Ernst appeared at a Koch donor retreat, and started running ads in Iowa within a week of its creation. Despite spending almost all of its budget to attack Ernst's primary opponent, Mark Jacobs, the group claimed on its tax filings with the IRS that it did not engage in political activity in 2014. Making false statements on a signed form to the IRS was a criminal violation. Additionally, Trees of Liberty violated its tax-exempt status by engaging primarily in political activity for the private benefit of now-Sen. Joni Ernst and the Koch network, the complaint alleges. Read the rest of this item here.


Reporters Guide on the Koch Right to Work Playbook

West Virginia is the latest front in a national battle to undermine worker rights bankrolled by the billionaire Koch brothers.

The effort in West Virginia to enact a Right to Work law (Senate Bill 1) and repeal the state's prevailing wage (HB4005) is following the same playbook used in Michigan and Wisconsin, involving a similar cast of Koch-backed out-of-state characters to drive the agenda.

Read the rest of this item here.


Sanders Mission in Iowa: "Shock the Political Establishment"

The tiny state of Iowa will be the center of attention tonight as voters in big cities and small towns gather to caucus in schools, libraries, homes, and bars.

This will be the most important Iowa Caucus in recent times because it could propel surging anti-establishment candidates Bernie Sanders into the critical Super Tuesday race March 1 or put a serious crimp in his plans. Read the rest of this item here.


Feds Cheerlead for Charter Schools, Aiding Private Philanthropy’s Takeover of America’s Public Schools

With the Walton billionaires doubling down in their efforts to accelerate the charter school industry and with the Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, throwing in $100 million to privatize traditional public schools, one might think that the U.S. Department of Education would be a major line of defense for America's public schools educating the most underserved students or even a bold investor in sustainable community schools that are truly public. One would be wrong. The U.S. Department of Education, as with the education agencies of many states, has been co-opted by the spending frenzy of the billionaire class. 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

WI Supreme Court Again Tries Thwarting SCOTUS Review of Its Conflicts of Interest

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Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court's majority took another step to insulate itself from review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the latest twist in the long-running "John Doe" legal saga that has brought national attention to dysfunction on the state's highest court.

"It is hard to imagine how a state Supreme Court could throw more roadblocks in front of an attempt to file [an appeal] with the U.S. Supreme Court than this court has," said former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske, who is now a professor at Marquette Law School.

In an order issued late on Friday, February 5, the Court barred prosecutors from receiving free, pro bono legal assistance to challenge the conflicts of interest that faced some Wisconsin Supreme Court justices in last year's John Doe case. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, some justices likely should not have heard the case at all, since it involved the same groups that spent millions electing the court' majority. Read the rest of this item here.


Anti-Muslim CEO Is Key Walker Ally

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has positioned himself as an ardent supporter of "religious liberty." When running for president he said that Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who didn't want to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, should be allowed a "reasonable accommodation." He has stated that pharmacists should be allowed to refuse birth control prescriptions on religious grounds, and sponsored such a "conscience clause" bill as a state legislator.

Walker's commitment to religious liberty, though, is being tested as one of his top allies is accused of religious discrimination against Muslim workers.

Recently, seven Muslim workers at Wisconsin-based Ariens Company were fired for taking a prayer break, and 14 resigned, following a controversial announcement last month that the company would only allow prayers during scheduled break times--rather than during the times that their faith requires, such as at dawn and sunset. 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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