The Media Institute

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The Media Institute (TMI) was founded in 1979 (another source says 1975). If you believe the puff-pieces, then it

"... is a nonprofit research foundation specializing in communications policy issues. The Institute exists to foster three goals: freedom of speech, a competitive media and communications industry, and excellence in journalism." [1]

The Institute was actually founded in 1975 using funds from Richard Mellon Scaife and his various foundations (Scaife Family Foundation, Carthage Foundation, Sarah M Scaife Foundation and the Allegheny Foundation). These Pittsburgh foundations were based on a family fortune trust which had generated $200 million in oil and banking industry profits. Richard Mellon Scaife, as the surviving heir and controller of the trusts and foundations, had another $800 million personally in the mid-80s to lavish on anti-Communist/socialist/welfare institutions, and conservative/libertarian pro-business organizations.

Scaife himself preferred to keep in the shadows, but Dick Larry (mentioned below) was one of two aides who ran the various political operations:

The Media Institute had its own subsidiary variously called the Communications Research Institute and Communications Research Corp. This organisation acts as commercial lobby-shops for companies and industries with problems likely to be reported adversely in the media. Philip Morris, for instance, gave them $242,000 in 1995 for some project. The Media Institute also has links to the Freedom of Expression Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Center (for the Protection of Free Expression). The organisation also ran the Cornerstone Project and an annual Symposium in celebration of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

[Note: Another company Bob Beckel Plus Associates shared the premises. It had a staff of 11 and operated in Grassroots organizing, public policy advocacy, media relations. for Non-profit organizations, associations, private sector]

One of The Media Institute's publications was actively promoted by the Heritage Foundation: Speaking Freely: The Public Interest in Unfettered Speech

This publication suggests that Congress and a willing FCC have proven surprisingly eager to regulate what is seen and heard on television and radio. Included are several essays by the following authors: John Corry, columnist for the American Spectator, on TV Violence; Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, on indecency; Adam Thierer, Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, on children's television; Daniel Troy, partner, Wiley Rein & Fielding, on commercial speech; and E. Brant Gustavson, President, National Religious Broadcasters, on the Fairness Doctrine. 113 pp. CONTACT: The Media Institute,

Scaife has had a long interest in funding groups that monitor and criticize the news media. He funded Gen. William C. Westmoreland's unsuccessful libel suit against CBS News. He has granted about $2 million to Accuracy in Media, a conservative critic of mainstream news media, 1977-99. The Media Institute is another watchdog group he has backed.

'Broadcasting & Cable in February 2007 reported

'"The Media Institute is a Washington-based media think tank supported by major media companies, including two new additions, Verizon and DirecTV, and one returning sponsor, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association,". [2] Other corporate backers include Viacom, Time Warner, NBC Universal, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., Tribune and Gannett. [3] [4]

In October 2007, the Media Institute gave awards to two conservatives, Kenneth W. Lowe, the president and CEO of the E.W. Scripps Company, and Tony Snow, the former press secretary to President George W. Bush. [5] In 1999, the Institute gave its Freedom of Speech Award to Republican then-FCC Commissioner Michael K. Powell. [6]

Koch Wiki

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.

Documents & Timeline

1970 Oct 7 Patrick D Maines is the Advertising Director of the National Review. He was dealing with the director of public relations at Brown & Williamson Tobacco [7]

1975 Education of journalists is also a part of the work of another Scaife-backed media group, the Washington-based Media Institute. The institute's president, Leonard J Theberge, also was a founder of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, the umbrella group for six conservative legal groups funded by Scaife. Frank Skrobiszewski, is second in command to Theberge] Institute board members have included

  • Herbert Schmertz, vice president, public affairs at Mobil,
  • J Robert Fluor, chairman of Fluor Corporation.

Scaife's assistance began with a $100,000 donation in 1975, the first year of the institute's existence, and has grown to about $150,000 by 1981, (or about 15 percent of the total budget). [8]

1981 Leonard Theberge -- Founder of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, the umbrella group for six conservative legal groups funded by Scaife. Also president of the Washington-based Media Institute See list of Board members of the Media Institute [9]

1984Patrick D Maines becomes president of The Media Institute in Washington DC.

1989 Maine has sent Philip Morris the annual report of the Media Institute. He "thought you might be interested in our comments on commercial speech." [10]

1990 Mar Advisory Council of The Media Institute [Washington DC]'s First Amendment Center

1990 Apr Tobacco Institute Action Plan: We also contacted as witness possibilities : William Rusher (Claremount Foundation), Craig R Smith (Freedom of Expression Foundation), Patrick D Maines (Media Institute) and Jacob Sullum (Reason magazine). [12]

1990 Aug PM's generous contribution in support of our advertising/commercial speech program (Type-in Bates Number) 2023644174

1991 July Tobacco Institute - Public Affairs Management Plan: They reported on answering a request from RJReynolds for information on Patrick Maines, and Richard Kaplar who authored "Advertisitng Rights: The Neglected Freedom". [13]

1992 Feb 5 Due to the economy and a shift in their program focus The Media Institute have let David P Taggart go. He immediately applied for a job with the Tobacco Institute. He assumes that the Tobacco Institute will know The Media Institute and Patrick Maines well. [14]

1992 Oct Sol Schildhause with Richard (Rick) Kaplar, and Patrick Maines--The Media Institute has made a proposal to the tobacco industry on Commercial Free speech. (Type-in Bates Number) 2047913205

1993 April Anti-smokers are attacking the use of billboards by cigarette companies. The New York Times carries a long letter to the Editor on the subject by Patrick D Maines of The Media Group. His arguments are based on the First Amendment rights of tobacco companies to advertise their products. [15]

1993 June 7 Frank Gomez who is Philip Morris's controller of Patrick Maines and The Media Institute has run out of money with half a year still to go, He wants to tet another $10-15,000 from another division because "I continue to hold the TMI in high regard" His alternative is to approach the Tobacco Institute for funds but

adding funding from TI or RJ (Reynolds) would reduce TMI's credibility in such an arena, If Patrick is willing to risk the credibility factor, we could go forward through your/our contacts perhaps using PM USA's good offices. [16]

1994 Apr 1 The Media Institute is receiving check of $22,500 from PM for "general support" in "recognition of our long association with you and to support your important work". [17]

1994 Josh Slavitt writes that

... Patrick Maines has asked Philip Morris for a grant to develop a series of monographs discussing the neo-prohibitionis assault on advertising. He plans to distribute the monographs to (newspapers, magazines, public officials, advertising associations, government lobby groups)
Patrick Maines, President of TMI has written a book defending tobacco advertising and has testified before Congress on behalf of the Industry.
While TMI is viewed as a libertarian free-market organization, they work very closely with the ACLU's Washington Office. TMI is one of the few think tanks that is exclusively devoted to advancing market freedoms. Patrick had submitted a proposal for $50,000, which I have reduced to $30,000. Patrick's proposal is worthy of our consideration. [18]

1994 Jun 23 Someone in Philip Morris has created a list of people who are potentially (or previously) helpful in attacking the FDA. This is a farily standard list of far-right-wing journalists and policy groups who figure in many of these documents. Under the heading: Policy group allies

Media Institute has attacked FDA as a violator of commercial free speech for their overzealous attack on advertising in the healthcare industry. Published a book, "Bad Prescription for the 1st Amendment".[19]

The other allies on this list were the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Washington Legal Foundation

1994 Dec 5Patrick Maines at The Media Institute also wants money to publish book of 5,000 word essays Content Controls: A Conservative Critique which will

...each be written by a prominent conservatives (or an employee of a well-known conservative organisation) in opposition to content controls (on) TV violence, indecency, children's TV, the Fairness Doctrine, and commercial speech

He planned to get a 'prominent conservative' towrite the introduction -- and expected input from the Washington Legal Foundation, American Spectator, and the Cato Institute

Frank Gomez's superior at Philip Morris, (the CEO Cullman?) has written "OK for $10k" on the document.[20]

1995 Sept 12 This is a list of emails between members of Philip Morris's Corporate Affairs, all on the same date:

  • Karen Daragan to Ellis Woodward at PM Corporate Affairs comments on problems they are having with a female member of the press over the

    "FDA/Clinton battle. She will write about how we just hired Liebengood, a nice, responsible, well-liked guy on the Hill, at a time when tobacco people are not welcomed with open arms.

She wants to speak to Liebengood or SCP (Stephen Parrish) on why he was chosen to spearhead WRO (Washington Regulatory Office - Congress lobbyists) efforts.

  • Josh Slavitt to the Corporate Affairs group

    "I have page proofs of Speaking Freely, The Public Interest in Unfettered Speech" by John Corey (American Spectator), Doug Bandow (Cato Institute), Adam Thierer (Heritage Foundation), Dan Troy (Law clerk for Bork), Brand Gustavson (Nat. Religious Brodcasters), Ed Crane (President of Cato and best friend of Patrick Maines at the Media Institute) [21]</blockqutoe>

1995 Sep 29 Patrick Maines under the letterhead of the Communications Research Corporation is writing to Josh Slavitt, his controller at Philip Morris Corporate Affairs. He is proposingIdeas on Commercial Free Speech project -- a multi-faceted commercial speech program to "create a climate of opinion among policymakers, opinion leaders, media and the public that favored advertising freedom and First Amendment protection for commercial speech, even for disfavored products." He plans to

  • Create a quarterly publication - long newsletter or short magazine -- devoted to commercial speech issues
    • it would include summaries of research studies
    • Original articles by researchers
    • Analysis of Court Decisions
  • Direct contact
    • Series of on-site briefings for legislators, members of Congress and staff, journalists
    • Staging seminars
    • Establishing a resource bank of independent experts (Professors, academicians, legal scholars)
    • Finding and developing new 'talent' and showcasing their work in publications
    • Building coalitions among individuals and groups.

Estimated cost would be $15,000 per month. "CRC is a for-profit consulting subsidiary of The Media Institute" They would also need help from outside PR.
. [22]

1995 Oct 12 expert development program (Type-in Bates Number) 2047047481

1996 Philip Morris's budget for Ellen Merlo's (PM USA Corporate Affairs) unit has items:

Tobacco Issues Mgt,:
$500,000 (includes continued support of law enforcement, fire prevention and public policy groups such as Atlas Economic Research Institute, Media Institute, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and The Freedom of Expression Foundation). Additional Shared Public Policy Group Grants:
$500,000 (includes continued joint support of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, The Tax Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, Alexis de Tocqueville Institute, Capitol Research Center, Heritage Foundation, American Policy Foundation, [[Citizens for a Sound Economy[[ Foundation and other 501(c)(3) public policy organizations. [23]

1996 Jan 31 Francis Gomez at PM is not able to attend a meeting with Patrick Maines in Philip Morris's Washington Regulatory Office. However at least 3 top Corporate Affairs staff will be in attendance. He wants:

  • (Washington executives) Howard Liebengood and David Nicoli to drop in to the meeting and say hello.
    • The Media Institute has been making public comments attacking the FDA. "This keeps FDA on defensive and buttresses our positions on commercial free speech"
  • He wants more support for The Media Institute -- either directly, or alternately via "his for profit group" (Communications Research Corporation)
    • "Patrick would be a strong advocate with "Freedom Forum" to assemble a two-day seminar, for example, which we could populate with speakers and panelists who would make points we want to make."
    • TMI and Freedom Forum have been doing these seminars in the West Coast. Now they should do them in the East


1996 FebProspectus for a Commercial Speech Advocacy Program and Commercial Speech Forum' A new publication upholding the Right To Advertise Communications Research Corporation (CRC): a for-profit consulting firm affiliated with The Media Institute, proposes to implement such a commercial speech program. [25]

1996 May 22PM'S Roy Marsden list of The 1995 Public Policy Grants of Philip Morris. This is only the list of dubious think-tanks receiving over $80,000 (many others below this amount)

Major think-tank donations by Philip Morris
Atlas Economic Research Found. $475,000
Assn of National Advertisers $189,000 Freedom to Advertise coalition
Cato Institute $150.000
[Note:]Communications Research Corp.
+ Media Institute
Split payment; CRC is a subsdiary of Media Institute
Washington Legal Foundation $250,000
Americans for Tax Reform $175,000
Small Business Survival Foundation $80,000
Citizens for a Sound Economy $985,000 PM's 1/3 share via C&B
Amer. Tort Reform Assn [+CALAs] $1,960,000 PM's 1/3 share via C&B
Progressive Foundation, Inc $100,000 ???
Inst for Res. Economics of Tax $80,000
Tax Foundation $80,000
National Policy Forum $100,000
Libertad, inc. $150,000 Run by Whist for PM
Competitive Enterprise Institute $200,000
Free Congress Foundation $500,000
Grand Central Partnership $90,220  ??unknown?
George Mason U School of Law $85,000 Prof Walter Williams ops.
Progress & Freedom Foundation $110,000
Educational TV of South Carolina $300,000


See full list at PM 'Donations; list in 1997

1997 Dec 2 Burson-Marsteller presents a recommendation for PM's Media Fairness Initiative.

Our assignment was to take a comprehensive look at ways in which Philip Morris could contribute to the evolution of the national media into a more objective and responsible force.

Specifically, we were asked to examine and update the media watchdog group binder, analyze and prioritize third-party groups with whom to work on media fairness initiatives in 1998, detail how PM can get involved in news councils.

As we delved into these areas, we also saw some harmonization of other priority issues. For example, opportunities for Generation X outreach via Journalism school programs.

They advocate using Patrick D Maines, President The Media Institute (which they say) a nonprofit research foundation which seeks to foster freedom of speech, deregulation of the media and communications industry, and excellence in journalism. It receives financial support from foundations, corporations, media companies, associations and individuals. Its Board of Trustees and Communications Policy Council consist of members of various aspects of business and communications industries such as Disney, Gillette, Viacom, and MCI.

The Media Institute recently published a report on alcohol advertising in which First Amendment scholar and University of Virginia law professor Robert M. O'Neil concluded that attempts to restrict alcohol advertising would be found unconstitutional.

TMI hosts a Communications Forum luncheon series with luncheons held eight times per year. Attendance at the luncheons is by invitation only, but Philip Morris is a sponsor of the Forum and could potentially place a speaker in the future. Also, the luncheons are not planned far in advance so next steps could be rapid. The next series will be held November 20, 1997 and will feature panelists discussing copyright protection policies. No series are planned beyond that date.

TMI's website has hotlinks to the Communications Research Corporation which is a daughter organization to TMI. CRC is a private consulting practice which provides advice, strategic planning, and implementation services for a wide range of communications issues from the standpoint of policy and public affairs. TMI also links to the Freedom of Expression Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, of which Robert O'Neil is the director. Both groups seem to have purposes similar to that of The Media Institute [27]

1998 Feb /E Roy Marden of Philip Morris has created a "Third Party Message Development Contacts List" which has a range of think-tank operators, journalists, and academics who are willing to write pro-tobacco material without mentioning their tobacco connections [third-party = 'independent commentator'], or sometimes allow their names to be used as bylines on articles written by tobacco company staff. The list often has some comments on their usefulness but none on Patrick Maines other than the listing. [28] [Marden was the chief contact with the major think-tanks and millionairre family foundations.]

1999 Philip Morris has made a donation of $15,000 and their contact is Frank Gomaz. This is Board Allocated (not done for a specific project, but simply to keep on-side with other institutional supporters). [29]

1999 Feb 1Philip Morris hosted a luncheon: (Type-in Bates Number) 2078707656 (Scruggs reports to Howard Liebengood at PM Corporate Affairs) [[30]] Those contacted are Patrick D Maines, Rick Kaplar, Sol Schildhaus

The Media Institute is a nonprofit research foundation specializing in communications policy and the First Amendment. This Web site was created to give the public easy access to information about the Institute's activities.

  • November 21 - NBC President Andrew Lack ... highlights day of First Amendment Discussion at Second Annual Cornerstone Project Symposium

    "The Cornerstone Project is a public awareness and education program in celebration of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The goal of the program is to give the American public a renewed appreciation of freedom of speech and of the press.

The Media Institute is well qualified to run the Cornerstone Project. In existence since 1979, the Institute has been a staunch supporter of First Amendment rights for media and other speakers. The Institute has filed dozens of court briefs and agency comments over the years, and has published numerous books on First Amendment topics. The Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council comprises some of the country's finest constitutional scholars and communications attorneys. The Media Institute is one of the few organizations in America with the mission, the knowledge, the connections, the independence, and the credentials to implement a program like the Cornerstone Project.

1999 Mar Public Policy Grants Pending list at Philip Morris

Recent Positions

Against net neutrality

In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in mid-1007, The Media Institute opposed net neutrality measures. "There is no problem - no clear and present danger to the openness of the Internet - that requires regulatory action," the Institute's filing stated. [31]

Against localism requirements

In response to FCC chief Kevin Martin's December 2007 statements that broadcasters establish local advisory boards and local content guidelines, to ensure the licensees are serving their local communities, the Media Institute said it is "deeply concerned."

"Establishing amounts or percentages of particular types of programming that broadcasters need to carry to ensure the renewal of their licenses would coerce stations into selecting and airing content in these government-preferred categories," warned the think tank. "It is disheartening to think that in this age of unprecedented media abundance, the commission is contemplating an unnecessary regulatory regimen that not only hearkens back to the last century, but will most likely be found unconstitutional by the courts." [1]

Key staff

From their website (accessed in 2006): [32]


From their website (accessed in 2006): [33]

Advisory board

From a June 2007 Broadcasting & Cable story: [34]



SourceWatch resources

External links