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Friday, March 11, 2005

Did Soros, Other Campaign Finance Reformers Buy Favorable Media Coverage?

Ryan Sager is an editorial writer for the New York Post, a columnist for Tech Central Station and the brains behind the Miscellaneous Objections blog. His current TCS column includes some potentially explosive allegations concerning the funding activities of eight pro-campaign finance reform foundations. Click on the headline above this post for the full Sager column.

Here's the key graph in Sager's column containing the most explosive allegations:

Payments to the media found by Political Money Line include: the $132,000 to the [American] Prospect, $69,000 to Public Radio International, $935,000 to the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and more than $1.2 million to National Public Radio for items such as, in the words of the official disclosure statements, "news coverage of financial influence in political decision making."

Did you catch that? Checks for $1.2 million to NPR and $935,000 to RTNDA's foundation. The payments were part of a 10-year, $140 million campaign, $123 million of which came from eight liberal foundations, including the Ford Foundation and George Soros Open Society Institute. Official disclosure documents indicate the payments were for "news coverage of financial influence in political decision making," according to Sager.

The column is based on a report compiled by PoliticalMoneyline.com entitled "Campaign Finance Reform Lobby: 1994 - 2004." The full report apparently is only available to PML's paid subscribers but here is how PML summarized on the day of its release:

"The campaign finance reform effort involved donations of almost $140 million to nearly one hundred organizations that educated people to the problem, mobilized support, and sought legislative and legal remedies. This also involved paying lawyers, academics, business leaders, media groups, and even getting involved with federal election campaigns."

I have requested comment from NPR's Ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, and from Barbara Cochran, RTNDAF's president. Dvorkin initially said the allegation was "news" to him and that he was requesting a response from NPR management.

Cochran acknowledged that RTNDAF had received donations from Carnegie Foundation "and some of the others mentioned in the [TCS] column," but she said the funds were used only for training of journalists several years ago. "As a foundation, of course, RTNDAF doesn't do coverage, but we do training."

Cochran also pointed out that as an association RTNDAF has been highly critical of some aspects of campaign finance reform and has been extremely concerned about many other federal regulatory actions aimed at the broadcast media.

In any case, the PML allegations - which have been totally ignored so far in the MSM - come as the Blogosphere continues to probe the prospect of the FEC being forced by McCain-Feingold, the centerpiece of the campaign finance reform movement, to regulate political speech on the Internet. Among other extremely interesting things that have been learned as a result of the Blogosphere's investigation in this area is the odd relationship of Sen. John McCain to the Reform Institute and its financing by cable industry interests.

If it now turns out that the MSM's overwhelmingly positive coverage - some one would say advocacy - of campaign finance reform movement during the past decade was bought and paid for by George Soros and others in the liberal foundation world, it could be the start of one of the biggest scandals ever in American media history.

Stay tuned.