Mark Tapscott has a great piece up at the Examiner on how a few foundations on the left fund and run armies of “activist” groups that are little more than false fronts, funded by the same handful of leftwing foundations. The case in point is a “GOP friendly pro gay marriage” group in New Hampshire. It’s actually staffed by a bunch of Democrat activists. Tapscott also highlights the story confirmed last week, that the allegedly nonpartisan Media Matters led the boycott charge against Rush Limbaugh. Carbonite’s Democrat owner turned out, in that case, to have been a useful idiot in the classic sense.
The reality is, there is no “what if” regarding the nature of activism on the left. It is a nation of Potemkin villages from the local to the national level. These Potemkin operators created a network of activist fronts that turned Colorado from red to blue a few years back. A similar network was set up in Texas in 2007 and 2008, centered on Matt Angle’s Lone Star Project. That group lives off of the money left to it by the late trial lawyer, Fred Baron, and a few major leftwing foundations. I documented how Angle’s group operates back in 2010. Angle’s group failed in 2010, but they’re still active.
So here’s a national astroturf campaign against Rush Limbaugh centered at Media Matters, and similar campaigns in three states — New Hampshire, Colorado and Texas. There are undoubtedly similar turf trees operating in nearly every state in the country. The occupy movement is another: It enjoys support both from Obama’s former red “green” czar Van Jones, and from none other than convicted inside trader and currency speculator George Soros. Soros money was involved in Colorado and Texas, and it’s probably somewhere in the New Hampshire group too.
Don’t count on the mainstream media to uncover these operations, by the way. The New Hampshire Journal’s piece about the false gay marriage front is unusual. Most of the exposure of these groups has to be done by us — bloggers and independent researchers. The mainstream press, by and large, isn’t interested in the story. In 2004 Ryan Sager broke the story of how campaign finance reform was accomplished by a national astroturf campaign. Back to Tapscott’s article:
The campaign inadvertently became public when video of a presentation by Pew vice president Sean Treglia to a group of journalists at the Annenberg Center let the cat out of the bag:
“The target was 535 Members of Congress and the idea was to create the impression that a mass movement was afoot, that everywhere they looked people were talking about campaign finance reform,” Treglia explained on the video.
Not one of the journalists listening to Treglia challenged him on the fact he was, in effect, admitting a massive, systematic pack of lies.
Very similarly, I did most of the research to uncover the Angle group’s activities when I was at the Texas GOP. I compiled a thick dossier of finance records and other evidence and handed it to a couple of reporters, hoping they would at least look into it. I’ve seen no evidence to date that either ever did.
The question is, how do we independent researchers figure out what’s going on? In most cases, the activist groups brag about who funds them, to attract more funding from similar sources. Take a look at the innocuous-sounding Texans For Public Justice web site, for instance. They list their supporters on their About page, and it’s a list of the usual suspects.
Texans for Public Justice is able to continue its work thanks to generous support from the following foundations:
- Alliance For Better Campaigns, Washington, DC (The Alliance is supported by grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts.)
- Arca Foundation, Washington, DC
- Deer Creek Foundation, St. Louis, MO
- Magnolia Charitable Trust, Houston, TX
- National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL), Washington, DC
- Ottinger Foundation, New York, NY
- Proteus Fund, Amherst, MA
- Winkler Family Foundation, Austin, TX
- Margaret Cullinan Wray Charitable Trust, Houston, TX
- Solidago Foundation, Northampton, MA
- Stern Family Fund, Washington, DC
- Rockefeller Family Fund, New York, NY
- Open Society Institute, New York, NY
- Tides Foundation, San Francisco, CA
The last three are among the largest foundations on the left. Open Society is Soros. Tides is Teresa Heinz-Kerry. TPJ is not a non-partisan watchdog. The mainstream media ought to ask TPJ what those foundations expect to receive for their generosity. But instead, mainstream reporters like the Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater characterize TPJ in this way, on Febuary 23, 2012:
The political committee of one of the nation’s biggest campaign donors is asking Texas politicians to return donations they got last year from the PAC. Eighteen Texas legislators got a total of $65,000 from the PAC formed by Waste Control Specialists, which operates a nuclear waste site in West Texas. Dallas industrialist Harold Simmons owns the company. On Thursday, the PAC was named in a complaint filed today with the Texas Ethics Commission accusing the PAC of violating state law. The complaint was filed by the non-profit group Texans for Public Justice, which tracks campaign spending, saying the donations were illegal because the PAC didn’t have at least 10 donors as required by law…
TPJ is a partisan organization, no less partisan than the Texas Democratic Party itself. It files complaints to generate negative headlines for Republicans, full stop. But the appearance Slater gives TPJ is that they’re just looking out for the folks.
Slater wasn’t one of the reporters I handed my dossier. But that’s no excuse for him not doing his homework.
Pros like Slater leave the hard work to the folks that disingenuous groups like Texans for Public Justice claim to be looking out for. In most cases, it just takes dogged online research to figure out what’s going on. Look for a group that’s often quoted as non-partisan in your local press, and check out their web site. Research the personnel in those groups, find out who else they have worked for. There’s usually a rotisserie between the left’s groups and local or state Democratic parties or elected officials. Chances are, your state requires these officials, parties and groups to file finance reports. And chances are, those reports end up online. Scour them, looking for overlaps in personnel and big money backers.
You can do this in your state. Uncover these Potemkins who claim to speak for the 99%, but who at most really speak for about 20%.