By Collin Roth
The last two years have seen national media of all stripes descend on Wisconsin. And with the increased attention, local journalists and commentators are in high demand to add local perspective to what have become national stories. The latest example of course is Gov. Mitt Romney’s selection of Janesville Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.
But what happens when some Wisconsin journalists are offering themselves up not to reputable national media outlets, but to a radical ideological hit group like Media Matters For America?
In two articles this summer, Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp received comment and analysis from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice. In a lengthy attack on the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, Strupp used Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice’s comments to attack Franklin Center’s Wisconsin office, Wisconsin Reporter.
And in a post titled “What Wisconsin Journalists Want You To Know About Paul Ryan,” Bice freely offered potential dirt on Governor Romney’s vice presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville. One such nugget was Ryan’s connection to a former donor convicted of campaign contribution violations. Ryan returned the contribution and gave the money to charity, cutting all ties with the donor. Bice also implied that Ryan may have lucrative connections to the natural gas industry via his father-in-law.
In addition to Bice, Joe Strupp of Media Matters gathered comment from liberal Madison journalist John Nichols, the editor of the Janesville Gazette Scott Angus, and Jeff Flynt of WTAQ in Green Bay.
Media Matters is not simply an ideological news magazine like the conservative National Review or the liberal magazine The Nation. Media Matters For America was founded in 2004 to correct “conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” Translated into action, Media Matters has built itself into multi-million dollar operation dedicated to destroying Fox News, conservative talk radio, and conservative political figures. In an explosive series on Media Matters in early 2012, The Daily Caller described the organization this way:
The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country. [David] Brock, who collected over $250,000 in salary from Media Matters in 2010, has himself become a major fundraiser on the left. According to an internal memo obtained by TheDC, Media Matters intends to spend nearly $20 million in 2012 to influence news coverage.
According to former staffers at Media Matters, the organization has been able to successfully provide wholesale research to many journalists and pundits working in mainstream media. One staffer was quoted as saying “we were pretty much writing their prime time” in reference to the cable news channel MSNBC (Bice and Nichols have both been guests on MSNBC’s prime time shows). And in perhaps one of the most explosive revelations, The Daily Caller reported that Media Matters conducts “a weekly strategy call with the White House joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank.”
Media Matters receives its funding in large part from liberal billionaire George Soros, left-wing foundations like the Tides Foundation, and from activist organizations like MoveOn.org.
Given the close proximity of Media Matters with the Obama campaign team and left-wing organizations like the Center For American Progress, it begs the question what supposedly independent journalists in Wisconsin are up to when they provide comment and information to Media Matters. Are they simply providing commentary as they would to any other journalist who might contact them regarding information about a Wisconsin figure? Or are they uniquely aware that commentary and information provided to Media Matters serves the ends of a radical left-wing organization that conducts strategy calls with the Obama White House?