Center for Media and Democracy
|Region served||United States|
|Executive director||Lisa Graves|
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-partisan non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. CMD is a self-described "non-partisan progressive watchdog group," focused "on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda." CMD publishes PR Watch, SourceWatch, BanksterUSA, and ALECexposed.org. In April 2014, CMD merged with The Progressive, an American monthly magazine of politics, culture and progressivism.
CMD was founded in 1993 by environmentalist writer and political activist John Stauber in Madison, Wisconsin. Lisa Graves has served as executive director since 2009. Graves previously worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Graves has testified several times before Congress on national security, homeland security, and civil liberties issues, joined in legal briefs on such issues, and her analysis has been published by the Texas Law Review.
CMD states that it is a "national, independent, non-partisan public interest newsgroup". A May 2012 article in Isthmus referred to CMD as an "activist group". The Isthmus article stated that "For most of its two-decade history, the Center for Media and Democracy was a behind-the-scenes progressive group" that "In the last three years...has emerged as a progressive powerhouse."
The Washington Post has described CMD as "a liberal organization that tracks the use of public relations by corporations and politicians" while for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it is "left-wing" and "liberal."
CMD publishes PRWatch, SourceWatch, and BanksterUSA.org. The SourceWatch website, a wiki, bills itself as a "collaborative, specialized encyclopedia of the people, organizations, and issues shaping the public agenda." SourceWatch "profiles the activities of front groups, PR spinners, industry-friendly experts, industry-funded organizations, and think tanks trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government." BanksterUSA.org states that it wishes "to be your go-to site for updates on the financial services re-regulation fight in Congress and for progressive net-roots campaigning against the big boys on Wall Street."
CMD staff have published 7 books, including Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State, Weapons of Mass Deception: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq, and Trust Us, We're Experts. A review in the Village Voice says that the authors of Trust Us, We're Experts, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, "come from the far side of liberal. Saying so is not to detract from their exhaustively detailed reportage and calmly convincing tone."
On July 13, 2011, the CMD leaked 800 documents relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC describes itself as a policy organization that supports the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty. The CMD claims that: "ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line." The CMD collaborated with The Nation to analyze the leaked documents. In the wake of the ALEC investigation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, encouraged progressives to build a counter-force to ALEC.
- Corporations and state legislators work together as equals to draft model legislation.
- Drafted model legislation that made polluting easier, voting harder, and wages lower.
- The anti-collective bargaining laws in Wisconsin and Ohio began as ALEC model bills.
PRWatch.org previously produced a quarterly print periodical available by subscription called PRWatch, whose stated mission was to expose deceptive and misleading public relations campaigns. That periodical was merged into PRWatch.org's online work in 2009. CMD also previously produced a feature called "Spin of the Day" about public relations issues.
PRWatch's original reporting and investigations have garnered journalism awards, including the Izzy, the Sidney, and a 2011 award from the Milwaukee Press Club for one of the Best Investigative Stories or Series of 2011.
CMD states that it accepts donations from "individuals and philanthropic foundations through gifts and grants", but "no funding from for-profit corporations or grants from government agencies." It maintains a partial list of supporters on its website.
In an opinion for Fox News, conservative media critic Dan Gainor wrote that BanksterUSA received $200,000 from the Open Society Institute (OSI), the charity associated with investor George Soros. CMD stated that it received a grant from OSI "to continue work on national security issues".
In 2011, CMD received $864,740 in donations. $520,000, or 60% of 2011's total revenue, was received from the Schwab Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund which preserves the anonymity of donors by not disclosing individual donor names. CMD has been a staunch critic of donor-advised funds, referring to such donations as "dark money."
The Tides Foundation, a foundation known to donate primarily to liberal organizations, reported giving CMD $160,000 in 2011, but that money did not appear on CMD's tax return. When asked why CMD heavily criticizes conservative organizations for not revealing their donors while refusing to name all of CMD's funders, CMD's Executive Director Lisa Graves said, “The question of conservative funders versus liberal funders, I think, is a matter of false equivalency.” 
In June 2014, Politico reported that the Center for Media and Democracy was a recipient of funding through the Democracy Alliance, a network of liberal donors, including George Soros, who coordinate their anonymous political giving.
- "Exposing ALEC: The Center for Media and Democracy goes after the right-wing powerhouse". Isthmus. 2012-05-10. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- Mayer, Jane (2013-11-14). "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- "Center for Media and Democracy". SourceWatch. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- "Center for Media and Democracy About". Center for Media and Democracy. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
- O'Harrow, Robert (2008-05-31). "McCain Campaign Calls; a Nonprofit Steps In". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-17.
- Davidoff, Judith (4/1/2014). "The Progressive magazine and Center for Media and Democracy merge". The Daily Page (Isthmus). Retrieved 13 June 2014. Check date values in:
- "Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected". The Atlantic. 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Lisa Graves from the Center for Media and Democracy with McChesney on Sunday". Illinois Public Media, College of Media at the University of Illinois. 25 September 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "About Us". Center for Media and Democracy. Retrieved Dec 31, 2012.
- "Liberal organization links Wisconsin bills to Koch-funded group". Milwaukee Journal. 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "SourceWatch:Purpose". SourceWatch. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Book Review: Banana Republicans". Riverwest Currents. April 2004. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Review: Weapons of Mass Deception: the Uses of Propaganda In Bush's War On Iraq". Yes! Magazine. 2003-12-31. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "The Flack Catchers". Village Voice. 2001-04-01. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "How did the Center for Media and Democracy obtain ALEC documents?". Hillman Foundation. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- "ALEC About". ALEC. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- "Are Community Colleges Meant Mainly to Crank Out Workers for Business? editor". LasMesaPatch. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
- "Building a Progressive Counterforce to ALEC". The Nation. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Sidney Award". PRwatch. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- "Center for Media and Democracy". Change.org. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "Izzy Award recipients honored". The Ithacan. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "The Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation Win September Sidney for "ALEC:Exposed," A Look Into the Secretive Collaboration Between Corporations and Politicians on State Legislation". The Sidney Hillman Foundation. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "2011 Excellence in Journalism Awardees". Milwaukee Press Club. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- "Left, Obama Escalate War on Banks Into Dangerous Territory". Fox News. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- Richards, Tori (12-4-2013). "Liberal ‘media’ group gets $520G dark money donation for war on right". Fox News. Retrieved 6 December 2013. Check date values in:
- Fischer, Brendan (12-2-2013). "A "Dark Money" Concession from Wisconsin Reporter". PR Watch. Retrieved 6 December 2013. Check date values in:
- Graves, Lisa (2013-09-18). "Breaking: New List of the Dark Money Shell Game Groups Connected to the Kochs". PR Watch. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Richards, Tori (2014-01-02). "Shadowy funders build liberal war chest to unseat governor". Watchdog.org. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- Vogel, Kenneth (2014-06-23). "Inside the vast liberal conspiracy". Politico. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "Spring 2014 Democracy Alliance Investment Recommendations". Democracy Alliance. Retrieved 24 June 2014.