Soros-funded Media Group Attacks Conservative ‘Stink Tanks’

Media Consortium launches hypocritical hit job on State Policy Network.

Liberals can’t stand when anyone disagrees with them.

Two left-wing groups, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow, launched a coordinated attack against the pro-free market State Policy Network. This attack came six months after the liberal Media Consortium was launching its own series of articles bashing SPN. The accusations that this Center for Media and Democracy report made were completely hypocritical, and misleading.

According to this report, the Center for Media and Democracy has a problem when conservative think tanks are funded by conservative donors and push a conservative agenda. They seem ignorant to the hypocrisy in this, since CMD is a liberal think tank, funded by liberal donors like George Soros, Bill Moyers and the Tides Foundation and pushing a decidedly liberal agenda.

This isn’t the first time CMD has attacked conservatives. In 2012, CMD joined with five other left-wing groups to launch a coordinated attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council. The CMD run “Source Watch” proudly claims that this attack led to 56 former ALEC members cutting ties with the group. CMD’s Lisa Graves, who headed up the attack on ALEC, was also involved with the attack on SPN. In both of these attacks, CMD and its allies try to demonize groups that support free market principles.

The hit job, labeled “Stink Tanks,” says that “SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.” The “about” page of the SPN website, describes SPN as “dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks.”

For this project, the Center for Media and Democracy teamed up with ProgressNow, which dubs itself “a year-round, never-ending progressive campaign.” Despite targeting SPN for not revealing its donors, ProgressNow does not disclose its own donors, claiming that its status as a 501(c)(4) activist group means that it should not be held to the same standard of disclosure, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Meanwhile, CMD itself has supported numerous liberal causes, including the “Robin Hood Tax” on corporate transactions, stricter EPA regulations on emissions, Obamacare and attacks on the NRA.

Still Shamelessly Defending Obamacare

One problem CMD had with the State Policy Network was that SPN didn’t sing the praises of Obamacare. This was ironic, since this hit job came out over a month into the Obamcare website’s fitful launch, and only days after it was revealed that Obama’s promise of “if you like your health plan, you can keep it. Period,” was miles shy of truthful. “Another notable example is SPN’s coordinated campaign to defeat the Affordable Care Act and block healthcare reform,” the report said.

According to the CMD report, the SPN “advocated against federal healthcare reform legislation that would become the Affordable Care Act, arguing against the government being involved in healthcare reform and for ‘free market solutions.’”

“A review of SPN think tanks' publications shows that these grants likely funded a coordinated effort by SPN and member think tanks to advocate against the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the national debate on healthcare reform.” Apparently, it’s only a national debate if people are arguing for a liberal agenda rather than against it.

Not only has this attack has been promoted by liberal outlets like the Huffington Post, but it finds its roots in the liberal Media Consortium. The Media Consortium was created to be a progressive "echo chamber," where 63 separate left-wing media outlets can network and share ideas, as well as cross-promote stories. Other members of the Consortium include such liberal outlets as The Nation, Democracy Now! and The American Prospect. The consortium has also received $675,000 in Soros funds since 2000. 

Here’s how the consortium worked this time:

  • On March 19, an article bashing SPN was run on, an affiliate of the now mostly defunct Occupy movement.
  • A week later, on March 26, the Media Consortium member The Nation picked up the torch.
  • On April 4, the same story was picked up by Alternet, also a consortium member.
  • Then on April 4 and 9, the same story was promoted by the liberal blog the Daily Kos.

The Daily Kos is not part of the consortium, but April 9 story was heavily based on the original Nation story.

This isn’t the first time that liberal organizations have promoted each other’s stories. The IRS targeting of conservatives in 2013 is another example of a coordinated, and successful, attack by the Media Consortium. Liberal groups, including consortium members, ran stories pressuring the IRS to target conservatives in the months leading up to each policy change.

Yet, in the “Stink Tanks” report, one of the things CMD accuses the SPN of doing is “building an echo chamber.”

Attack on SPN Mirrors Attack on ALEC

Just like with its attacks against the ALEC in 2012, CMD claimed that the SPN can create laws without involving voters. However, this is simply not true at all. The SPN, ALEC, or any other group of people can write suggestions for lawmakers, but these suggestions have to then go through the same process as any other bill before they become law. “SPN ‘think tanks’ work together in coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions that purportedly advance the interests or traditions of the state,” claimed the CMD report, while it pushed a decidedly liberal agenda.

This attack was done with help from CMD’s Lisa Graves, who was instrumental in their attack against the American Legislative Exchange Council. During that attack, Bill Moyers, a liberal, veteran journalist turned activist, promoted the work of the Center for Media and Democracy and five other groups attacking ALEC – while he funded four of them through his foundation, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. In fact, Moyers gave more than $1.3 million to groups leading the charge against ALEC, all while he promoted their work on a tax payer-funded public television platform.

Besides attacking ALEC, Moyers has also used his taxpayer-funded show to promote theAmerican Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE) as a liberal alternative to ALEC. He has also used his platform to promote other liberal groups like Color of Change.

The State Policy Network responded to these accusations. “While these are completely baseless allegations, their source is not surprising. Organizations like the Center for Media and Democracy are strangely troubled by the fact that we believe in a more transparent, accountable government, policies that place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice, and tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur the kind of competitiveness that puts Americans back to work.”

While CMD targeted SPN and various other conservative groups in this report for being funded by conservative donors, they’ve received hundreds of thousands of dollars from liberal billionaire George Soros. Since 2000, Soros gave more than $550 million to liberal organizations in the U.S., underwriting major liberal initiatives including pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-gay marriage, pro-drug legalization, pro-union, pro-government-funded media and even attacks against the concept of free elections and voting for judges.

On top of this, CMD has received funding from Bill Moyers’ Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. For years, Moyers has pushed a liberal agenda on a tax payer funded platform. Maybe in its next report, CMD should investigate itself.


Center for Media and Democracy Funding

  • From Soros: $200,000
  • From Bill Moyers: $250,000 in the 2000s and $75,000 in the 90s
  • From The Tides Foundation: $130,000

— Mike Ciandella is Research Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.