PBS’s Moyers Gives Over $1.3 million to 4 of 6 Groups Attacking Conservative ALEC

Media icon funds liberal media, but uses public television show to criticize political funding of right.

Few in journalism are viewed with as much veneration and respect as media veteran Bill Moyers.

NBC anchor Brian Williams once said that “Bill Moyers has been and remains an essential voice in our national conversation … the living antithesis to an era of shocking superficiality in our discourse and media.” Moyers, the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, and an impressive array of other awards, has been a staple of public television for decades.

Those accolades ignore the reality that Moyers is involved in a massive conflict of interest. As a journalist Moyers reported repeatedly on attacks by liberal groups against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). But his reporting failed to note he has helped fund four of the six organizations involved in the attack. Moyers has also criticized conservative groups and the Tea Party time and again, while he promoted liberal causes.

Moyers heads the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, which has given away $1,360,000 to groups leading the attack on ALEC. That point was ignored in four stories written about ALEC on Moyers’ website in 2012, even though Moyers has been criticized for his connections in the past. Similarly, billionaire George Soros also donated more than $12 million to those same organizations.

The campaign against ALEC, dubbed “ALEC Exposed,” managed to pressure several of ALEC’s donors to pull their funding from the group, including Kraft, McDonalds, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. On Sept. 14, pharmaceutical giant Merck was the latest to withdraw.

Moyers has had a big hand making that news happen. The veteran journalist has hosted “Moyers & Company,” which is distributed by American Public Media, since his return to the airwaves in January 2012. Moyers had tried a brief retirement beginning in 2010.

His status as journalist has not kept him out of liberal politics. With the Schumann Center, he has funded more than a dozen other prominent lefty organizations and has given more than $10 million to liberal groups since 2000. Often, Moyers has had guests on his shows from groups which he himself funds.

Moyers has used his status as a trusted media veteran to push the agenda of groups that he himself funds in what the Society of Professional Journalists warns against – “conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” Meanwhile, he has accused news outlets on the right of being funded by wealthy donors, while he has been working at taxpayer funded PBS.

Moyers Behind the Attack Against ALEC

One, fairly recent, example of Moyers’s hypocrisy was his coverage of the attacks against the ALEC. ALEC, a non-profit organization that promotes state-based policy initiatives, has been heavily criticized by the left for its politically conservative stance on many issues.

In March 2012, a group of lefty organizations including the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for Media and Democracy (which are not the same group, despite the similarities in name), the Center for American Progress, People for the American Way, United Republic, Common Cause and Color of Change, launched a campaign to pressure the corporations that funded ALEC to withdraw their support.

On the May 11, 2012, edition of Moyers and company, entitled "Fight for Fair Play on TV and Taxes," Moyers spoke out against "the unshakeable grip of the very rich on their mercenaries on both our political parties," while, ironically, his own organization is spending millions on liberal groups.

On Aug. 30, 2012, Moyers co-wrote a piece for the lefty blog Alternet entitled “Where Is the Outrage over Money in Politics,” which spoke out against the “happy billionaires.” According to this opinion piece, “the corporate owners of television stations which reap handsome profits for selling the public’s airwaves to undisclosed buyers … who pollute the political atmosphere with millions of dollars spent on toxic ads designed to keep voters angry, dumb, or both.” In that piece, Moyers also complained about “crony capitalism of businessmen and politicians” and then cited reporting by the George Soros-funded ProPublica.

“Where is the outrage at this corruption?” Moyers asked in an Aug. 30, 2012, piece on his site entitled “Money in Politics: Where Is the outrage?”

“Partly smoothed away with the violence, banality, and tawdry fare served up by a corporate media with every regard for the public’s thirst for distractions and none for its need to know. Sacrificed to the ethos of entertainment, political news – instead of getting us as close as possible to the verifiable truth – has been reduced to a pablum of so called objective analysis which gives equal time to polemicists spouting their party’s talking points,” Moyers wrote.

The Schumann Center gave $285,000 to the liberal blog Alternet, in 2005 and 2006. His article failed to note the conflict of interest. During much of his time funding lefty organizations, Moyers himself was receiving taxpayer funding, courtesy of his job at PBS.

As president of the Schumann Center, Moyers has funded four of the groups involved in the attack on ALEC:

  • Center for American Progress ($1,100,000)
  • Center for Media and Democracy ($250,000 in the 2000s and $75,000 in the 90s)
  • People for the American Way ($10,000)
  • The Schumann Center was also listed as a foundation donor in Common Causes 2011 annual report, although the amount of money given was unspecified.

The same four organizations that received funds from Moyers have also received money from Soros’s Open Society Foundation since 2000, totaling, $12,338,491:

  • Center for American Progress ($5,784,991)
  • People for the American Way ($4,200,000)
  • Common Cause ($2,153,500)
  • Center for Media and Democracy ($200,000)

The Open Society foundation also gave $300,000 to Color of Change in 2010.

Moyers has been criticized before for promoting those groups. In July 2009, Moyers interviewed Wendell Potter, who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy. Responding to critics Moyers said, “The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy is not currently funding the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Schumann did make grants to CMD in 2005 and 2006 for the purpose of establishing SourceWatch, an Internet-based operation that provides accessible, timely and reliable research to journalists and citizen journalists.”

As Moyers said, The Schumann Center’s $250,000 donation to the Center for Media and Democracy was specifically for the formation of SourceWatch, but SourceWatch’s main page was, and still is, dominated by links to various “ALEC Exposed” propaganda tools, including links to articles and a links to the ALEC Exposed Wiki. So, Moyers has funded the part of the organization which has been directly attacking ALEC.

Phil Kerpen of American Commitment told the Business and Media Institute that the assault on ALEC undermines free speech. “The left’s attack on ALEC, led by communist and 9/11 truther Anthony K. ‘Van’ Jones, is an anti-speech intimidation campaign. Americans should be outraged that it has been aided and abetted by LBJ hatchet-man Bill Moyers on the taxpayer dime.”

Moyer’s own website had four separate articles supporting the point of view of the organizations attacking ALEC since March. One of these was written by Suzanne Merkelson, the web editor for the activist group United Republic. That group was involved in the attacks and Merkelson cited “The Republic Report,” a project of United Republic. She actually has blogged for both.

The President of United Republic, Nick Penniman, was formerly the DC director for the Schumann Center. Nowhere did it mention the Schumann Center’s or Merkelson’s affiliation with United Republic.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics expressly states that “Journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” and that they should “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility,” and, furthermore, that journalists should “shun secondary employment, political involvement … if they compromise journalistic integrity.”

Moyers A Major Funder of Liberal Media

Moyers has repeatedly protested corporate ownership of news networks and newspapers. “A few huge corporations now dominate the media landscape in America,” Moyers complained to attendees at the Conference for Media Reform in Memphis, Tenn. in January 2007.

“Almost all the networks carried by most cable systems are owned by one of the major media conglomerates. Two-thirds of today’s newspapers are monopolies. As ownership gets more and more concentrated, fewer and fewer independent sources of information have survived in the marketplace,” he continued. However, Moyers is the president of a foundation that funds liberal media outlets. Many of those outlets both work together and share similar donors.

Since he became its president in 1990, the Schumann Center has funded at least seven members of the Media Consortium. The Consortium is an echo chamber, where left-wing media outlets can network and share ideas. Since 2000, the Schumann Center has given a total of $1,625,000 to the following organizations that belong to the consortium:

  • The American Prospect ($905,000)
  • Alternet ($285,000)
  • Grist Magazine ($200,000)
  • Democracy Now! ($175,000)
  • Truthout ($30,000)
  • Link Media ($15,000),
  • The Nation Institute ($15,000)

Moyers also gave more than $2.5 million dollars to several other liberal media outlets that were not part of the consortium, listed below, in order of amount donated:

  • Washington Monty Corporation ($1,000,000)
  • Media Matters for America ($500,000)
  • Cursor, Inc. ($250,000)
  • Society of Environmental Journalists ($250,000)
  • WETA-Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association ($250,000)
  • Fund for Independence in Journalism ($100,000)
  • Fund for Investigative Journalism ($100,000)
  • Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting ($65,000)
  • History News Network ($50,000)
  • International Center for Global Communications Foundation ($50,000)
  • Boston Critic ($25,000)
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ($20,000)

Moyers has long railed against the alleged bias of the “right-wing” news outlets, as well as against the major networks, which he claims are biased in favor of conservatives. The Associated Press, in a December 2004 article, quoted Moyers: “I’m going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee … [w]e have an ideological press that’s interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that’s interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don’t have a vigilant, independent press whose main interest is the American people.”

Moyers’ Schumann Center has funded several liberal organizations including the Proteus Fund ($1,035,000) and the Tides Foundation ($5,407,500). He’s also an outspoken supporter of lefty billionaire Soros, whom he has described as “a victim of Glenn Beck and the right wing, the Fox News assassins.”

Soros, however, has been the poster child for everything that Moyers claims to stand against, heavily funding dozens of media outlets through his Open Society Foundation. There’s one exception – those outlets were liberal. Moyers formerly sat on the board of the Open Society Foundation, and he donated $100,000 to Open Society’s Center for Responsive Politics.

Moyers has also repeatedly spoken in favor of liberal causes, including Occupy Wall Street, on “Moyers and Company.” He even went so far as to compare Occupiers to abolitionists and suffragettes. He has also called the gun-rights group the National Rifle Association “the enabler of death — paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion. With the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.”

Before he was a renowned journalist, Bill Moyers, now 78, was involved in liberal politics. He served in the Kennedy administration as the associate director for public affairs for the Peace Corps, and then later in the Johnson administration as Johnson’s press secretary. Moyers spoke highly of LBJ, and has pointed to him as an example of how a president should handle Medicare. Moyers hosted Bill Moyers Journal on PBS from 1971 through 1981 with a brief hiatus from 1976-1977. He also worked as an analyst and commentator on both CBS and NBC.