A new bombshell report by Keystone Progress, Pennsylvania’s largest progressive advocacy group, has released a report revealing that PA Independent, a widely cited source of supposedly unbiased state political news, is really a conservative advocacy group posing as such to manipulate the news. From the report:
The [PA] Independent was founded as a special project of the Commonwealth Foundation, launching full-scale operations in 2010. The Commonwealth Foundation website states that its fundamental mission is to ‘craft free-market policies, convince Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counter attacks on liberty.’ It is one of the leaders in far-right advocacy in Pennsylvania. … the daily operations of the Independent were turned over to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity in January 2011. [pg. 5].
But in terms of openly advocating for far-right conservative causes, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is no better than the Commonwealth Foundation, maybe even worse.
The [PA] Independent also claims that it is funded by ‘People Like You.’ However, a review of the Franklin Center’s known 2011 funding by the Center for Public Integrity found that 95 percent came from anonymous wealthy donors to Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. Mother Jones called the Donors organizations ‘the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement’ in a February 2013 article. … Known contributors to the Donors include the Koch brothers. … Franklin received Donors Trust’s second-largest donation in 2011 [pg. 13 - 14].
So I guess PA Independent really is funded by “people like you” in the sense that people reading PA Independent are disproportionately likely to be right-wing millionaires. Now sure, this is somewhat vindicating for me because I’ve harshly criticized the far-right extremism of both PA Independent and the Commonwealth Foundation in the few months since I’ve started doing my YouTube show Counterpoint PA, but the real impact of this deception is articulated at the end of the Keystone Progress report.
Advocacy groups posing as legitimate news operations pose a serious threat to legitimate news reporting in this country, especially in a time of dwindling resources provided for reporting on public policy. Newspapers, television, and radio news operations have fewer reporters covering capitols and city halls. There is an understandable temptation by management, publishers and editors to rely on free reporting. But … [PA] Independent is not a news operation. Based on its funding sources, its staffing and its ties to other conservative organizations, it is a conservative advocacy organization. It may have the trappings of legitimate news, including trained reporters, but its stated purpose is not to report, but to ‘drive the news’ [pg. 19].
For more about the right-wing ties of the Franklin Center including its connections to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council that drafts model bills for far-right policies and pushes them on state legislatures, more about the Koch brothers, the Republican Party ties of PA Independent’s supposed reporters, and much, much more, you can check out the full report here.