Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tea Party group admits buying positive coverage for GOP

Damn, that Online Lunchpail guy sure is paranoid! He actually says right-wing groups are paying news outlets for positive coverage, and he says it's mostly because of the Citizens United ruling. How's that for - hey, what's this?!

Now a Tea Party group has admitted to doing what amounts to nothing less than that.

Meet the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. The Franklin Center is a Tea Party-linked outfit staffed by folks affiliated with the right-wing Koch brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party. Funded by right-wing foundations and think tanks, the Franklin Center claims to have come into existence to provide "news" to media outlets to fill the gaps created by newsroom layoffs. In fact, the Franklin Center gloats that they now provide 10% of all news coverage nationwide.

As far as I know, they don't buy coverage with huge sums of cash. But they do allow news outlets to use their stories for free - unlike regular news services. In essence, the Franklin Center buys positive coverage for Republican candidates and right-wing causes by giving news organizations free stories instead of making them pay for them.

Why is this so bad? Not only are the Franklin Center's stories biased but many of them are made up out of whole cloth. For instance, it was the Franklin Center that planted the now-debunked story about the Obama stimulus package allocating money for nonexistent congressional districts. That was even before Citizens United - so just think how much the Franklin Center expanded its activities afterward.

Indeedity-doodledy, the Franklin Center stage-managed most political coverage in Wisconsin during the recent recall fight. Plus, they planted stories in the Wall Street Journal (which has gone stone to hell since Rupert Murdoch took it over) and other news outlets demonizing labor unions and falsely accusing the Democrats of election fraud.

I saw in 2010 the way Republican campaigns fed stories to news outlets, which republished them without changing a colon. An example of this was from Linda McMahon's Senate campaign in Connecticut, which fed media outlets a bogus story that falsely claimed Richard Blumenthal exaggerated his military record. (The story failed to include the first part of Blumenthal's speech.) The meme was repeated endlessly. It's not known that the McMahon campaign paid for this coverage, but the discovery about the Franklin Center sure raises a red flag.

What about all the mainstream news websites that print Tea Party press releases verbatim while ignoring Occupy? Are these also purchased stories?

Don't expect the pop-up media to expose the Franklin Center, after the Franklin Center gave them 10% of their material for free. The press is completely purchased.


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