On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a “Koch-backed bill" which would hide the names of those who donate to non-profits that are tax-exempt from the IRS. Some are concerned that this would allow foreign interests to illegally influence elections and politics in the US. A more local concern is that it would allow even more unlimited spending by the Kochs and others, and remove the one way we have of tracing their donations.
Case in point: Graham Readfearn’s latest piece in DeSmog has tracked some of the millions of dollars in funding that keep the conservative media ecosystem alive. The sister “dark money ATM” organizations of Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, for example, have given at least $6.8 million to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. And the Kochs have obviously spread some money around, so it's clear exactly why they want to be able to hide their funding streams from the IRS (and of course, the public).
Unsurprisingly, the Daily Caller News Foundation (the non-profit arm of the Daily Caller) is a main beneficiary of climate denial funding. Interestingly, it also seems to be the final destination of sorts for the conservative media pipeline. Readfearn ticks off a number of current Daily Caller employees that got their start in the Kochtopus network.
A prime example is our favorite Daily Caller churnalist, Michael Bastasch. Before joining the Daily Caller News Foundation, he was an intern at Heritage, an intern at the Charles Koch Institute, a research associate at the State Policy Network-affiliated Cascade Policy Institute, a Koch summer fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies, and a public affairs intern at ALEC. Not exactly the pedigree of an unbiased journalist.
In his defense, this revealing CV is all public on his LinkedIn page, which also tells us that his “skills” aren’t so much “journalism” or “reporting,” but “politics,” “public affairs,” “political communication,” “public relations,” etc. Which makes sense, since his BA isn’t in journalism or English or anything traditional for a reporter. No, as his skill set suggests, his degree is in political science. Which again, to be fair, isn’t particularly uncommon for reporters. But, when combined with his work history at exclusively Koch-backed operations, makes it hard to argue that he’s a real reporter and not a political operative. That he now works not for the for-profit Daily Caller, but the Koch-funded Daily Caller News Foundation makes it that much more obvious.
So it is unfortunately no surprise that Bastasch consistently get things wrong when he is “reporting" on climate and energy. But as a 2012 PR Watch piece shows, he also got facts wrong when defending ALEC’s support for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation.
This blurring of the lines between “political communication” and actual reporting, then, is exactly the aim behind the House’s bill to prevent even the IRS, much less the public, from knowing who is funding what.
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