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March 23, 2005

ASTROTURFING CAMPAIGN FINANCE "REFORM:"

According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Political Money Line, Campaign Finance Lobby: 1994-2004, Pew spent an average of $4 million a year over 10 years promoting reform. Seven other foundations -- including the Carnegie Corp. ($14 million), the Joyce Foundation ($13.5 million), George Soros' Open Society Institute ($12.6 million) -- cumulatively ponied up another $83 million over 10 years for the same purpose. In his March 2004 lecture at USC, curiously titled "Covering Philanthropy and Nonprofits Beyond 9/11," a tape of which was recently uncovered by Ryan Sager of the New York Post, Mr. Treglia explained how he operated. "The strategy was designed not to hide Pew's involvement," he said, "but most of Pew's funding." To accomplish that goal, "I always encouraged the grantees never to mention Pew," whose tactics were evidently copied by the others. Sure enough, the American Prospect neglected to mention a $132,000 payment from the Carnegie Corp., which financed the magazine's special issue, "Checkbook Democracy," which focused on campaign-finance reform. Meanwhile, NPR, which collected $1.2 million from the liberal foundations, failed to disclose that that money was funding a program called "Money, Power and Influence."

Watch out. Irony this rich will go right to your thighs.

The article also notes President Bush's role in breaking a campaign promise by signing this dreadful legislation. (And, as I commented at the Politics Online conference, he betrayed his oath of office, too).

UPDATE: Pew grantee The Center for Public Integrity is defending Pew, though there seems to be a bit of preemptive distancing going on, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The CPI's Bill Allison emails that he didn't mean to be doing any distancing. Well, you can read it yourself, but it seemed that way to me, especially with the way that CPI (1) Challenged Treglia's accuracy; and (2) Stressed that it, at least, had always disclosed. Perhaps that's in the eye of the beholder, but as I say, to me it seemed a bit defensive.

MORE: Reader Andy Freeman emails:

I'm looking forward to The Center for Public Integrity's investigation of

(1)checkbook journalism, and
(2) the campaign and money behind McCain-Feingold.

I think they have a conflict of interest, there. To be fair, I'm sure that they're decent people who believe in what they're doing, and who aren't doing it just because of the money.

MORE: Ryan Sager has had first-person exposure to Allison.