A deceptive op-ed campaign to undermine action on climate change is underway in states across the country. Infamous corporate lobbyist Richard Berman is funding sham "studies" attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan that are produced by the Beacon Hill Institute and distributed by the State Policy Network -- two organizations with financial ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The Beacon Hill Institute studies, which will appear in 16 states this year, dramatically inflate the Clean Power Plan's projected costs and admittedly don't even analyze the EPA's actual proposal -- so newspapers owe it to their readers to avoid promoting these studies or publishing op-eds that do.
WisconsinWatchdog.org used a methodologically flawed report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to whitewash Wisconsin's economic performance under Governor Scott Walker despite many analysts pointing to budget deficits and declining economic performance.
An April 8 WisconsinWatchdog.org (formerly branded as the Wisconsin Reporter) report lauded Wisconsin's jump from 17th to 13th place in this year's index of "economic competitiveness" compiled by the controversial right-wing group ALEC. Watchdog.org's report praised the recently passed right-to-work law -- legislation that weakens unions by baring mandatory fees from non-union workers -- though admitted the new legislation was not passed in time to be considered for ALEC's index. However, Walker's deep tax cuts were cited by both Watchdog.org and ALEC as a major reason for the state's jump in the index:
The Rich States, Poor States report emphasizes the relief property taxpayers have experienced in recent years. Buoyed by better-than-expected state revenue over the past two years, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature pushed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts, particularly relief on the property tax side. Wisconsin taxpayers had for years seen their property taxes rise before the recent round of cuts.
Walker's latest two-year budget proposal includes another $280 million in property tax reductions.
"Just as I promised, property taxes by the end of 2016 will be lower than they were in 2014. That means lower property taxes for six years in a row," Walker said in his budget address in February.
"Due to property tax relief and other pro-growth reforms, Wisconsin's economic outlook ranking increased four spots," said Jonathan Williams, vice president of Center for State Fiscal Reform at ALEC and co-author of Rich States, Poor States.
"While the effective date of Wisconsin's recent right-to-work law missed the 2015 edition's cut-off date, I predict that this new policy will increase the state's economic outlook ranking in the 2016 edition of this report," he added.
ALEC's analysis has come under some scrutiny, most notably in a joint critique of ALEC's rating system by The Iowa Policy Project and labor analysis outlet Good Jobs First who called ALEC's index "snake oil," and claimed that in promoting tax cuts, the slashing of public services, and other ALEC agenda items, "the [report] provides a recipe for economic inequality and declining incomes for most citizens and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain public infrastructure and education systems."
Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal also criticized a previous version of ALEC's report saying that maps based on the report were a "a joke," because "dynamic economies like New York and California are ranked near the bottom, while un-dynamic economies like Indiana and Wyoming are ranked near the top." He continued:
Obviously ALEC is ranking states based on each state's level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business.
The economic reality in Wisconsin proves the lack of credibility of WisconsinWatchdog.org's ALEC index coverage. Notably, the state's 2015-2017 biannual budget approved by Walker is projected to produce a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall. While that number is based on requests from agencies that will largely go unfulfilled, the Associated Press noted that "the budget will be about $650 million short by mid-2017 [if] spending [continues] at current levels."
Bloomberg's Economic Evaluation of States also largely disproves the ALEC report, instead ranking Wisconsin 35th in the country overall and showed that major economic indicators like wage growth and home prices in Wisconsin lag behind the national median:
While job growth in Wisconsin was up in the month of February -- the last month where data is available-- long term measurements place the state in a three way tie for "38th place in private-sector job growth." WisconsinWatchdog.org did disclose near the end of it's report that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) "showed Wisconsin posted a private sector job-creation rate of 1.16 percent between September 2013 and September 2014," half of the national average but dismissed it by claiming, without evidence, other economic factors contested the BLS data and showed Wisconsin's "turnaround."
Wisconsin Watchdog.org's promotion of ALEC's favorable assessment of Walker's economy comes as no surprise as the outlet has consistently defended Walker against campaign finance violation allegations and is heavily funded by an organization whose top executive is Walker's former campaign committee chair.
From the April 9 edition of NewsmaxTV's America's Forum:
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Iowa radio host Steve Deace is known as Iowa's "conservative hitmaker," a powerful force in Republican primaries and an aggressive promoter of an extreme and often homophobic agenda. Now, Deace is one of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) most vocal supporters, giving Cruz an advantage in the early Republican primary state.
Most of the largest newspapers in the Northeast corridor did not publish a single piece covering this winter's major snowstorms in the context of global warming, despite strong scientific evidence that climate change creates the conditions for heavier snowstorms. The major broadcast networks and cable news channels also provided scant mention of climate change in their discussions of the snowstorms, with the notable exception of MSNBC, which provided extensive coverage of the topic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal featured content that used the snowstorms to deny climate science.
Arizona Republic columnist Doug MacEachern clearly didn't like former Arizona Corporation Commission chair Kris Mayes' April 7 op-ed, which alerted the Republic's readers to the Koch brothers' deceptive multi-state campaign against the EPA's Clean Power Plan. But MacEachern's complaints, as detailed in an April 8 column, don't stand up to basic scrutiny.
In her op-ed, Mayes addressed a March 22 Republic op-ed by Tom Jenney, the Arizona state director of Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Mayes pointed out that Jenney was peddling "baseless" attacks on the EPA's plan to address climate change by reducing carbon pollution from power plants, and that Jenney cited an industry-funded study that has been "thoroughly debunked."
MacEachern began his response by smearing Mayes as an "EPA propagandist." With that out of the way, MacEachern proceeded to admit to his ignorance about the fossil fuel interests behind Jenney's op-ed, writing:
I don't know this for a fact, but I am going to go ahead and guess that in one way or another Jenney's organization, Americans for Prosperity, gets some money from the Koch brothers. Whether it's true or not, what the heck. Let's just put that on the table.
MacEachern may not know that Americans for Prosperity has been funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers, but it's an easily verifiable fact. He could even have learned it from David Koch himself, who once boasted that "my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity." More to the point, the Koch brothers not only funded but co-founded the organization that later became the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, as David Koch alluded to, and it's been well-documented in the media that AFP is, in Politico's words, "the Koch brothers' main political arm."
Right-wing media have been mocking a recent resolution to address the disproportionate impacts that women will face from climate change, laughing at the possibility that "climate change will turn women into prostitutes." But the grim reality is that climate change will affect women in ways that should not be laughed at or ignored.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation on March 25 to "recogniz[e] the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change." When an identical resolution was introduced in 2013, PolicyMic reported that it would oblige Congress to "acknowledge the disparate effects that climate change will have on women, build gender into a framework for combating climate-related issues, and take steps to reverse this disparity."
Right-wing media coverage of this bill, on the other hand, has been exclusively focused on sex -- by ridiculing the notion that climate change could force women into prostitution.
Conservative news sites published scandalizing headlines such as Breitbart's "Congresswoman Claims Climate Change Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes," WorldNetDaily's "Lefty Lawmaker Warns: Climate Change Makes Women Prostitutes," Powerline's "Will Global Warming Cause Prostitution?" and Daily Caller's "Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): Global Warming Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes For Food." A blog post on the American Spectator wrote that climate change "is going to be great for dudes, who apparently don't have to worry about any negative effects of the transactional sex they engage in as a result of the warming climate." An editorial at Tennessee's Kingsport Times-News quoted the movie Forrest Gump to attack the proposal, writing: "Forrest Gump said that 'stupid is as stupid does.' Witness Rep. Barbara Lee, Democrat of California ... [who says] that global warming will force women into prostitution." Fox News' late night show Red Eye devoted several minutes to mocking the idea that climate change harms women more than men. And Rush Limbaugh asked on the March 27 edition of his show, "which came first, prostitution or climate?"
They are all are referring to a single line in the bill's text: "[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health."
The harmful impacts of climate change on women, which Rep. Lee's resolution hopes to address, are no laughing matter. A United Nations analysis detailed how women are often more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men, particularly in developing countries, and that it is therefore "important to identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change." U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres noted further in a CNN.com op-ed that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt":
Iowa radio host and Washington Times columnist Steve Deace strongly criticized Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) after Pence agreed in a press conference to amend Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which would give businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT Americans, calling Pence "gutless" and comparing him and other state Republicans to "eunuchs."
Deace, who is notoriously anti-gay, initially supported Pence on his March 30 radio show, instead blaming the "rainbow jihad" and "religious bigots" for causing an unnecessary issue with a law he incorrectly claimed was the same as in 19 other states.
Despite the backing of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Pence held a press conference announcing he would revisit the law and ensure there were protections for LGBT Americans. On his March 31 show, Deace called Pence a "gutless hack," and said that any chance he had at the Republican presidential nomination is gone. Deace added of Republicans: "When you look between their legs, there's no there, there. Eunuchs all. Well, almost all. GOP leadership is rapidly removing any reasons for a conservative to vote Republican, let alone remain one."
In an interview with the Washington Post and on his show, Deace said RFRA is "the first litmus test of the race" and that for him, if a candidate did not align themselves with anti-gay laws, they would be a non-starter in his eyes.
Deace, who has frequently appeared on cable television to discuss how national stories will play out in Iowa, was recently called one of the "most powerful Republicans you've never heard of" by Bloomberg Politics because of his influence in the key primary state of Iowa.
Full segment below:
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards lashed out at a Daily Tar Heel editorial that argued guns are not the solution to campus sexual assault by claiming that the "burden" of stopping sexual assaults and other violent crimes as they occur "is on the victim."
According to Edwards, "it is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
In a March 22 editorial, independent student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel criticized national group Students for Concealed Carry for raising the issue of campus sexual assault in a gambit to loosen rules on carrying guns on public campuses in North Carolina.
The Daily Tar Heel wrote, "Concealed weapons would not significantly reduce sexual assault and would create inadvertent risks within other forms of interpersonal violence," and added that proponents of guns on campus "could reinforce rape culture because the burden of stopping assault would be further placed upon women." Noting that guns increase the risk of homicide in domestic violence situations, the Tar Heel concluded that "[t]o reduce sexual assault, focus should be maintained on preventative programs that challenge rigid gender roles and promote healthy relationships as well as intervention trainings that teach peers to be active bystanders rather than on measures that will not solve the problem."
On the March 27 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards said the editorial "could only be written by somebody on that college campus without a lot of thought and experience in the real world" and that he was "dumber [for] having read" the editorial.
In particular, Edwards took issue with the Tar Heel's argument that telling women that they should carry guns to prevent sexual assault places the "burden" of preventing such attacks on those women. Edwards repeatedly argued that the "burden" of stopping all violent crimes -- including sexual assault -- was in fact on the victim.
Mired in conflicts of interest, Watchdog.org's Wisconsin Reporter has remained silent as new information emerges concerning Governor Scott Walker's (R-WI) role in a potential pay-to-play scandal. The site, which echoed defendants calling the investigation a "witch hunt," has previously defended Walker from the allegations of campaign finance violations in over 150 articles.
The Wisconsin Reporter has been a staunch defender of Walker against allegations of wrongdoing stemming from the "John Doe" investigations, the protected state probes into Walker's campaign practices and possible illegal campaign coordination. Since January 1 of this year, the Reporter has published 19 articles either defending Walker or denouncing the validity of the investigations.The Reporter's website includes a special series on the "John Doe" investigations titled "Wisconsin's Secret War," which currently has 186 total entries.
But the Wisconsin Reporter has been silent as evidence reportedly leaked from the very investigation it has covered so heavily revealed potential instances of pay-to-play between a local business man and the Walker administration.
At issue is over $1.5 million in donations made in 2012 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCG), a group that defended the Governor during his 2012 recall election and is directed by Walker's campaign advisor, Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff reported on March 23. The donations were made by hardware store franchise owner John Menard Jr. According to Isikoff, in the years after Walker survived that recall election, Menard's business has benefited from "up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs."
Before the evidence of Menard's donation to WCG became public, the Reporter defended Eric O'Keefe, director of the WCG, against allegations that he and the WCG improperly coordinated with Walker. In multiple articles the Reporter gave O'Keefe and the WCG a platform to deny wrongdoing and undermine the investigation by calling it a "witch hunt." While prosecutors have not commented on the case to the site, O'Keefe told the Reporter, "From its inception, this was a scam, a political pursuit." In an attempt to undermine the case, the Reporter highlighted the growing cost of the investigation, questioned the independence of the chief justice hearing the case, and promoted counter investigations into the prosecution.
The Reporter has not yet mentioned Menard's donation and subsequent tax breaks, a major development in the story that made national headlines. Their silence on the story highlights the conflicts of interest that surround the outlet's reporting on Walker and the "John Doe" investigations.
The Reporter is part of The Franklin Center, a group of web-based media outlets founded in part by EricO'Keefe. The Franklin Center's Watchdog.org media group -- which includes the Wisconsin Reporter -- claims they are "in no way partisan," however the Franklin Center received 95 percent of their funding in 2011 from Donors Trust, a conservative clearing house used to pump money indirectly into politics, and whose chief executive told The Guardian that no donations to the trust would go "to liberals."
The Franklin Center's ties to conservative Wisconsin groups goes beyond O'Keefe and the WCG. In an op-ed in The Capital Times, Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy reported that Franklin Center Director of Special Projects John Connors has also acted as president of Citizens for a Strong America, another conservative group funded by the Club for Growth which was named as a target of the "John Doe" investigation. After apologizing for not disclosing Connors' connection to the case, the Wisconsin Reporter continued to defend Walker and those involved in the investigation.
CORRECTION: This post originally stated that John Connors was personally named in the "John Doe" investigation. While it is unknown if Connors is personally named, he has acted as the president of Citizens for a Strong America, which is named in the investigation. This information was uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer, not The Capital Times as originally reported.
At least 16 U.S. newspapers have recently published op-eds by state officials of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' political advocacy group, urging state legislatures to oppose the EPA's plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. These newspapers have consistently failed to disclose the authors' oil industry ties, and the op-eds themselves "misleadingly" cite statistics on electricity prices from an industry-funded study, as a media fact-checker has explained.
Recent Media Matters studies found that local New York City television stations gave disproportionate coverage of crimes committed by African-Americans when compared to actual NYPD crime statistics. Studies consistently report that media over-representation of black people as criminals perpetuates racial stereotypes and can shape everything from personal bias to criminal justice outcomes.
Two Media Matters reports analyzing nightly news coverage show New York City outlets have named African-Americans as suspects in murder, theft, and assault stories at a rate at least 14 percent higher than reflected in actual NYPD arrest rates averaged over the last four years. Rashad Robinson, executive director of the civil rights group ColorOfChange, explained the negative impact of the media's overrepresentation of African-Americans as criminals:
In addition to reaching out to all four New York stations, ColorOfChange recently released a report card, "Not To Be Trusted: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC," evaluating the stations in light of Media Matters' latest study. Stations have been slow to react to the report; WNBC, the only station so far to comment, released a statement to Capital New York expressing a commitment to diversity and balanced reporting.
Racial bias in crime reporting is not limited to New York City. Studies in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles found that people of color are more likely to appear as perpetrators in media coverage of crime. Researchers at the Heinz Endowments' African American Men and Boys Task Force found that in Pittsburgh, not only did "[c]rime stories [lead] all news topics" linked to black men, but these stories also "tended to get more prominent play in the news, with stories more likely appearing atop the news page or at the beginning of the evening newscast."
Racial over-representation in news reports has real effects on news media consumers. Evidence presented in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media suggests that overrepresentation of African-Americans as criminals "strengthens the cognitive association between Blacks and criminality in the mind" of the audience.
In The Black Image in the White Mind, authors and Professors Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki explained that exposure to images and reports of African-Americans as criminals reduces white viewers' empathy and "heightens animosity" towards African-Americans. Entman and Rojecki added that the media's overrepresentation of blacks as criminals could also "reduce apparent and real responsiveness of White-dominated society to the needs of poor minorities":
To the extent local television news thereby undermines the fragile foundations of racial comity, it could reduce apparent and real responsiveness of White-dominated society to the needs of poor minorities, especially Blacks. The result, in turn, is continued employment discrimination and government unresponsiveness to the urban job loss and economic dislocation that has so traumatized the inner city -- and consequent breeding of crime.
Four major broadcast television stations in New York City have continued to give disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African-American suspects, a Media Matters analysis found. Between August 18 and December 31, 2014, the stations' late-night news broadcasts on weeknights still covered murder, theft, and assault cases in which African-Americans were suspects at a notably higher rate than the rate at which African-Americans have historically been arrested for those crimes in New York City.
The Arizona Republic recently published an editorial promoting Concerned Veterans for America's efforts to privatize much of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While the group is presented by the Republic as an impartial veterans organization, it is actually a right-wing group backed by Charles and David Koch and headed by a Fox News contributor.
In a March 12 editorial, the Republic editorial board highlighted President Obama's visit to the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital, during which he reportedly plans to hold a round table to discuss reforming the VA. The editorial board lamented that the president has allegedly failed to invite any "real reformers" to the meeting, holding up Concerned Veterans for America as an example:
If there is to be any genuine, lasting and positive reform coming from this failure to care for American veterans, the real reformers need to gain the president's ear. The president needs to hear from more than those who advocate more of the same, albeit with a lot more money.
But they don't appear to have been invited to the president's round table Friday.
Concerned Veterans for America has produced the most significant reform proposal for the VA hospital system, advocating that the enormous government division turn over much of its operations to the private sector while emphasizing care of maladies unique to the military.
No CVA representative was invited to the president's table at the Phoenix VA, although the Washington-based group expressed its eagerness to participate.
In expressing support for the Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), the Republic failed to provide the important context that the group is heavily backed by the Koch brothers. In 2014, The Washington Post identified CVA as an "organization that is part of the of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers' political network." The paper also listed CVA as part of a "coalition of allied conservative groups" that were "backed by a donor network organized by the industrialists Charles and David Koch" that raised more than $400 million during the 2012 election cycle. The group was also active in the 2014 midterm elections, conducting a "10-city 'Defend Freedom Summer Tour,'" and airing misleading ads targeting Democratic congressional candidates.
The Sunlight Foundation reported that during the 2014 campaign cycle, Freedom Partners, another Koch-affiliated group, transferred "valuable" local television ad contracts to CVA, which the organization argued "illustrates just how tightly some organizations connected to the Koch brothers operate."
The group's partisanship on VA issues caused Stars and Stripes columnist Tom Philpott to write that "in my 37 years covering veterans' issues, I have never seen veteran issues used more cynically or politicized more thoroughly than during the past several years." Philpott lambasted CVA for "posing as a vet advocacy group and being rewarded for it":
In the thick of this is Concerned Veterans for America, posing as a vet advocacy group and being rewarded for it. CVA press releases usually are partisan attacks. Its spokesman, Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war vet and Republican who ran for a U.S. Senate in 2012, is quoted often by major news outlets without mention of press reports associating CVA with the Koch brothers, libertarian billionaires who create public interest groups to oppose big government. That's fine. That's protected speech. A CVA spokesman told me last year it won't reveal donor information.
What should upset vets is the use of select facts about VA and its programs to reinforce fears rather than give reliable information. Last week a CVA press release hit a new low in purporting to document "lies" Shinseki told in congressional testimony, dropping any veil of respect for a decorated, combat-disabled soldier with a long and stellar career.
Syndicated radio host Michael Berry commented on the beating of a teenage girl at a New York City restaurant by saying, "You know why white lives matter? Because that's what white people believe. The dirty little secret is, black people don't believe that black lives matter."
On the March 12 edition of his Houston-based show, Berry described video footage of the beating, in which four girls attacked a 15-year-old girl at a McDonald's in Brooklyn. At first, Berry claimed, "I'm not going to tell y'all the skin color because it's not relevant." After delivering his description of the brutal attack, Berry asserted that "you can blame this problem on anything other than the root cause. But the reality -- and this is what makes people so uncomfortable with our show -- is this one fact that we are about to state. We have people living in our country who are savages. Absolutely, positively savages. To engage in this kind of behavior."