By Aaron Klein
NBC-owned television stations in cities across the nation just teamed up with a nonprofit “journalism” group funded by a billionaire husband and wife team who not only spent millions campaigning for President Obama but also topped donor lists to groups like ACORN and MoveOn.org.
The nonprofit, ProPublica, will contribute to the news operations of all NBC owned-and-operated stations, including those in such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, the network announced Monday.
The NBC affiliates will get early access to investigative reports from ProPublica, which describes itself as an “independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.
Also included in the arrangement are local radio stations owned by Comcast, which purchased NBCUniversal earlier this year
The LA Times reported the arrangement comes as Comcast moves to fulfill its commitment to federal regulators to strengthen local, public-interest programming.
Bill Davis, chief executive of Pasadena-based KPCC-FM, said his radio station and KNBC-TV in Los Angeles will be able to expand the size of their audiences and the reach of their reporting.
“We can get to the kind of investigative and enterprise stories we wouldn’t be able to singularly,” Davis told the LA Times.
NBC stations will be given access to ProPublica’s newsroom to focus their own reporting on similar stories.
“We put the reporting at their fingertips and they can do terrific local stories with it,” said Richard Tofel, general manager for ProPublica.
“We get a greater and wider impact, which is ultimately our mission,” Tofel said of the new arrangement.
Obama campaigners; MoveOn, ACORN funders
On its website, Pro Publica describes itself as championing the values of the “weak” against the “strong.”
States the website: “Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with ‘moral force.’ We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”
Controversial Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a friend of Obama who was embroiled in a national race scandal in 2009, sits on the board of ProPublica.
ProPublica was founded with a $10 million yearly grant from Herbert and Marion Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, which was one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans.
Just before the financial crisis, the Sandlers in 2008 sold their business to the Wachovia Corporation for about $26 billion, a deal which valued their personal shares at about $2.4 billion.
The Sandlers are major donors to the Democratic Party and are top funders of ACORN, MoveOn.org, the American Civil Liberties Union and other far-leftist groups like Human Rights Watch.
The billionaire couple donate major sums to the Center for American Progress think tank, which is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House policy.
The center is directed by John Podesta, who served as co-chairman of Obama’s 2008 presidential transition team.
In 2008, the Sandlers were behind two controversial California Political Action Committees, Vote Hope and PowerPac.org, which spent about $5 million in pro-Obama ads in that state. The two groups were run by the Sandler’s son-in-law, Steve Phillips, the former president of the San Francisco School Board.
Journalistic integrity called into question
The journalistic integrity of the Sandler-backed ProPublica has been repeatedly called into question.
A report by the Capital Research Center concluded ProPublica “churns out little more than left-wing hit pieces about Sarah Palin and blames the U.S. government for giving out too little foreign aid.”
Slate reporter Jack Shafer raised questions about ProPublica’s ability to provide independent nonpartisan journalism in light of the nature of the Sandler’s political donations, which include “giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic Party campaigns.”
The watchdog website UndueInfluence.com slammed ProPublica’s claim of independence, stating the site is “as independent as a lapdog on a leash with allegiances sworn in advance to left-wing causes.”
AP distributes Soros-funded ‘journalism’
NBC’s deal with ProPublica is not the first time a major news outlet distributed reporting that is funded by questionable, partisan sources.
In 2009, KleinOnline first broke the story, that the Associated Press began delivering to its subscribing 1,500 American newspapers content, it has emerged, penned by groups with financing from philanthropist George Soros. The AP also distributes ProPublica pieces.
The AP announced in July 2009 it will allow its subscribers to publish free of charge work by four nonprofit groups, the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica.
The CPI is funded by Soros’ Open Society Institute.
CPI churns out regular partisan pieces. One widely debunked CPI study from 2008, covered extensively by the AP, claimed it found President Bush and top administration officials had issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq as “part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”
Writing on FrontPageMag, Richard Poe, a writer for the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, concluded CPI and other Soros-funded so-called watchdogs “have a long history of coordination with Soros and his Shadow Party. They are beholden to Soros personally for his financial support. His influence often shows in their choice of targets.”
The AP itself has called the arrangement to distribute pieces from the Soros and Sandler-funded nonprofits an experiment that could be broadened to include other investigative nonprofits and to serve its nonmember clients, which include broadcast and Internet outlets.
“It’s something we’ve talked about for a long time, since part of our mission is to enable our members to share material with each other,” said Sue Cross, a senior vice president at the AP.
She added the development in 2006 of an Internet-based system for members to receive AP material made it easier to do this kind of sharing and to offer new products like the investigative service.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott