Have you ever heard of ALEC? The Koch Brothers? If you answered yes, it’s probably because of the folks at the Center for Media and Democracy. Read their story then decide if you feel they are worth supporting.
by Lisa Graves
Our country is facing some huge battles with the Koch Party’s expanded power in Congress and the states.
The destruction of election corruption laws has aided–and been abetted by–the billionaire Koch Brothers and their network of billionaires and millionaires, with a cadre of servile politicians peddling the buzzwords masking their selfish agenda.
How can it be that We the People are not allowed to regulate the big money corrupting our democracy and buying the public airwaves but people who peacefully demonstrate for racial justice, for protecting our precious planet from climate change and the ravages of pollution, or for a fair chance at the American dream can be so easily corralled onto narrow public sidewalks, massively monitored, immorally arrested for dissent, or even subjected to brute force?
That’s part of the treachery of the Koch Party’s corruption of our First Amendment, equating money with speech and mutating our democracy into a “dollarocracy,” in the words of John Nichols and Bob McChesney.
What your gut tells you is akin to high-dollar bribery by corporations and CEOs is treated by some judges and Koch Party politicians as practically sacred and beyond regulation, while actual speech and dissent by ordinary people of good conscience is limited and repressed in a multitude of ways.
And it’s unacceptable.
But it’s not hopeless and it’s not unbeatable.
We need your help to push back and to use their strength against them.
The Japanese art of “jujitsu” uses the strength of adversaries to defeat them, to flip them.
We think there are at least three ways to do that in this context.
1. Fearlessly take on the powerful.
Unlike political organizations that set their sights, and your funding, on what a poll says may be winnable in a midterm election, for example, or that has so many focal points it simply cedes the territory where their opponents are strongest, CMD is not an electoral group.
We concentrate on the most powerful opponents of a real democracy, and we take on battles perceived to be unwinnable because they ultimately must be won for the sake of the people.
We scrutinize the real power behind the scenes–the CEOs, their corporations, and the front groups they fund to distort our laws.
We take on some of the most powerful special interests in the country that others say can’t be touched or pushed or shamed.
And, we expose them.
Our investigations make it harder for them to operate their schemes below the radar screen, and sometimes we are able to stop them in their tracks.
2. Relentlessly exposing them where they are most powerful.
We invest the time and effort in in-depth investigations, not bounded by election dates or the 24-hours news cycle that values the easy task of writing or quoting opinions over the hard work of real investigations into the political corruption that has become commonplace.
We know the strength of the powerful lies in the pay-to-play schemes that enrich them at the expense of the common good, and that is one of their greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
We unmask that corruption and pour sunshine onto the players in these special interest games and how their agenda harms ordinary people and the future for our families.
And, we are relentless in these efforts.
3. Patiently pursue them and don’t ever give up.
We exercise strategic patience and are inspired by bold optimism.
We don’t play by the PR playbook or timetable of the subjects of our investigations.
We also know our democracy didn’t get into this mess overnight and it can’t be fixed overnight. Charles Koch invested for decades to reap the greedy and distorted policies in the headlines today. It will take time to undo the damage, but we believe the facts and the good will prevail. They have before and will again.
As the great investigative journalist Izzy Stone said, to win major progress “a lot of other people have got to be willing–for the sheer fun and joy of it–to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose” until progress is won.
I think of us at CMD as joyful warriors. When the oily frontmen of the greed agenda attack us, it only underscores how consequential the efforts of our small but might organization are.
I also think it’s important to dream big and challenge conventional wisdom–that’s how I helped block more than a dozen of President George W. Bush’s picks to become judges at the height of his popularity and how I helped stitch together an unprecedented filibuster of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, among other breakthroughs before leading the Center for Media and Democracy.
One of my favorite quotes is Bobby Kennedy’s paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw, “There are those that look at things the way they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.” I do both.
This three-step jujitsu is what CMD’s transformative investigations and projects do:
It was only CMD that had the courage to publish the nearly 1,000 bills secretly voted on by corporate lobbyists voting as equals with elected officials on American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) trips where lawmakers are schmoozed and boozed by special interests. CMD broke the story with The Nation, and CMD launched ALECexposed to drag the powerful corporations underwriting ALEC, like Koch Industries, and other players into the sunlight.
In response, ALEC’s PR operation targeted and attacked me and CMD as well as the legendary Bill Moyers and other journalists in secret messages CMD uncovered as part of our open records campaign.
Undaunted, CMD along with other groups have helped push100 major corporations out of ALEC–including Google, eBay, Yahoo, and Microsoft and those are just a few from the past few months.
CMD was also one of only a handful of organizations in the country to demand that the Constitution be amended to repeal the despicable Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010 and related judicial edicts expanding the power of money, corporations, and CEOs.
Though many DC insiders scoffed at the audacity of our goal, a growing number of Americans have stood up to demand repeal. And just a few months ago a majority of U.S. Senators voted on the record in favor of amending the Constitution to begin the process of undoing those disgraceful rulings.
Meanwhile, a rightwing group with close ties to Koch operatives claimed CMD’s investigations into the Wisconsin recall elections spurred a state criminal investigation of confederates of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that the public first learned of late last year (“John Doe II”).
That criminal case is awaiting appeal but some of the evidence that has become public is devastating, with a longtime ally of the Kochs–one of the rightwing’s money men, Eric O’Keefe–in the middle of the controversy, which has implications for whether clean election laws will survive nationwide. His group even attacked me and CMD in federal court.
CMD’s hard-hitting investigations and analysis also provoked attacks against us by the PR kingpin Rick Berman, by the man who led CPAC and the American Conservative Union, David Keene, and by operatives with links to the notorious video splicer James O’Keefe–who spent election night celebrating in a limo with Alabama rightwinger Sean McCutcheon, who got the same five guys on the Supreme Court in Citizens United to strike down federal campaign contribution limits. (By the way, we won a retraction from the Washington Times for Keene’s attacks.)
CMD’s work also exposed the shills pushing unlimited fracking and highlighted the work of intrepid activists in New York–who just won the first statewide ban–and across the country. We’ve also helped debunk the lies–like the inflated jobs claims–of backers of the Keystone XL pipeline. We helped expose those trying to crush worker rights and thwart the movement for paid sick leave and increased minimum wage, along with the CEOs profiting big from privatization schemes that are undermining our public schools and our other public institutions and assets, like our water supply and infrastructure.
And, before it was vogue, CMD was one of the first outlets investigating the Koch Brothers, and we are still breaking big news. Earlier this year, for example, I documented Charles Koch’s role raising money for the John Birch Society at the height of its efforts to undermine the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of our ongoing work in these battles and on other important issues.
I know our impact is greater than many groups that have much larger budgets than ours.
That’s because we have very little bureaucracy and we invest our limited resources in strategic research and the power of jujitsu!
But, it’s also because we don’t spend much time on self-promotion or hitting your mailbox with appeals for money, except at the end of the year.
Will you take a moment right now to support CMD’s transformative investigations?
We don’t accept any grants from for-profit corporations or government agencies. We rely on concerned citizens like you to fund this work. Donations to CMD are tax-deductible.
Center for Media and Democracy
P.S. This year alone, CMD’s investigative work has led to stories on HBO’s The John Oliver Show, Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously series, MSNBC, Democracy Now, The Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and other outlets along with major documentaries like Pay to Play. Beyond those millions of viewers or readers, millions of people visited our websites this past year to get the scoop on these and other issues directly from us. Please take a moment to support CMD’s breakthrough investigations. Our work makes a real difference, and your support makes our work possible.