Watchdog: Florida media increasingly reliant on left-wing dark money

by | Sep 25, 2022

 


  • Media observers are growing concerned over mainstream media’s increasing reliance on left-wing funding
  • Media outlets in Florida and around the country use help from liberal donors without questioning the source
  • The liberal policy objectives of the financial donors are not acknowledged to readers
  • Florida newsrooms using left-wing support include NPR, Politico Florida, the Associated Press and major newspapers and TV stations

Mainstream media outlets around the country are becoming increasingly reliant on funding and support from a vast network of left-wing funders, financial records and other information show. In Florida, the influence of agenda-driven funding has seeped into mainstream outlets from the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald, National Public Radio and even Politico Florida.

Financial reports filed by a secretive web of dark money non-profit groups, most of them sharing similar goals ranging from controversial social justice initiatives to radical environmental agendas, have joined forces to create and fund a new agenda-driven media network that is buying influence with so-called “mainstream” media in order to advance its policy objectives.

For example, under the guise of “independent, investigative journalism,” the network opposes gas and oil companies and utilities that they believe represent “powerful interests stalling climate action.” And mainstream media outlets are increasingly willing to rely on support from these media outlets without questioning the sources of funding that pays for their work.

The center-right Media Research Center has been monitoring the increasing influence of liberal political funding in the media for years, but says the amount of money flowing into mainstream outlets, which claim to be non-partisan and unbiased, has been increasing in recent years.

“Leftist foundations funding the news isn’t so new to public broadcasting,” said Tim Graham, Executive Editor of NewsBusters, and the Director of Media Analysis for the Media Research Center. “But it’s been growing among for-profit news outlets, which shouldn’t make sense that you would compromise your appearance of neutrality so you can pay for a couple of extra reporters.”

Yet that’s exactly what’s been happening in Florida. Last year, the Palm Beach Post took money that was funneled from the left-wing Knight Foundation through ProPublica, which purports to be an independent investigative media outlet, but whose funding comes from a number of decidedly left-wing sources. InfluenceWatch, which tracks and catalogues funding across a broad spectrum of political organizations, analyzed ProPublica’s reporting and wrote:

The group’s story choices and rhetorical framing appear to indicate a left-leaning bias.

Later, the Knight Foundation gave the Palm Beach Post an award for publishing the story that Knight paid them to produce.

Now, the latest media outlet to openly embrace support from similar liberal sources is National Public Radio, which is using help from a dark money funded news outlet Floodlight News to bolster the reporting they already do with money collected from U.S. taxpayers.  The relationship caught the attention of Graham, and the Media Research Center, who have been monitoring NPR’s reporting since 1989.

“NPR often announces their philanthropic donors and their liberal-sounding goals, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which wants socialist health care, to the MacArthur Foundation, that’s building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world,” Graham noted. “NPR at least acknowledged a collaboration with Floodlight, but it merely said ‘This story is a collaboration with Floodlight, a non-profit environmental news organization.’ To the average reader, that doesn’t sound inherently biased.”

But the bias becomes obvious with a peek behind the curtain at Floodlight, which gives a glimpse into the vast network of left-leaning funders. Last week, The Capitolist exposed just some of the left-leaning funders behind Floodlight:

But more financial reports and documentation show the influence from liberal groups runs much deeper, and includes ties to NPR:

  • Sequoia Climate Fund  – A group that openly states they fund organizations to mitigate the impact of climate change
  • 2030 Fund – Founded by Dr. Laurie Michaels, the fund is focused on accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions by 2030
  • Porticus – a secretive group bankrolled by the Brenninkmeijer family, focused on funding a sustainable future
  • Society of Environmental Journalists – created by and for journalists who report environmental topics in the news media.

Notably, Floodlight News was founded by Emily Holden, who covered environmental issues for a number of news organizations, including the Guardian, ClimateWire, and Politico.

There’s also a lot of overlap between each of the groups and media organizations they fund. Many of the funders of Holden’s Floodlight are also pumping money into outlets like NPR. And Republican lawmakers in Congress are starting to sit up and take notice.

“It’s extremely troubling that a taxpayer-funded media outlet like NPR is becoming increasingly reliant on the financial support of partisan political groups,” said U.S. Representative Kat Cammack, who represents Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. “When supported by hardworking Americans’ taxpayer dollars, NPR should focus on real reporting instead of taking money from left-wing organizations committed to radical climate and social justice activism.”

There’s been talk of defunding NPR before, but with revenues at mainstream media outlets drying up, the problem of left-wing influence at so-called objective news outlets is growing far beyond publicly-funded broadcasting.

There’s been a trend in recent years for environmental leftists to fund “objective” news outlets,” including at the Associated Press,” Graham said, pointing to reporting by the MRC’s NewsBusters exposing NPR’s link to the Rockefeller Foundation, saying there is a double standard starting to emerge among media outlets that have long claimed to be objective. “NPR is drawing money from the Rockefeller Foundation, which also funds the AP environment reporting. Liberal journalists think there’s nothing compromising about taking on-the-record or off-the-record money from liberal groups because they are in the ‘public interest’ and not for rapacious capitalism.”

Here in Florida, another source that is frequently cited by mainstream media outlets across the state is the work of Seeking Rents publisher Jason Garcia. From Politico Florida to the Orlando Sentinel and WLRN, Garcia’s work is used without any of the outlets questioning how he gets paid. Garcia quit his job with the Orlando Sentinel earlier this year to publish his stories at Substack, a platform that allows him to collect small subscription fees to help pay for his work, and much skepticism exists that he can support himself on subscriptions alone.

Garcia has a close relationship with State Rep. Ana Eskamani and her sister, lobbyist Ida Eskamini, both of whom have deep ties to the same dark money media network that funds Floodlight News.

Whether they are accepting funding, relying on support, or just using the work of dark money outlets like Garcia’s Seeking Rents, or Floodlight News, or ProPublica, mainstream media outlets are increasingly doing so without questioning the source of the support, while cloaking their reporting behind a facade of objectivity.

3 Comments

  1. John

    Bill, your hatchet job on the free press would make Joseph Goebbels proud. You should thank the lord and those that died for our country, so that you could live in a place that allows you to write and publish the radical right wing trash that you do.

    Reply
  2. dmmorrison

    Now do the dark money from Florida’s right. It’ll be a much longer article.

    Reply
  3. Emc

    This is rich coming from a publication that does not disclose its financial ties to fpl and its origin as a site that promotes utility interests, to protect the utility from those mean liberal reporters. And Brian, unless it was fake news, u r quoted as having pitched the idea to fpl’s silagy of buying up some Florida newspapers secretly, firing all the ‘clown reporters’ and surreptitiously writing pro utility news. Finally, what is the definition of dark money? It’s when u don’t know who is behind it.The nonprofits u cite have to disclose their donors. The capitolist does not. The real question to ask is why are wealthy for-profit media owners being subsidized by charity while paying staff poorly in many cases. That’s what u should be investigating, but that would take truthful inquiry, not a quick column seeking love from the blindly faithful.

    Reply

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