The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and employees of Fox News have repeatedly shielded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) from criticism without disclosing that parent company News Corp. is a member of that organization.
Since mid-April the Journal has defended ALEC, a shadowy conservative organization backed by corporate giants that tailors model bills for state legislatures, in two editorials and also published two op-eds attacking the group's critics. Fox News likewise highlighted the criticism of ALEC in at least five April segments, with Bill O'Reilly describing its opponents as "very, very vicious" and questioning whether they were engaging in "blackmail." The network even hosted ALEC's communications director to defend the group. In none of those segments or articles was News Corp.'s ALEC membership mentioned.
This morning the Center for Media and Democracy, which rigorously monitors ALEC, reported:
Documents obtained and released by Common Cause show that News Corp. was a member of ALEC's Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force as of April 2010. Adam Peshek, who staffs ALEC's Education Task Force, told Education Week that News Corp. has been a member of both ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force since January 2012.
ALEC has come under fire in recent months for promoting model state legislation for restrictive voter ID laws and Kill at Will self-defense laws similar to the Florida statute cited in the Trayvon Marton killing. Progressives have responded by urging legislators, corporations, and organizations affiliated with ALEC to cut their ties. At least 19 corporate or non-profit members and 54 state legislators have left the group as a result of the campaign.
News Corp.'s conservative media entities have pushed back against this campaign, claiming that progressives are "playing the race card" as part of a "remarkable political assault," and lauded companies that have yet to disassociate themselves from ALEC. But they have not disclosed that their own parent company is one of those ALEC members.
In 2010 News Corp. drew criticism -- including from shareholders -- following the disclosure that the company had donated $2.25 million to GOP-linked groups including the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After that information was revealed, Fox News offered only intermittent disclosure of those donations during their reports on gubernatorial races and the chamber.
The company subsequently adopted "a new policy to publicly disclose corporate political contributions annually on News Corporation's corporate web site." Any ALEC membership fees paid by News Corp. are not indicated in their disclosure of corporate political contributions for 2011, which lists only contributions to candidates for office and political action and party committees.
Beginning April 18, the Journal has published two editorials and two op-eds praising ALEC and attacking its critics. These include:
- On April 18 the Journal editorial board stated that ALEC was being subjected to "a remarkable political assault" with critics "bullying big business," "playing the race card," and "demonizing opponents and trying to shut them down."
- In a May 2 op-ed, Center for Competitive Politics chairman Bradley A. Smith criticized the "boycott culture" of progressives opposing ALEC and concluded that "blacklists--never a healthy part of political debate--endanger the very commerce that enriches us all."
- In a May 8 editorial, the Journal cited the "smear campaign" against ALEC as a "campaign to intimidate companies from exercising their free-speech rights."
- Wendy Gramm and Brooke Rollins of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an ALEC member, wrote in a May 15 op-ed that the group "is under sustained attack from organizations that fundamentally disagree with its commitment to limited government and economic freedom" and that their "real crime" is that "it has been an effective, engaged facilitator of good governance and liberty-oriented legislation in statehouses across the country."
In none of those pieces did the Journal disclose that their parent company News Corp. is an ALEC member.
This tie has also gone undisclosed as Fox News employees defended ALEC on-air. The effort by progressives to urge members to leave the group was raised on several Fox programs last month. These include:
- On the April 25 edition of Hannity, Fox contributor Michelle Malkin described ALEC critics as "little lynch mobs."
- On the April 21 edition of The Journal Editorial Report, host Paul Gigot said that critics "certainly appear" to be "playing the race card to silence a conservative policy voice," while editor James Freeman described the group as "very much a mainstream, yes, left of center, but pushing ideas broadly popular to reform state government and improve the business climate."
- On the April 18 edition of Special Report, Shannon Bream reported on efforts by ALEC critics without disclosing that News Corp. is an ALEC member.
- On the April 5 edition of America Live, Megyn Kelly provided ALEC communications director Kaitlyn Buss with a forum to defend the organization and paint it as innocuous.
In an April 2 segment on The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly described the efforts against ALEC as "a far left group threatening economic pain in order to intimidate American companies" and "waging an economic war against conservative groups and people it doesn't like." Laura Ingraham added that one of the groups leading the effort "does not want free speech. They don't want any real debate on these issues, period."