A newly-released IRS filing reveals that a central group in Charles and David Koch's financial network paid CBS News analyst Frank Luntz's firm roughly $1.5 million in 2014 for messaging work. Luntz recently used his CBS platform to praise Koch donor conference attendees as symbolizing "the American dream," and defend the Kochs' spending -- without disclosing that he's benefited from their largesse.
CBS News analyst Frank Luntz pushed Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for House Speaker, claiming "he's got a brain for policy, which is what we need in Washington right now," adding, "if Paul Ryan says no, God help us." CBS News and Luntz did not disclose that Ryan has paid Luntz's company over $100,000 in consulting fees in recent years.
From the August 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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On the August 3 edition of CBS This Morning, CBS News allowed contributor and Republican strategist Frank Luntz to defend Republican presidential candidates courting donors at an event hosted by the Koch brothers without disclosing that he has previously advised Koch-affiliated groups. The Koch brothers have used Luntz as a messaging consultant for years, dating back to the 2010 election cycle, and including messaging advice for Americans for Prosperty and Freedom Partners.
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Fox News is outraged that an ABC News anchor waited to disclose charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation, despite the network's marked history of failing to disclosure its pundits' political and financial conflicts of interest.
Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have another ally in the media: CBS News and Fox News analyst Frank Luntz. The Republican strategist and pollster has reportedly provided the Kochs with messaging advice while using his media platform to praise Koch advertising efforts as "powerful," "one of the best," and having "unlocked the key."
The Kochs "helped create a broad network of nonprofit groups that control hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into politics." During the 2012 elections, their network reportedly raised over $400 million for conservative causes. Politico's Ken Vogel reported today that the Koch brothers' network "has in many ways surpassed the reach and resources of the" Republican National Committee. The biggest Koch-affiliated group is Americans for Prosperity (AFP), "which spent $130 million in the midterms, with 550 paid staff" to target Democrats.
Mother Jones' Peter Stone reported that the Koch brothers have been using Luntz as a messaging consultant dating back to the 2010 election cycle. Luntz has "provided message advice for Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the fundraising hub for the Koch network, for critical ad campaigns in Senate battleground states." Earlier this year, Luntz reportedly "popped up in at least two conference calls hosted by top Koch operatives with wealthy donors."
Stone noted Luntz praised an AFP political ad on Fox News after having helped craft their message, prompting a conservative operative to remark: "One hand is in [the Kochs'] pocket, while the other hand pats them on the back."
National Review wrote on March 31 of Luntz's influence on Koch messaging: "Luntz found that emotional appeals were more effective and that women were considered more credible than men on the [health care] issue. 'Women are more focused on quality of life and peace of mind,' Luntz says. This year, all of AFP's testimonial ads feature middle-class women speaking from their homes."
During media appearances, Luntz has attempted to portray himself as above the fray while failing to disclose his connections to the Kochs' political advertising. During an October 14, 2012, appearance on CBS' Face The Nation, Luntz complained about "awful" negative advertising: "It's also ninety-seven to ninety-eight percent of all ads are now negative. And so all you are told is why your opponent is a fool, is incompetent, or worse yet, a liar. And so how are you supposed to then function as a democracy when ninety-seven percent of it-- and it's awful and it works." Luntz did not mention his own history with AFP's negative advertising.
The timing and nature of Luntz's work with AFP is murky. When reached by Mother Jones, Luntz "declined to discuss the details of his Koch work" and AFP similarly declined comment, making a full accounting of Luntz's financial connections with the Koch network difficult (The network largely operates within the shadow of difficult to trace "dark money"). During a December 2013 appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, Luntz claimed he was no longer working for AFP. Host Bill Hemmer said: "By the way, you used to do some work for this group a few years ago, and you're no longer affiliated with them, is that true?" Luntz replied: "That is correct." Luntz then went on to praise the ad's message.
Luntz joins a long roster of media figures who have connections with the Koch empire. At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned for Americans for Prosperity and its sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The Fox figures have in turn defended the Kochs on-air, dismissing criticism of them as "McCarthyistic," and "a form of social control." They've also praised Koch political efforts as "effective" and "devastating" against Democrats.
Luntz has offered effusive praise of AFP's advertising efforts during his TV appearances, repeatedly calling their ads one of "the best." The group, in turn, frequently highlights his appearances on its YouTube page. Below are four times Luntz touted AFP's political ads without disclosing his connections to the group.
Republican pollster and CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz wrote in a New York Times op-ed that in the wake of the 2014 elections Republicans and Democrats should work together to pass "common-sense solutions." But Luntz's call for bipartisanship is absurd considering his reported responsibility for some of the partisan gridlock he is currently lamenting. On the night of President Obama's first inauguration, Luntz reportedly convened a meeting of GOP leaders to discuss how they could obstruct the president's agenda in order to win future elections.
In a November 6 op-ed, Luntz warned Republicans to "stop blustering and fighting" and urged the parties to work together because Americans want "progress" and "don't care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions":
Americans despair of the pointless posturing, empty promises and bad policies that result. Show that you are more concerned with people than politics. Don't be afraid to work with your opponents if it means achieving real results. Democrats and Republicans disagree on a lot, but there are also opportunities of real national importance, like national security and passing the trans-Atlantic trade deal.
Aside from a small activist constituency, Americans are not looking for another fight over same-sex marriage or abortion. This isn't to say that voters want their leaders to co-opt their convictions. People are simply tired of identity politics that pit men against women, black against white, wealthy against poor. More than ever, they want leadership that brings us together.
This isn't about pride of ownership regarding American progress; this is about progress, period. Americans don't care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They just want common-sense solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can't get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order.
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz for failing to disclose during a CBS appearance about a congressional election that Luntz had previously been a paid consultant for the candidate.
"I think you should have," Kurtz said during an August 10 interview with Luntz on his #MediaBuzz media criticism program, "because it just would have been leveling with the audience, hey, this is not some stranger."
Luntz discussed then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) surprise primary defeat on the June 11 edition of CBS This Morning, calling the loss "a blow for conversation" that is "bad for the country" because Cantor was "a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done." But neither he nor CBS acknowledged that Cantor's campaign had paid Luntz's company more than $15,000 in fees, as Media Matters documented.
Asked by Kurtz about the lack of disclosure, Luntz said that while "People raised that as an issue," he did not think it was necessary because he was introduced by CBS "as a Republican."
Luntz's excuse is consistent with that of a CBS spokesperson who told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple in June that the network had provided sufficient disclosure because Luntz's "work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
But as Wemple noted, "When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed." Media ethicists agreed in interviews with Media Matters, ripping CBS News for "outrageous" behavior that could be considered "not only bad, but corrupt."
The New York Times failed to disclose Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an op-ed it published on Cantor's loss.
On June 11, the Times offered Luntz a platform to analyze the surprise primary defeat of Cantor by challenger Dave Brat and discuss the failings of polls, which had predicted a Cantor victory. At the end of the op-ed, the Times noted that Luntz works as "a communications adviser and Republican pollster" and "is president of Luntz Global Partners, a consulting firm," but did not disclose Luntz's direct ties to the Cantor camp.
What the Times didn't mention is that Luntz Global has received more than $15,000 in consulting fees from Cantor's campaign since 2012. According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,354 for "seminar expenses" on February 27, $5,000 for "speech consulting" on December 12, and $8,000 for "speech writing" on April 9, 2012.
CBS News has already come under fire for a similar failure to disclose Luntz's connections to the Cantor campaign after it turned to Luntz for political analysis of Cantor's loss. As Media Matters reported, veteran media critics and reporters slammed the omission: former New York Times media writer and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University Alex S. Jones said that the lack of disclosure was either "bad" or "corrupt" journalism, and former Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander said:
It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed. It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience.
Other media experts made similar points.
New York Times reporter Derek Willis responded to the Luntz piece by tweeting, "Did we really publish an oped from Frank Luntz without telling readers he *worked* for Cantor's campaign?"
Did we really publish an oped from Frank Luntz without telling readers he *worked* for Cantor's campaign? http://t.co/XMIFHoELUI-- Derek Willis (@derekwillis) June 12, 2014
Veteran news ethicists and observers are criticizing CBS News and pollster Frank Luntz for failing to disclose Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during an appearance on CBS This Morning today to discuss Cantor's surprise primary defeat.
Luntz, a CBS News political analyst, said during the interview that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose that Luntz's firm, Luntz Global, had received more than $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor's congressional campaign.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcast, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
That explanation doesn't satisfy veteran media critics and reporters. They slammed CBS in interviews with Media Matters, saying that the specific Cantor connection should have been revealed.
"I think it is a classic case of a conflict of interest and CBS was remiss in not knowing it," said Alex S. Jones, former media writer for The New York Times and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "If CBS did know it and didn't mention it, then they are bad journalists. If they did know and agreed not to mention it as a condition for getting Luntz on the show, then they were not only bad, but corrupt."
Andy Alexander, former Washington Post ombudsman, agreed.
"It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed," he said in an email about Luntz. "It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience."
Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker, said such non-disclosures are becoming too common: "He should have disclosed he got paid and CBS should have disclosed he got paid," Auletta said in a phone interview. "This is very common now in television to have political consultants as talking heads."
David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun television writer, called the lack of disclosure "outrageous."
"I can't imagine how anyone would think it is ok NOT to clearly explain that conflict of interest," he said via email. "And CBS wants to sell this show as somehow being the journalistically solid viewing choice."
For Alicia Shepard, former NPR ombudsman, such action is a form of deception by CBS: "When CBS viewers learn -- and they will -- that Luntz worked for Cantor, they will feel deceived. None of us likes that feeling. CBS loses nothing by acknowledging that Luntz worked for Cantor. Why not be transparent? "
Kevin Smith, chair of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, offered a similar thumbs down: "This constant parade of pundits and analysts on network TV with insider interests needs to stop. Clearly, CBS and others are not willing to be forthcoming about these conflicts and share them in a transparent manner with the viewers."
This isn't the first time CBS has had disclosure problems with Luntz, who has been an analyst for the network since 2012. The GOP strategist appeared on CBS in October and November of that year to discuss Republican vice presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan without disclosing Luntz Global had received money from Ryan's congressional campaign.
UPDATE: CBS News responded to this post by suggesting it doesn't need to disclose if its on-air talent is being paid by the people they're analyzing.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcasting, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
Wemple found that explanation wanting, writing that journalism ethics would require CBS to disclose the specific "consultant-client relationship" between Luntz and Cantor:
There's some logic here: Saying that Luntz strategizes for Republicans could be interpreted to encompass his work for Cantor, who is a Republican certainly in need of political strategy.
Yet this is an on-air title, not an on-air disclosure. When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed.
CBS This Morning hosted its political analyst Frank Luntz to discuss House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Republican primary loss to Dave Brat. An upset Luntz said that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose a major conflict of interest: Cantor has paid Luntz's firm thousands of dollars for consulting.
Frank Luntz is the CEO of the political consulting firm Luntz Global (Luntz sold his majority stake in the company in January, but continues to serve as an executive). According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Luntz Global has received over $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor for Congress: On February 27, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,354 for "seminar expenses"; on December 12, Cantor paid Luntz Global $5,000 for "speech consulting"; on April 9, 2012, Cantor paid Luntz Global $8,000 for "speech writing."
CBS This Morning hosts Norah O'Donnell and Charlie Rose did not note the CBS News political analyst's financial connections to Cantor. Luntz hailed Cantor as a hero to the country whose loss shatters the "cooperation" between House Republicans and the White House. From the June 11 edition of CBS' CBS This Morning:
LUNTZ: Well you had Eric Cantor, who had a very good relationship with Joe Biden. Had open lines of communication. I think for the GOP it's going to be very dangerous now for a Republican to talk to Democrats, as it was Democrats to talk to Republicans a few years ago. That this a blow for conversation. This is a blow for some sort of cooperation and I think it's bad for the country, not just bad for the Republicans.
LUNTZ: I think this is such a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country. Eric Cantor had the ability to negotiate. Eric Cantor had the ability to sit toe to toe and make concessions and make agreements. And maybe that hurt him in the primary, but that's exactly what we need in Washington, and now we're losing him.
After Rose noted Cantor "was a pipeline to Wall Street too in raising money," Luntz replied, "He was also a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done. And we've lost that leadership in Washington."
The Daily Caller and Rush Limbaugh accused the First Lady and her healthy eating initiative of 'forcing' the White House pastry chef to resign, conveniently omitting the fact that the chef is leaving to pursue his own healthy eating initiative.
Upon news that White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses plans to leave the White House in June to join his husband in New York City, the Daily Caller accused Michelle Obama of pushing Yosses out with her healthy eating initiatives. According to the conservative site, the pastry chef resigned after Michelle Obama "fundamentally changed his job duties to focus on healthier foods," though Yosses "was never fully committed to the new policy."
On March 19 Rush Limbaugh hyped the Daily Caller's claims, declaring that Yosses "has been forced out" by Michelle Obama:
LIMBAUGH: Michelle Obama still told him, "I don't' care what you're good at. You're not going to use butter in the White House. And you're not going to use cream, and you're not going to use sugar, and you're not going to use eggs. So this guy had to come up with fruit puree as a sugar substitute in his baked goods. And he finally threw up his hands and said, 'The heck with it, I'm out of here.'
The truth is nearly the opposite - Yosses' departure is actually due in part to a new found interest in "the relationship between food and health," according to The New York Times, a passion that he discovered after beginning to work with healthier ingredients during his time at the White House. He reportedly plans to begin working on a food literacy program to promote "delicious food as healthy food," citing how he had been inspired by the first lady's requests for healthier desserts:
Hired by Laura Bush in 2007, when he was already acclaimed in New York for the raspberry and pear soufflés he created at restaurants like Montrachet and Bouley, Mr. Yosses began moving beyond the traditional sugar sculptures and cookie plates after Mrs. Obama arrived at the White House. He was directed to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were to be served only sparingly to the first family.
Mr. Yosses began experimenting with alternatives to what he called "the usual blitzkrieg" of butter and cream. Now, he said, "we replace butter with fruit purée, which gives some body." He often uses honey and agave in place of sugar, has added whole grains to desserts and is considering heirloom varieties of whole wheat without the bitterness of wheat bran and germ in modern whole-wheat flour.
Mr. Yosses has also been inspired by the White House garden, where he has chosen from a cornucopia of strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, figs, papaya, carrots, sweet potatoes and herbs like lemon thyme flowers, lavender and pineapple sage. Nearby is honey from the White House beehives. The result -- oatmeal bars, baked apples and pear-quince cobblers, among many others -- will have a lasting impact on his eating habits, as will Mrs. Obama.
Even the Blaze, Glenn Beck's website, called out The Daily Caller for distorting the pastry chef's departure, writing that "Yosses' reasons for leaving are actually quite the opposite" of what the Daily Caller wrote.
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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A new study confirms that Fox News consistently used slanted language when covering the debate over health care reform. Unlike other networks, Fox used language mirroring GOP-friendly phrases promoted by conservative messaging guru Frank Luntz more often than they did neutral descriptors.
In the latest salvo in a Republican Party civil war that shows no signs of stopping, CBS political analyst and GOP consultant Frank Luntz criticized Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and others in right-wing talk radio for attacking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over his support for immigration reform.
Luntz's comments came during an April 22 talk at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Mother Jones, Luntz asked to go off the record after being questioned about political polarization because he was concerned his comments could have repercussions. One of the students in the audience then started to record Luntz without the consultant's knowledge.
In that video, Luntz says:
And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side...[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take -- Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.
Since the 2012 election, Republican media figures and activists have been engaged in often intense debates over who to blame for the party's electoral failures and what the party's future direction should be. Luntz's comments provide more fuel for that fire.