A Media Guide To The Right-Wing Agenda Of North Carolina's Civitas Institute

Newly released documents have exposed the agenda of the conservative North Carolina-based J.W. Pope Civitas Institute showing that the organization is seeking funds to engage in a campaign to decimate Medicaid funding in the state. North Carolina media should take care to disclose these revelations to ensure readers know what's really behind the Civitas Institute's forthcoming Medicaid attacks.

On December 5, The Guardian released documents noting that conservative groups across the United States “are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment.” The Guardian explained that the “proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level.” Indeed, according to a report by the Center for Media and Democracy, the State Policy Network (SPN) and its member organizations “work together in coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions that purportedly advance the interests or traditions of the state.” The report added:

Although many of SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, our in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

Among the groups cited in the Guardian papers was the Civitas Institute. The organization requested funding for a campaign to try to sway politicians into reducing the amount of money North Carolina gives to the state's Medicaid program, which it characterized as “failed,” and if successful, export their messaging to other SPN affiliates around the country:

As Media Matters has previously noted, Civitas is affiliated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which gets funding from Donors Trust -- once dubbed the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement.” The Trust counts the Koch brothers and other major conservative donors as its benefactors. The Civitas Institute itself, receives a significant portion of its funding from North Carolina conservative luminary Art Pope, who is also a budget advisor to North Carolina's Gov. Pat McCrory.

According to a December 3 Media Matters report, local and national newspapers that gave Civitas a platform repeatedly failed to disclose the group's ideology or funding, thereby aiding the Civitas effort. Media should take care to maintain full disclosure when quoting Civitas sources or allowing Civitas op-eds to be published, especially on the topic of Medicaid. As ProgressNC noted in a press release, the Civitas Institute is “more interested in pushing their right-wing agenda than they are in helping North Carolina's hard-working taxpayers and middle-class families.”

Moreover, the real facts on Medicaid contradict Civitas' portrayal of the system as “failed.” Nationally, Medicaid is the primary payer of long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities. In North Carolina alone, as of 2010, nearly half a million seniors and people with disabilities have relied on Medicaid for long-term care and other services. In addition, almost 1 million children and more than 1 million women in North Carolina have benefited from Medicaid, many of whom would be left without access to care if funding was cut.

As the Congressional Budget Office has explained, cutting Medicaid funding would leave many Americans uninsured and make it harder for them to get access to care.