What We Do

The Center for Media and Democracy is a non-profit watchdog organization that conducts powerful investigations and publishes news that transforms the national conversation.

CMD's niche is investigating the undue influence of corporations, CEOs, and front groups on public policy, including exposing PR campaigns, lobbying, and electioneering.

With the cuts to newsrooms and investigative journalism across the country, CMD's original and in-depth investigations are more important than ever in breaking through the corporate-backed PR that too often fills commercially-sponsored news outlets.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to support our work, please click here.

Our History

Founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1993, CMD's original reporting helps educate the public and aids grassroots action about policies affecting people’s lives—their rights and the health of our democracy.

CMD publishes PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, SourceWatch.org, KOCHexposed.org, OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org, NFIBexposed.org, and other investigative sites, like StinkTanks.org.

Its newest collaborative website is ALECclimatedenial.org.

CMD launched ALECexposed.org in mid-2011, after a whistleblower gave CMD's Executive Director all of the ALEC bills secretly voted on by corporate lobbyists and elected officials, behind closed doors and out of the view of the public and the press.

CMD's ongoing investigation of ALEC--along with the corporations bankrolling its operations and "scholarships" for legislators to attend posh resorts where corporate lobbyists and elected officials vote behind closed doors on "model" legislation to change Americans' rights--has literally transformed the national conversation about these issues and has been featured in national and international TV and print, including in a documentary narrated by Bill Moyers: "United States of ALEC."

CMD also hosts CoalSwarm and FrackSwarm on CMD's SourceWatch website.

CMD's extensive work documenting and exposing dark money in federal and state politics includes original breakthrough reporting about the influence of the Koch Brothers. Based on these investigations, CMD has called for amending the Constitution to repeal the Supreme Court's decision in the "Citizens United" case and related cases expanding the power of money and corporations in American democracy.

Our Awards

Our recent awards include:

  • the "Izzy" I.F. Stone Award for outstanding achievement in independent media (shared with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous) from the Park Center for Independent Media;

  • the Sidney Award (shared jointly with The Nation) from the Sidney Hillman Foundation; and

  • the annual Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Culture and Critical Studies Division, whose past recipients include Izzy Stone, Bill Moyers, and Molly Ivins.

  • and a "Benny" from the Business Ethics Network.

CMD has also been honored by the Milwaukee Press Club for one of its investigations into shadowy front groups influencing elections.

To see what other journalists have said about CMD--including Bill Moyers, Amy Goodman, the late Molly Ivins and others--click here.

Our Team

This national, independent, non-partisan public interest newsgroup is led by Lisa Graves, who formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice and Chief Counsel for Nominations for the chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, among other executive roles in Washington, DC. She joined CMD in late 2009.

CMD has assembled a top-notch team that combines extraordinary research capacity with the ability to break stories, translating complex documentary evidence and policy issues into powerful narratives, along with smart analysis, engaging language, and compelling graphics. CMD also has in-house counsel to back up its investigative efforts and a talented project management team that can process a mountain of information and deliver excellent and timely special reports. Here is more information about CMD's team.

CMD's Board of Directors consists of David Merritt, Inger Stole, Jan Miyasaki, Ellen Braune, Deborah Bey, Clarisa Long, Cosmo Harrigan, and Executive Director Lisa Graves.

CMD was founded by John Stauber, who led CMD until he retired to become an independent activist in 2009.

Ground-breaking books by writers from the Center for Media and Democracy include:

Sources and Uses of Contributions

CMD is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit that accepts donations from individuals and philanthropic foundations through gifts and grants. A copy of our most recent 990 filing is available upon request.

The following foundations have provided at least one grant of $5,000 or more to support the work of the Center for Media and Democracy since its inception in 1993. Those listed in bold are recent funders.

• American Legacy Foundation • Bauman Family Foundation • Careth Foundation • Carolyn Foundation • Changing Horizons Charitable Trust • Courtney's Foundation • CS Fund • Deer Creek Foundation • Educational Foundation of America • Ettinger Foundation • Ford Foundation • Foundation for Deep Ecology • Foundation for Political Management • Funding Exchange • Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund • Grodzins Fund • Helena Rubinstein Foundation • HKH Foundation • Litowitz Foundation • Marisla Foundation • Mostyn Foundation • Open Society Institute • Park Foundation • Public Welfare Foundation • Proteus Fund • V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation • Rockefeller Associates • Rockefeller Family Foundation • Rockwood Fund • Stern Family Fund • Schumann Center for Media and Democracy • Sunlight Foundation • Threshold Foundation • Tides Foundation • Town Creek Foundation • Turner Foundation • Wallace Global Fund • Winslow Foundation

Contributions from individuals and non-profit organizations are accepted. If you would like to include CMD in your will, a bequest in the amount you specify may be directed to the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the State of Wisconsin.

We accept no funding from for-profit corporations or grants from government agencies, except that CMD does accept funding from CREDO, which gives donations to nonprofits based on votes by its activists and customers, rather than by a corporate agenda.

You can contact CMD using the online contact form. You can also reach us by phone at 608-260-9713.