Tucker Carlson's website, the "Daily Caller," recently posted a story claiming that a Florida state legislator had rebutted a purported claim by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "drafted" Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (SYG)/"Castle Doctrine" law. But we did not make that claim.
Unfortunately for the Daily Caller's Investigative Researcher Michael Bastasch, CMD has not argued that ALEC drafted that law. Had Bastasch done any original research about CMD's actual original reporting on SYG, he would have seen that CMD is the research organization that documented how ALEC "ratified" the Florida SYG bill after it was signed into law, as noted here and here and here.
And despite efforts this week by Florida state Senator David Simmons to manufacture history in asserting that the NRA did not help draft the bill, the NRA itself took credit for conceiving of the Florida law, as CMD found in contemporaneous news reports.
Bastasch's piece raises a question about how Daily Caller fact-checks its stories. If undocumented assertions like those about CMD are passed off as news, the Daily Caller could be said to be acting with reckless disregard for the truth.
It's a Koch-Fueled World for Some Given Megaphones on the Right
The author of the piece was given the title of "Investigative Researcher of the Daily Caller News Foundation" based on his experience in the following internships and gigs at Koch-funded operations, according to his own LinkedIn profile:
- Koch Internship Program at Charles Koch Institute
- Government Relations Intern at The Heritage Foundation
- Koch Summer Fellow at Institute for Humane Studies
- Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute
- Public Affairs Intern at ALEC
In fact, Bastasch's online resume makes it look as though his post at the Daily Caller News Foundation since January of 2012 overlaps with a Koch Internship that began in 2012. Are they one and the same? Regardless, this recent college grad has already garnered months of experience nursing at the teat of Koch money through multiple right-wing groups.
Interestingly, the author did not disclose to readers his past internship with ALEC, the subject of the article. Some Daily Caller readers might have considered that credential a feather in his cap; other readers on the world wide web, however, might consider that a potential conflict of interest worthy of disclosure, especially after the whipping some on the right tried to give NPR's Peter Overby for daring to report on ALEC after working for Common Cause almost two decades ago. Meanwhile, Bastasch's internship helping ALEC with its PR spin officially ended less than two years ago. But, he promptly tweeted his Daily Caller "news" article about ALEC to allies over at his former internship, as captured in this screenshot, and ALEC staff promoted his claim/story about SYG too:
Of course, Bastasch conveniently omits ALEC's well-documented role supporting the proliferation of "Stand Your Ground"/"Castle Doctrine" laws across the country, which is not the same as having absolutely nothing to do with these laws. ALEC's own reps used to boast to the NRA and others that "Some of the things that we were pushing in states was the 'Castle Doctrine,' we worked with the NRA on that. That's one of our model bills we have states introduce...." ALEC's PR team also claims the charity does zero lobbying, despite admissions like these of senior staffer Michael Hough and other evidence.
Unraveling the Web of Koch-Fueled Interest Groups and Internships
Let's review. The Charles Koch Institute (CKI) was founded last year in Wichita, Kansas, where one of the world's richest men, Charles, and his global mega-corporation, Koch Industries, are located. As a new non-profit organization, CKI's income and expenses for internships are not yet publicly available. Bastasch is one of hundreds of interns who have been funded by Charles's newest enterprise to help turn their ideological affinity with Koch "into careers." Koch interns are paid $10 an hour to work at Koch "partner organizations," such as the Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, the State Policy Network (which includes the Cascade Policy Institute), and the American Legislative Exchange Council -- all of which the Daily Caller's staffer has done time at.
The Heritage Foundation is one of the non-profit corporate-funded think tanks, or really "stink tanks," that has received millions from Koch family coffers, according to GreenPeace. Heritage is one of the federal arms of the policy creation network that puts the talking points funded by global corporations and right-wing ideologues into the hands of federal lawmakers and gets their claims aired on FOX, CNN, and other stations through its media outreach operations.
The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) is also a pet project of Charles Koch. IHS had revenue of almost $10 million last year, largely from his foundation, and spent almost $9 million to advance Charles' ideological agenda through projects like the "Koch Summer Fellowship."
IHS is also part of Koch's homage to F.A. Hayek, whose "Road to Serfdom," has been extolled by right-wingers who claim America is on that "road" and who have drunk the Koch Kool-Aid on what it calls the "free market" but what is really a corrupt form of crony capitalism that has undermined the U.S. economy. Some followers of Hayek and of the immorality of Ayn Rand have absurdly claimed that everything from Social Security to public schools to taxpayer-funded firefighters are signs that the U.S. is on the brink of communism. Such wild-eyed condemnations of American institutions might sound eerily reminiscent of big daddy Fred Koch's irrational screeds advancing the paranoid worldview of the John Birch Society, which in some ways has been re-born in the "Tea Party," with the help of two of Fred's sons, apples that did not fall far from the tree.
If only people who blindly claim they are defending "free markets" when they defend ALEC had read all the way through Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations." Smith cautions against trusting policies proposed by business tycoons. Smith said legislative proposals of such men "ought always to be listened to with great precaution.... It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."
The State Policy Network/ALEC Love Affair
The Cascade Policy Institute (CPI) in Oregon, where the Daily Caller's Bastasch also interned, is also one of the state stink tanks helping to advance ALEC's agenda. CPI is subsidized in part by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation through its Koch internship program. That foundation is run by its namesake and his confidante Richard Fink. As a charity, Charles can claim donations to his family foundation as an offset against income taxes; in 2010, the CGK Foundation received $42 million from Charles and had income of almost $10 million on various investments and transactions.
And then there is ALEC. As CMD has documented extensively, the Koch brothers have a long relationship with Bastasch's other past internship supervisor, ALEC. Some State Policy Network (SPN) groups and their reps are also members of ALEC task forces -- voting behind closed doors with elected officials on templates to change our laws -- alongside the Heritage Foundation and David Koch's Americans for Prosperity (AFP), according to task force minutes. Oregon's CPI, which is part of SPN, has ties with AFP and has produced numerous articles promoting ALEC's agenda in the state.
With all that Koch-funded training on how to advance the Kochs' ideological agenda, should readers be surprised when someone with a byline on a site like the Daily Caller writes a story that helps ALEC?
ALEC "Hearts" the Daily Caller's Founder
Tucker Carlson told the Washington Post that his Daily Caller is "not enforcing any kind of ideological orthodoxy on anyone." It merely hires the ideologically orthodox, such as a Koch acolyte who then writes favorably about a Koch-funded group he recently worked for and unfavorably about its critics.
But the Daily Caller doesn't just hire young true believers. As CMD has reported, Carlson is beloved by ALEC. He was a featured speaker at ALEC's meeting in New Orleans last summer. And, in 2009, he received ALEC's "Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism" at its meeting in Washington, D.C., where he talked about how much he loves corporate lobbyists and thinks they know best, a position not inconsistent with ALEC's effort to give lobbyists easy access to lawmakers and an equal vote on model legislation to change our rights. Included here is a video of part of Carlson's speech accepting this ALEC-created award, which is named for a newspaper columnist who was a harsh critic of laws to protect our environment.
Who Funds the Daily Caller?
Maybe the Daily Caller's readers should just be expected to take a "buyer beware" approach. On the other hand, who is actually bankrolling the Daily Caller's news site and funding the Daily Caller News Foundation, a non-profit charity? Are there big undisclosed benefactors behind the scenes, beyond the company's online ad revenue? Does the Daily Caller benefit from perks such as interns subsidized through Koch largesse? Maybe Bastasch will turn his attention to that question for the sake of the transparency? Probably not.
Lisa Graves is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (PRWatch.org and ALECexposed.org). She formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice. She also served as the Chief Counsel for Nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, as Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the U.S. Courts, and as an adjunct professor of law.