The Amazing Congruence

November 20th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Education, energy policy, environment, journalism, labor, regulation

By Arthur Alpert

I hope you read the latest post from my colleague, Denise Tessier.

Focusing on an Americans for Prosperity essay targeting subsidies for wind power and a rebuttal letter to the Editor from a Las Cruces reader, she decried an unsavory Journal practice:

“As we’ve often pointed out here at ABQJournalWatch,” Denise wrote, “the Albuquerque Journal consistently runs columns and letters that contain half truths or even misinformation and relies on letter and column writers to “correct” and flesh out what’s printed on its pages.”

She’s accurate, of course; our local daily has redefined the editorial function to remove from editors any responsibility for correcting essayists’ mistakes or fabrications.

(I sympathize; imagine the chore of fact checking say, Cal Thomas, Jonah Goldberg or Victor David Hanson!)

But I want to take Denise’s critique a step further via another essay that ran on the Wednesday, Nov. 7 Op Ed page. The editors treated it very differently.

At top, they identified the author of that column on NSA spying, one Teo Ballve, as a “Fellow, Social Science Research Council.” And they tagged his essay at the bottom this way:

“Teo Ballve wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with the Progressive magazine.”

Contrast that with how they identified Joe Montes, the fella who argued against tax breaks for wind energy.

They identified him at top as “New Mexico Director, Americans for Prosperity”.

And at at the bottom, there was no tag, nothing.

How come?

Do the editors believe readers should know the source of liberal opinion but not the source of oil industry opinion?

‘Fraid so, or they would have written, “AFP is a project of the Koch brothers, whose Koch Industries is heavily invested in fossil fuels.”

In fact, oil billionaire David Koch partnered with one Richard Fink (a Koch Industries’ board member) to found AFP in 2004.

Oh, and among its partners is the Heartland Institute, best known for denying climate change and for backing the tobacco industry against critics.

But why tell the readers about that?

Now I have in the past, in an excess of kindness (or cuteness), suggested the Journal lacks curiosity about the Koch brothers. That was silly. Journal management is in cahoots with them.

This explains perfectly why the daily buried the news of the top secret Koch Tamaya confab with Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in August, as Denise noted in an Aug 9 post.

It explains, too, the paper’s ongoing failure to dig into what transpired there.

Nor does the premise that the Journal is an active partner with the Kochs rest solely on its failure to properly ID Koch-inspired Op Ed articles or on the content of the AFP essay.

(It was, remember, an attack on an energy source, wind, that’s making strides and may someday pose a threat to Koch Industries’ petroleum, chemicals and gas.)

No, my premise takes into account the amazing congruence between the Journal narrative and the Kochian worldview.

They stand side-by-side in opposing organized labor, environmental protections and other regulation, health care reform, federal and state spending to create jobs, progressive taxation and education policy.

And the Koch’s major effort is getting bigger:

• “A network of state-level think tanks is pushing a right-wing agenda with support from the American Legislative Exchange Council and funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy.”

The report, released last Wednesday, details the ties between the State Policy Network and affiliated groups, including (the Koch-backed) ALEC.

“These groups have supported legislation that would restrict collective bargaining rights, privatize public schools and public pension funds, eliminate environmental protections and tighten voter identification laws.”

Please note the “privatize public schools.” More below.

That’s from a Nov. 14 article by Paul Blumenthal at the Huffington Post and no, the Albuquerque Journal carried none of it.

• Ashley Lopez for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reported Nov. 14 the Koch brothers are accused of using so-called independent think tanks to influence policy in that state.

You can find that story on the web and, need I say, not in the Journal.

Politico’s story on the Center for Media and Democracy report included the charge that “rather than a loose coalition of locally focused think tanks, SPN’s organizations are using “dark money” — a term for money donated for elections without disclosing its source — from conservative and corporate donors like the Koch brothers to push a cookie-cutter conservative agenda at the state level.”

“According to the report’s analysis of IRS filings, the State Policy Network and its think tanks’ combined revenue in 2011 topped $83 million, in large part with funding from conservative money groups like the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which receive large donations from groups tied to the Koch brothers and other prominent conservatives. The State Policy Network’s associate members also include a who’s who of conservative organizations, including ALEC, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation, FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute and The Heritage Foundation.”

Hmmm. Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, where have I read about them?

Oh yes. They surfaced in Thom Cole’s Upfront column on groups trying “to shape public policy in News Mexico,” July 28, 2012.

Donors Capital Fund, he said then, had backed the Rio Grande Foundation here to the tune of almost a half million dollars, even as it supported other conservative and libertarian organizations around the country.

(It’s a tangent, but let’s give Mr. Cole a hand. He properly distinguishes conservatives from libertarians and the Tea Party, even as journalists at the N.Y. Times, Washington Post, TV networks and NPR fail to do so.)

Returning to Koch-Donors-Rio Grande Foundation, it’s worth noting that Journal editors moved from telling us nothing about the RGF to appending the following to RGF opinion pieces:

“The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt New Mexico research and educational organization. The Donors Capital Fund in suburban Washington, D.C., is a major donor.”

Of course, if you don’t know who’s behind the two Donors funds, that ID doesn’t tell you much, does it?

So, to sum up, the Albuquerque Journal and the Koch brothers (and their network of libertarian, anti-government and pro-corporate organizations) almost always agree. (The Kochs opposed the recent shutdown of government by the very folks they finance. The Journal? Not so much.)

The Journal and the Kochs work together to advance a common ideology. For its part, our local daily publishes all kinds of Koch-inspired opinion, hiding the source as best it can, while taking pains to warn readers that, OMG, some liberal is about to express himself, maybe even a friend of organized labor!

Significantly, one of the Kochian right-wing coalition’s causes is privatization of public schools.

•  “This fall, Americans for Prosperity is spending big in the wealthy suburbs south of Denver to influence voters in the Douglas County School, which has gone further than any district in the nation to reshape public education into a competitive, free-market enterprise.”

That’s from Stephanie Simon’s Nov. 2 report for Politico. You’ve read nothing like it in the Albuquerque Journal.

This requires a post of its own, but it’s something to keep in mind when reading the Journal’s coverage of education, in particular the state’s efforts to put the onus on teachers for disappointing test scores.

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