WASHINGTON – Senate Press Gallery officials some two decades ago granted credentials to the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit educational group run by “left-wing San Francisco hippies,” as one media critic put it.
Yet they have denied WorldNetDaily.com Inc. press credentials because the popular newssite was spun off from the nonprofit Western Journalism Center, which the Clinton White House tried to tie to the so-called “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
In his Feb. 8 denial letter, Standing Committee of Correspondents Chairman William L. Roberts III concluded: “The Standing Committee has long held that publications operated, funded or affiliated with tax-free special interest or issue advocacy groups do not qualify for accreditation.”
WND counsel Richard D. Ackerman of the U.S. Justice Foundation called it a “political double standard,” and more evidence that Roberts and other gallery officials have held WND to a different set of criteria in evaluating its application for credentials.
WND, a for-profit company incorporated in Delaware in 1999, has appealed their decision before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Meanwhile, its legal team is preparing a discrimination lawsuit naming Roberts and the four other members of the Standing Committee.
IRS Form 990 tax returns filed by the Center for Investigative Reporting over the past five years show that private gifts, grants and contributions accounted for 64 percent of the more than $3.6 million in income it reported. Fees from its sale of stories to news outlets such as CBS’ “60 Minutes” and PBS’ “Frontline,” along with returns on investments, made up the rest of its revenue.
The center’s income mix was roughly the same in the ’80s.
Senate rules for accreditation of news organizations require that their “principal income is obtained from news correspondence.”
The Center for Investigative Reporting is practically the mirror image of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Western Journalism Center.
Both are tax-exempt 501(c)3 organizations funded principally through donations. Both are based in Northern California. Both have missions to inform the public and educate young journalists through in-depth investigative reporting.
Difference is (aside from ideology), the Western Journalism Center never applied for congressional press credentials. WND – a for-profit newssite with separate financials, operations and management – did.
“Accrediting the Center for Investigative Reporting would be like accrediting the Western Journalism Center itself,” said WND founder and Editor Joseph Farah, who says the center focuses on investigating government.
The Center for Investigative Reporting, or CIR, let its credentials expire last decade when it closed its Washington bureau – just as the Clinton presidency was starting. Its director explains it ran out of money.
“When we closed the D.C. bureau 10 years ago for financial reasons, we pulled up stakes and cut local press associations,” said CIR Executive Director Burton Glass. “Having a standing press pass at the gallery didn’t make a lot of sense for us when we didn’t have a reporter working out of Washington.”
CIR was founded in 1977 by “left-wing San Francisco hippies,” said conservative media watchdog L. Brent Bozell III.
Indeed, founders Lowell Bergman and David Weir are anti-establishment activists with roots in the 1960s protest movement.
Bergman, now a “Frontline” producer, made a name for himself as the “60 Minutes” producer who inspired Al Pacino’s character in “The Insider,” the 1999 docudrama about a tobacco-company whistleblower.
CIR says it simply “seeks an informed citizenry and a dynamic democracy.”
But despite its generic-sounding mission statement, its real agenda is clear: Advocating leftist issues.
Many of the hundreds of stories it has placed in the media are decidedly anti-tobacco, anti-nuke, anti-gun, anti-industry, anti-military, anti-family and overall anti-Republican.
The environment tops the group’s list of “current priorities,” according to its website. It even solicits donations specifically for environmental muckraking through its “Fund for Investigative Reporting on the Environment.”
The center’s former programs director, Liza Pike, worked for the anti-nuke Natural Resources Defense Council. Still a CIR board member, she now works for Environmental Media Services.
CIR’s “Gun Reporting Methodology” is an anti-handgun primer for interns.
Besides CBS and PBS, the center counts CNN, ABC and NBC – but not Fox, tellingly – as well as National Public Radio, as clients or outlets that have broadcast its reports. The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service and the New York Times Syndicate also are regular consumers of its investigative research.
Salon.com a client
Among magazines, its takers include Mother Jones, The Nation, The New Republic and Salon.com.
The predictably left-leaning Salon.com, which holds congressional credentials through the Senate Periodicals Gallery, developed a reputation as a “vicious Clinton attack dog,” in the words of its former Washington bureau chief, readily investigating the former president’s enemies while apologizing for his abuses.
Bozell notes that CIR “steered clear” of investigating Clinton, despite an eight-year parade of scandals, not the least of which was his impeachment for perjury.
Historians polled by C-SPAN ranked Clinton as the most corrupt president in history – more so than even Presidents Nixon and Harding.
Yet CIR – which says it “conducts investigative reports to hold those in power accountable” – begged off the huge Clinton story.
Asked about it, Glass at first argued the center did
do stories on Clinton.
On his scandals?
“Well, it was more about Clinton policies,” he admitted. “We did a documentary for PBS on Army transformation.”
The center has found time to, like Salon.com, investigate Clinton enemies, however.
It has zeroed in on Richard Mellon Scaife, the multi-millionaire allegedly at the center of Hillary Clinton’s alleged “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Interestingly, the Senate Press Gallery officials questioned whether WND received money from Scaife (it hasn’t).
Glass says the center has investigative projects in
the works on President Bush that are related to energy
deals and cronyism. He would not elaborate.
CIR recently funded a report critical of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s post-Sept. 11 detaining of “thousands of individuals from Middle Eastern and Muslim countries.”
San Francisco Foundation
Where does CIR get most of its money?
Names of contributors have been erased from its tax returns, including one who gave a $160,000 gift last year.
An IRS spokesman says such information is redacted from all 990 forms to protect the privacy of individual taxpayers.
But WorldNetDaily has learned that one of the largest CIR backers is the San Francisco Foundation, which has net assets in excess of $718 million.
Run by the former head of the San Francisco Public Health Department, the foundation funds AIDS causes and awareness programs – such as town-hall meetings integrating the “gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community” – and advocates nationalized health care.
CEO Sandra Hernandez, a lesbian doctor whose brother died of AIDS, is credited with making the city’s health department the most “progressive” in the nation in caring for people with AIDS.
“Community health” got the biggest chunk of the foundation’s grant money last year.
Another CIR donor is the Stern Family Fund, which advocates campaign-finance reform, greater environmental protections and other liberal causes.
The Florence and John Schumann Foundation, run by journalist Bill Moyers, is another substantial funder of CIR. It also supports campaign-finance reform and environmentalism.
Moyers, who also works for PBS, is on the CIR board of advisers, along with CBS’ Mike Wallace, NPR’s Daniel Schorr and CNN’s Judy Woodruff, wife of liberal CNN commentator Al Hunt.
Bozell complains that CIR also gets public funds as a “government contractor in documentaries.”
“CIR was collapsing in 1989 when it was saved by a set of PBS contracts,” he said. “Frontline, after all, has no private-sector underwriters.”
Frontline’s Sharon Tiller sits on CIR’s board, along with Weir and Tom Goldstein, the dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, which sponsors the Pulitzer Prizes.
Dick Satran, an editor with Reuters, also sits on the board. Donna Smith of Reuters is secretary of the Standing Committee for the Senate Press Gallery.
CIR, which also enjoys a gift from Mead Data Central of free time on the expensive Lexis-Nexis computer database, is listed among charities that participate in what’s known as the Combined Federal Campaign. Federal employees select which group they want to support and set the amount they want deducted from their paycheck.