Congress subpoenas State Dept. for secret payments to news suppressors

By Bob Unruh

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joins the PBS NewsHour for a virtual interview with Judy Woodruff at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 2021. (State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha)
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joins the PBS NewsHour for a virtual interview with Judy Woodruff at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 2021.

The State Department’s secret payments to organizations that “rate” American news sources – campaigns that have been used to stop companies from doing business with conservative publications – are the subject of a new congressional subpoena.

The Washington Examiner explains the action was triggered by State’s refusal to turn over records on programs that are part of what Republicans charge is a “censorship-by-proxy” scheme that interferes with small businesses.

The subpoena is from the House Small Business Committee and is part of a year-long investigation into the Global Engagement Center in State, which gave $100,000 of tax money to the Global Disinformation Index, a London-based group that works in America to “pressure advertisers to boycott conservative media.”

That funding triggered a new law just last year that bans some Pentagon money from being given to the London group. Also, the Federalist and Daily Wire have sued the Biden administration for its “egregious government operations to censor the American press.”

The committee, headed by Rep. Roger Williams. R-Texas, has been trying to extract financial records from the Global Engagement Center over charges of censorship schemes.

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Committee members want to see a list of recipients of GEC money.

But the State Department has refused.

The subpoena specifically asks for details on cash handed out to NewsGuard, the Global Disinformation Index, the Atlantic Council, Park Capital Investment Group, and Poynter Institute.

Williams told Anthony Blinken, Joe Biden’s secretary of state, “The House Committee on Small Business is investigating the U.S. government’s censorship-by-proxy and revenue interference of American small businesses because of their lawful speech.”

GEC, housed at State, was supposed to focus on propaganda abroad, but has been revealed as a leader in the domestic journalism censorship of what it calls “disinformation.”

That would whatever facts do not support the leftist political and social agenda.

A key component has been GDI’s insistence that mainstream news organizations are not credible if they are not leftist, and its pressure on advertisers to hurt them.

Williams said he is working on “legislative solutions to federal funds being used to demonetize, tarnish, or censor domestic small businesses on the basis of their lawful speech.”

“Rather than comply with the committee’s investigation into and oversight of the GEC’s funding of third parties who engage in these activities, the State Department has, stunningly, provided only two documents totaling 12 pages, with heavy redactions, in the span of one year,” he charges.

One option the House Republicans could choose would be to defund GEC, the report said.

The legal case by the Wire, Federalist and the state of Texas charges that promoting companies that create lists of conservative news outlet targets is a violation of the First Amendment.

“All Americans deserve a fair shot to compete in the marketplace, and the government should not be tipping the scales against any business for their legal speech on the internet.” Williams told the Washington Examiner. “The refusal to comply with repeated document requests is unacceptable, especially when the livelihoods of many small businesses are on the line.”

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