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How the Professional Left Operates: Foundation Funding and Bad Reporting

If you want to understand the web of incestuous self-referential support through which the professional left operates, look no further than this article from Slate.

What Spalter didn’t reveal is that Mobile Future, which describes itself as “a coalition of cutting-edge technology and communications companies and a diverse group of non-profit organizations,” is funded in part by wireless giants AT&T and Verizon, which are also advocating for an auction free of limits. The group also didn’t detail that relationship when it submitted three research papers to the Federal Communications Commission arguing against restricting how much spectrum a company can obtain in an auction. And it didn’t disclose the fact that data from a research paper it used to create a graphic arguing against limits was commissioned by AT&T and filed with the FCC, which is writing rules for the auction. Mobile Future does list AT&T and Verizon as among its 82 members on its website.

So an article purporting to disclose undisclosed relationships acknowledges, in the first few paragraphs that the relations are, in fact, fully disclosed, but not on every single piece of paper they issue. I guess Holmes complaint is that Mobile Future doesn’t list all 82 members on the back of their business cards.

But what of Holmes? Has he fully disclosed? As a reporter, has he done an effective job of questioning the motivations of both sides?

As it turns out, not so much. In an article that could be the poster child for demonstrating the left’s funding process, it seems Mr. Holmes is unwilling to disclose the common thread running through his writing. That common thread is the Ford Foundation.

Gene Kimmelman, who Holmes quotes, was employed until two months ago by the New America Foundation. Under Kimmelman, New America received $1.2 million dollars from the Ford Foundation in 2012 alone. Harold Feld, Kimmelman’s colleague at Public Knowledge, was a guest speaker at New America events funded by Ford during Kimmelman’s tenure.  In total, New America has received nearly $5 million from Ford.

Feld, for his part, came to Public Knowledge from the Media Access Project – recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Ford Foundation cash and PK has received $3.3 million from Ford.

Public Knowledge recently contributed one if its own to the Federal Communications Commission When Gigi Sohn left to be an advisor to the Chairman. Sohn was deeply involved with both Ford and the Media Access Project. While at Ford, Gigi actually created the grant program that contributed significant sums of money to Public Knowledge.

The Ford Foundation also sponsors the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which in turn studied the policy implications of the spectrum auctions at issue in the article. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the CPB found that such auctions would be harmful to media access.

Given their common funding stream, it is probably no surprise Public Knowledge, Media Access Project, New America, and CPB all fall on the same side of the issue. Holmes, had he spent time reporting, rather than advocating, could easily have disclosed all of this.

Instead, Holmes chose to find confirmation of the shard position from an independent academic voice – Matthew Hindman at George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Science’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While there is no indication that Hindman is a direct recipient of Ford Foundation money, the Columbian College is looking to get funding from the Ford Foundation for their teaching staff


But why would the Ford Foundation be interested enough in things like spectrum auctions to invest the resources to influence public policy on the matter?  Well, the Ford Foundation has $3.5 million dollars invested in Deutsche Telecom – the parent company of Sprint, and millions more invested in Ericsson (a partner in deals with Sprint worth more than $5 billion dollars.) They also hold investments in other mobile equipment manufacturers like

As Holmes acknowledges, “Spectrum is the lifeblood for wireless carriers as Americans ditch their desktop computers for mobile devices.”  Granted, the Ford Foundation is a huge endowment with a lot of different investments. They are, however, invested in many companies that have a vested interest in telecom policy including LG, Samsung, Phillips, NTT Docomo and others.

Given the inherent conflict of interest in organizations funded by Ford citing reports funded by Ford done by other organizations funded by Ford to advance positions favored by Ford and supported by academics working for universities looking for funding from Ford, you have to ask where the real lack of disclosure is.

In this case, even a minimal amount of due diligence would have turned up the strings by which the Ford Foundation manipulates public policy in favor of its own investments.

Written by Turk