Bill Moyers may be a respected media veteran, but lately he has also become a veteran of using his taxpayer-supported show to bash groups he doesn’t like. And he does that while blatantly supporting groups he does like, particularly ones on his payroll.
On June 21, show, “Moyers & Company” published a 56-minute follow-up documentary in a series of attacks against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a nonprofit forum where state legislators and private sector leaders can share ideas.
The left has been targeting ALEC and its members for some time. In March 2012, a group of liberal organizations including the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for American Progress, People for the American Way, United Republic, Common Cause and Color of Change, launched a campaign to pressure the corporations that funded ALEC to withdraw their support.
Moyers heads the Schumann Center, which has given $1,360,000 to groups leading the attack on ALEC. That point was ignored in four stories written about ALEC on Moyers’ website in 2012, even though Moyers has been criticized for his connections in the past. Liberal billionaire George Soros also donated more than $12 million to those same organizations.
The campaign against ALEC, dubbed “ALEC Exposed,” succeeded in pressuring several ALEC donors to pull funding from the group, including Kraft, McDonalds, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. Moyers has continued to promote the work of other groups bashing ALEC, through both the “Moyers & Company” website, and his writing on liberal outlets like Alternet.
This second installment in “The United States of ALEC” repeated the same arguments brought up in the first, with some new interviews with liberal types thrown in. These included appearances by Chip Berlet of the liberal Political Research Associates (whom Moyers describes as an “activist” who “studies the right wing movement”), John Nichols of the liberal Soros-funded magazine The Nation and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy(CMD), which Moyers’ Schumann Center funds. Nichols is also a major proponent of government-funded media.
Moyers began the documentary by warning about what he saw as ALEC's agenda: “Privatizing America, one statehouse at a time.” “What's the purpose of privatizing education in the United States?” asked Julie Underwood, a dean at the University of Wisconsin. “Because there are some things in the United States, like courts, legislatures, public education, that really, really need to remain public. And that's the heart of what we are as a democracy.”
Moyers and the other liberals featured in the film implied that ALEC can actually make laws, but this is not the case. “Through ALEC, you can change the whole country without ever going to Washington, without ever having to go through a congressional hearing, without ever having to lobby on Capitol Hill, without ever having to talk to a president,” Nichols said in the introduction to the documentary.
Of course, this statement was misleading at best. Nothing that has come out of ALEC instantly became law. Rather, ALEC is a forum for legislators to talk to leaders from the corporate sector about new ideas, which are then submitted to be voted on in state governments. These bills then have to go through the exact same process as any other bill before they can become law.
To Moyers’ credit he did begin the documentary by disclosing that the Center for Media and Democracy is funded by the Schumann Center. When the crusade against ALEC began, Moyers made no such concession. On Oct. 4, 2012, billmoyers.com cited the work of the Schumann-funded Center for Media and Democracy, calling it a “progressive watchdog group,” but again neglected to disclose the connection between this group and Bill Moyers.
Besides attacking ALEC, Moyers has also used his taxpayer-funded show to promote theAmerican Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE) as a liberal alternative to ALEC. He has also used his platform to promote other liberal groups like Color of Change.
Moyers has hosted “Moyers & Company,” which is distributed by American Public Media, since his return to the airwaves in January 2012. Moyers had tried a brief retirement beginning in 2010.
As president of the Schumann Center, Moyers has funded four of the groups involved in the attack on ALEC:
- Center for American Progress: $1,100,000
- Center for Media and Democracy: $250,000 since 2000 and $75,000 in the 90s
- People for the American Way: $10,000
- The Schumann Center was also listed as a foundation donor in Common Cause’s 2011 annual report, although the amount of money given was unspecified.
The same four organizations that received funds from Moyers have also received money from Soros’s Open Society Foundation since 2000, totaling, $13,538,491:
- Center for American Progress: $5,784,991
- People for the American Way: $4,625,000
- Common Cause: $2,528,500
- Color of Change: $300,000
- Center for Media and Democracy: $300,000
The American Legislative Exchange Council is a non-profit organization that promotes state-based policy initiatives. ALEC has been heavily criticized by the left for its politically conservative stance on many issues. Moyers, whom Common Cause called a “veteran journalist,” has been instrumental in both funding and publicizing the attacks against the conservative group ALEC.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics expressly states that “journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” and that they should “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility,” and, furthermore, that journalists should “shun secondary employment, political involvement … if they compromise journalistic integrity.”
Moyers is an outspoken liberal, and he has repeatedly used his show to promote liberal causes and criticize conservatives. He even went so far as to compare Occupiers to abolitionists and suffragettes. He has also called the National Rifle Association “the enabler of death — paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion,” claiming that “[w]ith the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.”
Moyers may have once been a journalism icon, but he’s not anymore. Now he’s an activist, with a taxpayer-funded platform to broadcast from.