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Bill Moyers, Scaife of the Left?

The connections between political reporting and foundation giving are an almost completely ignored field of inquiry for the media, with one notable exception. That would be early 1998, when the Clintons threw a stick at conservative philanthropist and newspaper owner Dick Scaife and told their lapdogs in the press to fetch. Suddenly, a cauldron of stories boiled over in outrage over how this "King of the Clinton Haters" would spend his riches on a vast right-wing conspiracy to commit investigative journalism with a point of view.

The establishment media's complete marination in hypocrisy was recently proven by Frank Greve, a Washington reporter for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain. Greve discovered that PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers is the Scaife counterpart of the vast left-wing "campaign finance reform" conspiracy. In addition to his day job vacuuming up video and book royalties from his endless series of tax-subsidized PBS cash-in projects, Moyers earns $200,000 a year as president of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, which has pumped more than $15 million into the crusade against the First Amendment's guarantees of free political speech.

Or, as Greve aptly put it: "Moyers is using his control over money and media in ways that would be the envy of the special interests he deplores." But Moyers has never told PBS viewers a word about it. Where were the other media outlets to follow up on this media ethics story? So much for shining the sunlight of information on the use of money in politics.

Greve revealed how interconnected Moyers' journalistic and philanthropic duties have become. For example, on Moyers' June PBS special "Free Speech for Sale," he opened with the views of three campaign "reform" activists - Burt Neuborne of the Brennan Center for Justice, Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, and Bob Hall of Democracy South - "but never revealed that their organizations have received a total of $2.6 million from the Schumann Foundation in the last five years." Moyers most recent sermon for the "Frontline" series, "Washington's Other Scandal," linked Web surfers to the "best" reform activists, most of which are - surprise! - Schumann grantees.

The Schumann Foundation reigns so supreme among campaign "reformers" that Greve found its annual donations are "about a third of total philanthropic giving on this issue. Early grants helped found three of Washington's most-quoted political reform groups: the Center for Responsive Politics, the Center for Public Integrity, and Public Campaign." On top of that, Schumann also "has long subsidized coverage of money's role in politics on public radio and public television."

Greve estimated that Moyers has hosted eight hours of PBS documentaries on campaign money. But he is responsible for more than that. In a 1991 article in the American Journalism Review, Michael Hudson explained that the far-left Center for Investigative Reporting was saved from layoffs and bankruptcy by a $75,000 grant from the Schumann Foundation. Moyers ushered CIR into a regular relationship with PBS, where they have routinely produced campaign "reform" diatribes for the "Frontline" series.

Perhaps the strangest paragraph of the Greve article contained quotes from "ethics specialists" like the Poynter Institute's Bob Steele, who worried, "Moyers' undisclosed roles will lead critics to conclude that public broadcasting has what Steele calls 'a point of view, a bias, an agenda' when it comes to money and politics." Truth is, you didn't need Moyers' full disclosure to see that PBS documentaries on campaign money are always a completely stacked deck of speech- gaggers. An apolitical 12-year-old kid could see they were one-sided. When Greve asked Moyers to defend himself and his multiple roles, Moyers blurred any distinction between journalism and philanthropy: "I practice journalism as a form of public education, and I practice grantmaking as a form of public education. I think a journalist is a citizen and you have to be honest with yourself about what you care about as a citizen as well as what you do as a journalist." In other words, Moyers believes that whatever furthers the revolution for completely taxpayer-financed campaigns is ethical.

Moyers' manipulations underscore what is at the root of liberal "campaign reform." The villains of his rhetoric are the free-market greedheads of for-profit businesses. But when Moyers and his foundation friends perform the same role for the left - manipulating millions throughout Washington advocacy groups and public television - it's not "influence-peddling" or "referee-buying," it's "public education."

Campaign "reform" is not a way to fix a dysfunctional democracy, but a way for the left to put the fix in for their dysfunctional Democratic brethren.