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The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-profit investigative reporting group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatch, SourceWatch, FoodRightsNetwork and BanksterUSA.

Our newest investigative site is ALECexposed.org.  Our ongoing investigation of ALEC -- the corporations bankrolling its operations and "scholarships" for legislators to attend posh resorts where corporate lobbyists and elected officials vote behind closed doors on "model" legislation to change Americans' rights -- has won significant awards for investigative journalism.

Our recent awards for ALECexposed include:

  • the "Izzy" I.F. Stone Award for outstanding achievement in independent media from the Park Center (along with ''Democracy Now!'' correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who covered the uprising in Egypt from the ground);

  • the Sidney Award (shared jointly with The Nation for our joint effort to break the story of CMD's ALECexposed project) from the Sidney Hillman Foundation; and

  • the annual Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Culture and Critical Studies Division, whose past recipients include Izzy Stone, Bill Moyers, and Molly Ivins.

We have also been honored by the Milwaukee Press Club for one of our investigations into shadowy front groups influencing elections.

We accept no funding from for-profit corporations or grants from government agencies.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to support our work, please click here.

Team CMD

This national, independent, non-partisan public interest newsgroup is led by Lisa Graves, who formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice and Chief Counsel for Nominations for the chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, among other executive roles in Washington, DC. She is the Editor-in-Chief of CMD's publications. She joined CMD in late 2009.

CMD's expert staff includes CMD's Deputy Director, Mary Bottari, who is also the Director of CMD's Real Economy Project.  Former CIGNA PR executive and journalist Wendell Potter remains an advisor as our Senior Fellow on Health Care, and he works as a Senior Analyst at the Center for Public Integrity.

Our writers and researchers include Staff Counsel and Reporter, Brendan Fischer; and writers Rebekah Wilce, Sara Jerving, and Harriet Blair Rowan.  Freelance writers who report for CMD's PRWatch, among other publications, include Beau Hodai, and CMD routinely recruits and trains student interns in research and writing.

Our professional staff include IT Director, Patricia Barden; Outreach Manager, Sari Williams; Press Assistant, Nikolina Lazic; and Editor, Friday Thorn.

CMD's Board of Directors consists of David Merritt, Inger Stole, Jan Miyasaki, Ellen Braune, Deborah Bey, Clarisa Long, Cosmo Harrigan, Joe Mendelson, and executive director Lisa Graves.

The Center was founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1993, by John Stauber, who led the Center until his retirement in 2009.

Our team of writers and researchers focus on:

  • Reporting that promotes informed decision-making about policies and products affecting our lives--our economy, our environment, our health, our liberty, our security, and the health of our democracy--and analysis and opinion that aids citizen involvement and grassroots action
  • Investigating and countering PR campaigns and spin by corporations, industries, and government agencies.
  • Advancing media literacy by helping people recognize the forces shaping the information they receive.
  • And promoting citizen journalism as an alternative to the corporate media, so people from all walks of life can "be the media" and help write the history of companies, front groups, and people influencing public policy

To see what other journalists have said about CMD -- including Bill Moyers, Amy Goodman, the late Molly Ivins and others -- click here.

CMD's 2011 Annual Report of Recent Activities

Over the past year, we've proven that CMD's style of independent reporting can be a real game-changer.

We leapt in to cover the Wisconsin protests from the outset when the corporate media was dodging the real story of the corporate-funded attack on workers' rights. Our hour-by-hour reports and coverage of the players, like the billionaire Koch brothers and David Koch's greed-is-good group, "Americans for Prosperity," helped open people's eyes across the nation.

We also launched the unprecedented effort to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by analyzing and making available nearly 1,000 "model" bills secretly voted on by global corporations and politicians behind closed doors. The way we approached this investigation has inspired hundreds of news stories illuminating this secret distortion of our democracy.

We also demanded a federal investigation of Koch buddy Mark Block and his suspect financial dealings to aid Herman Cain, a frequent speaker at Koch-funded Tea Party events. We've also worked to expose the "greed-washing" of the Big Banks and the obstruction of the banksters who helped crash the economy.

In all, in 2011, CMD produced hundreds of original stories and articles on PRWatch and SourceWatch, as well as pieces featured on Huffington Post, Truth Out, Common Dreams, Firedog Lake and other online outlets  Our analysis was highlighted in news stories on MSNBC, Democracy Now!, GritTV, National Public Radio, Pacifica, the New York Times, and numerous newspapers and magazines.  Our research and reporting is raising awareness and reaching a broader audience every day.

This is crucial because the U.S. is at a crisis point in media and democracy. In 2012, more money will be spent on front groups and the elections than ever before in the history of the world. We know how to uncloak these shadowy groups and disinformation ads, and we'll be investigating the CEOs bankrolling them and the other individuals and companies involved in these efforts to manipulate public opinion.

To help educate the public, the Center for Media and Democracy:

  • Publishes the online magazine, PRWatch, which contains our original reporting, investigations, and analysis on corporate policies, products, and PR spin. It also publishes The SPIN, an e-periodical that highlights CMD's key reporting on these issues.  (Click here to subscribe to The Spin).  (PRWatch was a quarterly print news periodical from 1993 through 2009, when it migrated to a fully online publication.)
  • Manages SourceWatch--our specialized, collaborative encyclopedia of people, groups and issues shaping the public agenda--and also BanksterUSA.org, which focuses on financial and economic reform.
  • Launches original investigations into major national issues, such as our reporting about American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),  the Wisconsin protests against efforts to destroy public bargaining, tobacco issues, and misinformation about homeland security claims. In 2011, we also launched CMD's Food Rights Network to expose how companies were selling people "compost" to use in their gardens, including in school gardens, without disclosing that the material was really industrial and human sewage sludge.
  • Supports strategic public education campaigns, such as our work to help protect consumers and educate the public about financial reforms and also health insurance industry spin, in addition to our response to the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case expanding corporate "rights," and our continuing role analyzing surveillance of Americans.  (Prior educational outreach included our successful Defend The Press campaign with the National Press Club and other partners, and our 2008 "Election Protection" wiki in partnership with the Huffington Post and other organizations.)

Ground-breaking books by writers from the Center for Media and Democracy include:

CMD also creates clearinghouses for information on key issues through our SourceWatch wiki, such as Corporate Rights, the Real Economy, Water Policy, the Tobacco Industry, and Coal Issues, among other special features.

Sources and Uses of Contributions

CMD accepts donations from individuals and philanthropic foundations through gifts and grants. A copy of our most recent 990 filing is available upon request.

For more information, send us a message using the online contact form or via mail to 520 University Avenue, Suite 260, Madison, Wisconsin 53703. You can also reach us by phone at 608-260-9713.