Wall Street Journal Defends ALEC without Disclosing Deep Ties of Editorial Board Member Stephen Moore

August 23, 2013

By Lisa Graves via PR Watch

The Wall Street Journal‘s latest defense of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), penned by WSJ Editorial Board Member Stephen Moore, fails to disclose Moore’s deep ties to ALEC.

Moore’s op-ed attacks U.S. Senator Richard Durbin for scrutinizing ALEC’s role in peddling the Florida “Stand Your Ground” legislation as a model for the nation for more than six years. That law was initially cited to prevent the arrest of George Zimmerman for shooting Florida teenager Trayvon Martin to death, and that law proved to be instrumental in the failure to convict after the jury was instructed that law Zimmerman had a “right to stand his ground” and had “no duty to retreat.”

WSJ Conflicts of Interest: Moore’s Many Undisclosed Ties to ALEC

However, Moore failed to disclose anywhere in that op-ed that he has a long-standing working relationship with ALEC. These close ties include the facts that:

  • since at least 2007, Moore has been on ALEC’s “Board of Scholars,” one of five people with that designation;
  • since 2007, Moore has been the co-author of one of ALEC’s main publications, “Rich States, Poor States,” which claims to rank the performance of states in accordance with their adherence to ALEC’s ideal economic policies, reports that have been strongly criticized;
  • since joining WSJ’s editorial board in 2005, Moore has presented on issues such as reducing corporate tax rates at ALEC’s closed door task force meetings, where corporate lobbyists vote as equals with state legislators on “model bills” to be introduced into law in state capitols; and
  • in 2009, ALEC said Moore “represents what we should expect of all journalists,” and gave him its “Warren Brookes Award” for “journalistic excellence.”

WSJ’s Moore Cites ALEC Co-Author and Others without Disclosure

Nowhere in his editorial page piece defending ALEC did Moore mention any of these ties. Even when he favorably quoted Jonathan Williams criticizing Senator Durbin’s letter — which asked corporations that had funded ALEC if they support “Stand Your Ground” laws — Moore noted that Williams is the staff director of one of ALEC’s task forces but failed to mention to readers that he himself has a long-standing working relationship with Williams. ALEC’s Tax Task Force director is actually Moore’s co-author on five of the six editions of the “Rich States, Poor States” report (including the one issued three months ago).

Similarly, in the WSJ op-ed when he quoted newly-elected Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Moore failed to note that Cruz is one of the featured “plugs” for the 6th edition of this piece of work Moore co-authors that is published by ALEC. Likewise, in the op-ed when Moore quoted an unnamed board member of ALEC, he failed to mention his own long-time post on ALEC’s Board of Scholars.

However, ALEC has leaned heavily on WSJ editorials as favoring its positions.

To cite one of many examples, last year ALEC’s executive director sent an email to ALEC legislators and corporations calling CMD “an attack-dog” and flagging positive editorials about ALEC from the WSJ, none of which disclosed the strong connections between ALEC and Moore to the readers of the WSJ’s editorial pages or mentioned the fact that the WSJ’s parent corporation, Newscorp, is also a member and funder of ALEC, a fact CMD broke last year.

Moore Did Not Disclose Gift from ALEC either

Moore also failed to mention his receiving an award from ALEC. According to ALEC’s federal tax form from 2009 when it gave Moore the Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism, the award was described as a “cash grant” in the amount of $1,850, and the awards ceremony for Moore included the presentation of a small trophy with a metal scroll and quill.

It is unclear whether ALEC or the Wall Street Journal or some other benefactor has provided Moore with any other gifts, money or benefits for his assistance to ALEC in the rating of all 50 states according to its legislative agenda or for work on other topics he has addressed with ALEC members, such as welfare reform or changing tax laws. There is no independent documentation about whether Moore pays for his trips to ALEC resort meetings out of his own pocket without reimbursement or whether someone else funds those trips.

Additionally, it is not known whether Moore receives any compensation or honorarium from ALEC for either his analysis in the “Rich States, Poor States” publication or for the time he spends promoting that publication on FOX or other TV shows.

It is also not known if Moore has received any compensation from his other co-author of that publication, Art Laffer, or from any of the various Laffer enterprises that support an array of ALEC legislative agenda items.

It is also not known if Moore receives any compensation for being on ALEC’s Board of Scholars or whether he is allowed to receive outside compensation as a consultant and under what circumstances he is required by the WSJ to disclose any such contracts to the public.

The WSJ also does not disclose its rate of pay for editorial board members and whether service to a non-profit organization such as ALEC is considered a positive factor in compensation or not.

Moore Used to Raise Big Cash from Donors and Work for Koch Groups

In early 2005, Moore joined the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board after losing an internal fight over the control of an organization he started in 1999, the “Club for Growth.” That group heavily promoted George W. Bush’s presidency, and reportedly raised and spent at least $20 million on an array of political or issue ads as a PAC and a “527″ organization. (Pat Toomey took over the group after failing to unseat Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, despite the group’s heavy spending in that 2004 race and other races.)

When Moore left Club for Growth in late 2004, he brought along some of its big funders to a new group, the “Free Enterprise Fund,” with the support of Laffer. That non-profit lobbied to privatize social security and to repeal the estate tax, but Moore left shortly after its founding to join the editorial board of the WSJ.

Before starting the Club for Growth, Moore worked at the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation, writing economic policy papers. Before that, he worked at the Cato Institute, which was co-created by Charles Koch in the 1970s and which has long pushed for the privatization of social security. Moore also worked as an economist for U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, and he was a consultant on the congressional “National Economic Commission.”

Moore also worked as the Research Director for President Reagan’s “Commission on Privatization,” which included David Koch’s right-hand man, Richard Fink. Fink was then the president of David Koch’s “Citizens for a Sound Economy” (CSE), which later split off into David Koch’s “Americans for Prosperity,” and “FreedomWorks,” which was briefly led by Armey. That commission — which both CSE and ALEC strongly lauded — recommended numerous ways to redirect tax dollars from government institutions to for-profit corporations.

Moore also was listed as one of ten members of the Board of Directors of Donor’s Capital Fund, as of 2010, an entity that helps distribute funding from the Kochs and other billionaires and millionaires to right-wing groups, as noted in its tax filings and as documented by Little Sis.

It is noteworthy that in his post with the WSJ, Moore also wrote a glowing story about Charles Koch in 2006.

Moore Is Not the Only WSJ Editorial Board Connection to ALEC

Moore is not the only WSJ editorial board member who has had close ties with ALEC. Long-time WSJ editorial board member John Fund is also plugged into ALEC. He had a seat on the WSJ’s editorial board from 1995 to 2001, and he also wrote for the WSJ’s editorial page from 2000 to 2011.

Like Moore, Fund made presentations to ALEC’s secretive, closed door task force meetings where corporations vote alongside legislators on model bills to be introduced into law in statehouses across the country. Fund’s most recent presentation to ALEC was in 2010.

Notably, one of Fund’s closed door meetings with ALEC was in 1999 and was in support of the “Financial Services Reform Act,” also known as the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act. That act effectively eliminated the walls beween banking, investing, and insuring. As ALEC described that presentation, the bill they praised “was the crucial first step toward overhauling the depression-er regulatory framework of the banking industry. To many, this bill is only a half-measure. More fundamental reforms need to take place to keep the American financial services industry competitive in the ‘global’ marketplace.”

The destruction of that framework (known as “Glass-Steagall”), as urged by Fund and ALEC, laid the foundation for the devastating crash of the U.S. economy in 2008 due to risky gambling it allowed for the newly combined “financial services” industry with its “Too Big to Fail” Wall Street banks and speculators.

Like Moore, ALEC also gave Fund the Warren T. Brookes award, but that was in 1993 before he joined the WSJ. The award came shortly after he cut his teeth as a journalist working for Bob Novak, the notorious right-wing commentator who called himself the “Prince of Darkness.”

As with Moore, none of the known editorials or op-eds penned by Fund about ALEC-related issues disclosed his long connection with ALEC.

Updated: Pro-ALEC WSJ Editorial Runs Same Day Moore Addresses ALEC

CMD’s General Counsel, Brendan Fischer, noted that the WSJ ran its editorial “Durbn Wants a List,” the same day its editorial board member Moore headlined ALEC’s lunch at its 40th anniversary meeting in Chicago. Again, there was no mention of the close ties between the WSJ and ALEC.

The next day, ALEC’s spokesman emailed all of the ALEC corporations and legislators using the WSJ’s editorial to buttress its position in opposition to Senator Durbin’s letter, as CMD’s Research Director, Nick Surgey, discovered.

As with the WSJ, ALEC did not tout its inside track with the WSJ editorial board either.

The following week (last week), Moore wrote his latest opinion piece for the WSJ backing ALEC, under his own byline, but again failed to disclose his deep ties to ALEC.

Image: Donkey Hotey