A liberal media watchdog group was purportedly given a grant to expand their monitoring and fact checking of religious broadcasts.
According to a weeklong "inside" series by The Daily Caller, Media Matters for America once received a $50,000 grant to "monitor and attack" religious news outlets like the Christian Broadcasting Network and Focus on the Family, though the exact details remained unclear.
Tax returns allegedly revealed that the ARCA Foundation, a grant making organization focused on advancing social equity, justice and democracy in the U.S. and abroad, allotted the money in 2006 when Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland's 4th District, was the executive director.
From that point on, Media Matters published hundreds of posts about CBN, criticizing founder Pat Robertson, as well as other religious broadcasters including the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Focus on the Family's chairman emeritus James Dobson, Catholic League's William Donohue, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler.
Titles included "Is there any tragedy Pat Robertson won't exploit," "Pat Robertson tells Christian viewer named Mohammad to change his name to "Mo or something," "Focus on the Family's Minnery Contradicted himself regarding group's involvement with Abramoff associate Reed in casino scheme," and "Dobson, Mohler invented controversial statements by feminist Linda Hirshman."
Under Internal Revenue Service regulations, the Daily Caller reported that nonprofits like Media Matters – a registered 501(c)(3) organization – must honor any restrictions that individuals or institutions (i.e. The ARCA Foundation) placed on their awarded funds.
An IRS employee, however, explained to The Christian Post over the phone that according to their code, there were no such regulations, and it was a legal matter more than anything.
The ARCA Foundation additionally revealed that their organization would sometimes specify how they wanted their funds to be used, especially when applicants submitted a general proposal rather than a project proposal, leaving to question how the grant would be spent.
But it was still "largely up to the recipients," the spokesman told CP. They also made clear that "not one penny" of their grant money was to be spent on lobbying, which they considered illegal.
The Daily Caller pointed out, however, that some of their grantees included many left-wing organizations like Common Cause, a nonprofit nonpartisan citizen's lobbying organization, National People's Action, radio/TV news program Democracy Now! and the Foundation for National Progress, the publisher of the Mother Jones magazine.
When asked for a response about the Media Matters grant, ARCA remained unwilling to comment.
Jess Levin, a spokeswoman for Media Matters, also stated on the phone that their organization would not be commenting on any of the articles written by The Daily Caller.
Congresswoman Donna Edwards did not return an email seeking clarification as well.
Responding to the purported "monitoring" by Media Matters, CBN Spokesman Chris Rolan shared with CP, "CBN has been broadcasting for more than 50 years with 'The 700 Club' being one of the longest running programs in television history."
"CBN's mission is to reach out to everyone with the Gospel message. Certain organizations that are monitoring us are doing so with an explicit mission of promoting their own political agenda at our expense. We welcome everyone to watch CBN's programming, as long as their reporting is fair and accurate, which, unfortunately, has not always been the case."
Ironically, Media Matters penned on their website that they were dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative "misinformation" in the U.S. media.
"Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation –news of commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda – every day, in real time."
"Media Matters works daily to notify activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and to take direct action against offending media institutions."
The nonprofit organization, founded in 2004 by journalist and author David Brock, has yielded a mixed reception.
While some deem it to be a powerful player in Democratic politics, the group in regular contact with political operatives inside the Obama administration, critics find that the site "carries no weight" because their dedication to "critiquing distortions by conservatives."
The left-wing group also came under fire when many of its opponents including Fox News, one of their "central enemies" who they declared an "all-out" war on in 2010, began questioning Media Matters' tax-exempt status, which was received through their assertion as an educational charity examining the media.
Congressional Republicans have been looking into the matter as well because of Media Matters' liberal, political advocacy and its alleged distribution of information to the Democratic Party – an illegal act for a tax-exempt organization.
The New York Post reported that Brock's group would be spending $20 million this year in a campaign to influence news coverage that would cast a favorable light on the Obama administration as well.