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Paul Steiger: The ProPublica Story
ProPublica founder and CEO, Paul Steiger, on the creation of this foundation-funded investigative newsroom, the challenges they faced and their plans for the future. ProPublica is the first online-only organization to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Paul Steiger: The ProPublica Story part 2
Paul Steiger: The ProPublica Story part 3
Paul Steiger: The ProPublica Story part 4 Q&A
Paul Steiger: The ProPublica Story part 5 Q&A
Jon Stewart Totally DESTROYS Obama Administration Over IRS Scandal | A MUST WATCH
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Progressive Group: IRS Gave Us Conservative Groups’ Confidential Docs
by Wynton Hall
The progressive-leaning investigative journalism group ProPublica says the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office that targeted and harassed conservative tax-exempt groups during the 2012 election cycle gave the progressive group nine confidential applications of conservative groups whose tax-exempt status was pending.
The commendable admission lends further evidence to the lengths the IRS went during an election cycle to silence tea party and limited government voices.
ProPublica says the documents the IRS gave them were “not supposed to be made public”:
The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year… In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)
The group says that “no unapproved applications from liberal groups were sent to ProPublica.”
According to Media Research Center Vice President for Business and Culture Dan Gainor, ProPublica’s financial backers include top progressive donors:
ProPublica, which recently won its second Pulitzer Prize, initially was given millions of dollars from the Sandler Foundation to “strengthen the progressive infrastructure”–“progressive” being the code word for very liberal. In 2010, it also received a two-year contribution of $125,000 each year from the Open Society Foundations. In case you wonder where that money comes from, the OSF website is http://www.soros.org. It is a network of more than 30 international foundations, mostly funded by Soros, who has contributed more than $8 billion to those efforts.
On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hold a formal hearing on the IRS conservative targeting scandal. IRS Commissioner Steve Miller and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George are slated to testify.
IRS Also Leaked Info About Conservative Groups
Targeting scandal widens
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
More trouble for the IRS: The same office that singled out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status also leaked confidential information about conservative groups last year, ProPublica reports. How does ProPublica know? Well, because the nine pending applications were leaked to ProPublica in the first place. The investigative site had asked to see the applications for 67 nonprofits and the IRS’ Cincinnati office sent over 31, nine of which had not been approved yet, meaning they were supposed to be confidential.
ProPublica was interested in the applications because it was revealing how social-welfare nonprofits, which don’t have to identify their donors and can spend money on elections as long as social welfare is their primary goal, misled the IRS when applying for tax-exempt status. Among the applications released to ProPublica: Karl Rove’s Crossroads group, which had promised to spend only “limited” money on 2012 elections and ended up spending more than $70 million. Also included were five other groups that all claimed they would not spend any money to sway the elections and spent more than $5 million. ProPublica reported on all six (here and here). Interestingly, the New York Times reported today that Crossroads and other larger groups were not subjected to the same intense scrutiny the IRS applied to small Tea Party groups; click for more on that.
ProPublica is a non-profit corporation based in New York City. It describes itself as an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. In 2010 it became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize, for a piece written by one of its journalists and published in The New York Times Magazine as well as on ProPublica.org. ProPublica’s investigations are conducted by its staff of full-time investigative reporters and the resulting stories are given away to news ‘partners’ for publication or broadcast. In some cases, reporters from both ProPublica and the news partners work together on a story. ProPublica has partnered with more than 90 different news organizations, including 60 Minutes, ABC World News, Business Week, CNN, Frontline, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, MSN Money, MSNBC.com, Politico, Reader’s Digest, Salon.com, Slate, This American Life, and NPR, among many others.
ProPublica is the brainchild of Herbert and Marion Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, who have committed $10 million a year to the project. The Sandlers hired Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, to create and run the organization as editor in chief. At the time ProPublica was set up, Steiger responded to concerns about the role of the Sandlers’ political views, saying on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer:
Coming into this, when I talked to Herb and Marion Sandler, one of my concerns was precisely this question of independence and nonpartisanship… My history has been doing ‘down the middle’ reporting. And so when I talked to Herb and Marion I said ‘are you comfortable with that?’ They said ‘absolutely’. I said ‘well suppose we did an expose of some of the left leaning organizations that you have supported or that are friendly to what you’ve supported in the past’. They said ‘no problem’. And when we set up our organizational structure, the board of directors, on which I sit and which Herb is the chairman, does not know in advance what we’re going to report on.
ProPublica had an initial news staff of 28 reporters and editors, including Pulitzer Prize winners, Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, Jeff Gerth, and Marcus Stern, but has since grown to 34 full-time working journalists. Steiger claimed that he received as many as 850 applications upon ProPublica’s start. The organization also appointed a 12-member journalism advisory board consisting of professional journalists.
The newsgroup shares its work under the Creative Commons no-derivative, non-commercial license.
While the Sandler Foundation provided ProPublica with significant financial support, it has also received funding from the Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and others. ProPublica and the Knight Foundation have various connections. For example, Paul Steiger, President of ProPublica, is a trustee of the Knight Foundation. In like manner, Alberto Ibarguen, the President and CEO of the Knight Foundation is on the board of ProPublica. In 2010, it received a two-year contribution of $125,000 each year from George Soros‘ Open Society Foundations.
ProPublica has attracted attention for the salaries it pays its top executives. The head of ProPublica, Paul Steiger, was paid $571,687 in 2008, according to the company’s tax filings. The managing editor, Stephen Engelberg, was paid $343,463. The large salaries have been widely criticized by other journalists and even some in the non-profit world as excessive. Steiger is the former managing editor at the Wall Street Journal. Engelberg is a former New York Times editor who co-wrote the non-fiction book Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, with Times reporter Judith Miller. He was recently elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board.
In 2010, ProPublica jointly won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting (it was also awarded to another new organization for a different story), for “a story that chronicles the urgent life-and-death decisions made by one hospital’s exhausted doctors when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.” It was written by ProPublica’s Sheri Fink and published in the New York Times Magazine as well as on ProPublica.org. This was the first Pulitzer awarded to an online news source. That investigation also won a National Magazine Award for reporting.
In 2011, ProPublica won its second Pulitzer Prize. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein won the Pulitzer for National Reporting for their series, The Wall Street Money Machine. This was the first time a Pulitzer was awarded to a group of stories not published in print.
ProPublica’s reporters have also received the Selden Ring, George Polk, National Magazine, Society of Professional Journalists, James Aronson, ABA Silver Gavel, Overseas Press Club, Online Journalism, Investigative Editors and Reporters, Society of News Design, Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and Dart Center awards (among others) for their work.
ProPublica is also renowned for conducting a large-scale, circumscribed investigation on Psychiatric Solutions, a company based in Tennessee that buys failing hospitals, cuts staff, and accumulates profit. The report covered patient deaths at numerous Psychiatric Solutions facilities, the failing physical plant at many of their facilities, and covered the State of Florida‘s first closure of Manatee Palms Youth Services, which has since been shut down by Florida officials once again. Their report was published in conjunction with The Los Angeles Times.
Dave Kopel, a policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute and a former columnist for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, criticized a ProPublica report on hydraulic fracturing as a “one-sided series of facts arrayed to support a point of view”. He argued that a common theme in ProPublica’s work is that “the government is not doing a good enough job in controlling things, particularly things involving big business”. ProPublica later responded to his article, countering those claims and saying quote, “using carefully culled quotations and selected statistics, Kopel asserts ‘indisputably false facts’ in ProPublica’s reporting.” 
After fallout from the IRS publicly admitting to targeting conservative tax exempt groups for added scrutiny, ProPublica broke the news that it had requested and received confidential pending applications for groups requesting tax exempt status.
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- ^ “ProPublicaSite Info”. Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- ^ “About Us”. Retrieved 2009-01-11. ProPublica is a Dog Latin term literally meaning “for the public woman”; cf. publica.
- ^ “a story that chronicles the urgent life-and-death decisions made by one hospital’s exhausted doctors when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.” – Pulitzer.org The 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Investigative Reporting, accessed 13 April 2010
- ^ a b The Guardian, 13 April 2010, Pulitzer progress for non-profit news
- ^ a b ProPublica, Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting: Deadly Choices at Memorial
- ^ a b Sheri Fink, New York Times Magazine, 25 August 2009, THE DEADLY CHOICES AT MEMORIAL
- ^ a b ProPublica, 27 August 2009, The Deadly Choices at Memorial
- ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (2007-10-15). “Group Plans to Provide Investigative Journalism”. New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- ^ PBS Newshour, 24 June 2008, “Financing Independent Journalism”
- ^ Board of Trustees, Knight Foundation
- ^ Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO, Knight Foundation
- ^ Turner, Zeke. “Shelling Out the Big Bucks at ProPublica | The New York Observer”. Observer.com. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
- ^ Taylor, Mike (2010-08-10). “ProPublica’s Top-Paid Employees All Made Six Figures in 2009 – FishbowlNY”. Mediabistro.com. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
- ^ Salmon, Felix Philanthrocrat of the day, ProPublica edition, Reuters Blogs, Sept. 30, 2009
- ^ Turner, Zeke. “Shelling Out the Big Bucks at ProPublica”. Observer. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- ^ “ProPublica’s Top-Paid Employees All Made Six Figures in 2009 – FishbowlNY”. Mediabistro.com. 2010-08-10. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- ^ a b “Philanthrocrat of the day, ProPublica edition”. Reuters. 30 September 2009.
- ^ “Diamonds in the Rough”. CJR. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
- ^ Pulitzer.org The 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Investigative Reporting, accessed 13 April 2010
- ^ “A Note on ProPublica’s Second Pulitzer Prize”. ProPublica. 2011-04-18. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
- ^ LA Times – November 2008- Psychiatric care’s perils and profits
- ^ Bradenton Herald – May 2010 – Manatee Palms hospital Slammed
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- ^ Kopel, Dave (2008-12-27). “Opinion pays its own way”. Rocky Mountain News. Unknown parameter
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- ^ response
Claim: Obama Campaign Co-Chair Attacked Romney with Leaked IRS Docs
One of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign co-chairmen used a leaked document from the IRS to attack GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 election, according to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).
NOM, a pro-traditional marriage organization, claims the IRS leaked their 2008 confidential financial documents to the rival Human Rights Campaign. Those NOM documents were published on the Huffington Post on March 30, 2012. At that time, Joe Solmonese, a left-wing activist and Huffington Post contributor, was the president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Solmonese was also a 2012 Obama campaign co-chairman.
Both the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and HRC described the leak as coming from a “whistleblower.” The Huffington Post used the document to write a story questioning former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s support for traditional marriage. The document showed Romney donated $10,000 to NOM. HRC went a step further than the Huffington Post in its criticism of Romney and accused him of using “racially divisive tactics” in a press release.
Solmonese, then still the HRC’s president, said in the release he felt Romney’s “funding of a hate-filled campaign designed to drive a wedge between Americans is beyond despicable.”
“Not only has Romney signed NOM’s radical marriage pledge, now we know he’s one of the donors that NOM has been so desperate to keep secret all these years,” Solmonese added.
Solmonese resigned his position at HRC the next day and took up a position as an Obama campaign co-chair. He had announced the then-pending resignation from HRC the previous autumn.
NOM announced Tuesday that it will sue the IRS for this alleged leak. Under immense political pressure, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a criminal investigation into the IRS’s actions. Congress will conduct ts own investigation.
In early April 2012, NOM published documents which it said showed this leaked confidential information did not come from a “whistleblower” but “came directly from the Internal Revenue Service and was provided to NOM’s political opponents, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).”
NOM discovered that when HRC published its confidential financial documents, it failed to conceal the source of the documents. “After software removed the layers obscuring the document, it is shown that the document came from the Internal Revenue Service,” NOM asserted in its April 2012 release.
“The top of each page says, ‘THIS IS A COPY OF A LIVE RETURN FROM SMIPS. OFFICIAL USE ONLY,’” the statement continues. “On each page of the return is stamped a document ID of ‘100560209.’ Only the IRS would have the Form 990 with ‘Official Use’ information.”
NOM president Brian Brown argued in that April 2012 release that the leak was made to benefit President Obama’s re-election campaign against Romney, his GOP challenger. “The American people are entitled to know how a confidential tax return containing private donor information filed exclusively with the Internal Revenue Service has been given to our political opponents whose leader also happens to be co-chairing President Obama’s reelection committee,” Brown said.
“It is shocking that a political ally of President Obama’s would come to possess and then publicly release a confidential tax return that came directly from the Internal Revenue Service,” he declared. “We demand to know who is responsible for this criminal act and what the Administration is going to do to get to the bottom of it.”
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