Issues

FCC Enlisted Team of Obama Donors to Craft Controversial Plan

The scholars behind the now-suspended Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan that would have allowed government contractors to question journalists about editorial decisions was crafted almost entirely by donors to President Barack Obama.

Four of the five scholars enlisted by the FCC to author the study that led to the plan are donors to the president, according to the Washington Examiner’s Byron York.

There was also a one-sidedness in the research behind the project. The FCC enlisted scholars from two big journalism schools, the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy, to determine the "critical information needs" about which journalists would be questioned. The study, delivered in July 2012, listed five authors: Ernest J. Wilson III, Carola Weil, and Katya Ognyanova from USC, Lewis Friedland from Wisconsin, and Philip Napoli from Fordham University. (Weil is now with American University.) Four of the five, it turns out, contributed to President Obama's campaigns.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Wilson gave $3,300 to the Obama presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008. Napoli contributed $500 to Obama in 2008. Weil gave $250 in 2012. And Friedland gave $200 in 2008. There are no contributions listed from Ognyanova, who as a post-doctoral fellow led a team of graduate student researchers on the project.

York also notes that the two Republican members of the FCC were not even aware of the plan until it was well under way.