Read this latest dispatch from Omri Ceren, political analyst and The Israel Project senior adviser, breaking down the blockbuster AP story on how the group that helped sell Iran nuke deal also funded media. It is an extraordinary window into how media is bought and paid for. It’s deeply disturbing, like watching sausage being made.
Here’s the back-story on how and why the media supported the most dangerous “deal” in American history — Obama’s nuclear pact with Iran.
“A group the White House recently identified as a key surrogate in selling the Iran nuclear deal gave National Public Radio $100,000 last year to help it report on the pact and related issues, according to the group’s annual report. It also funded reporters and partnerships with other news outlets.” Aaron Klein notes, not mentioned in the AP article is that the Ploughshares Fund is financed by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
For those of you smart enough to never trust big media — here’s the concrete evidence of your “tin foil hat” theories.
AP: In The New York Times Magazine article, Rhodes explained how the administration worked with nongovernmental organizations, proliferation experts and even friendly reporters to build support for the seven-nation accord that curtailed Iran’s nuclear activity and softened international financial penalties on Tehran.
Omri Ceren: In his NYT profile, Ben Rhodes put the Ploughshares Fund at the center of the echo chamber constructed by the White House to sell the Iran deal: “We are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this… We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else” [a].
The Ploughshares Fund is a donation hub that has distributed millions of dollars in recent years to groups pushing the Iran deal. After Congress failed to defeat the deal, Ploughshares President Joseph Cirincione published a video and letter boasting about how the echo chamber – over 85 groups and 200 people – was created with Ploughshares money: “groups and individuals were decisive in the battle for public opinion and as independent validators… they lacked a common platform – a network to exchange information and coordinate efforts. Ploughshares Fund provided that network… we built a network of over 85 organizations and 200 individuals… We credit this model of philanthropy – facilitating collective action through high-impact grantmaking – with creating the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds” [b].
The Associated Press just published a deep dive into Ploughshares’s most recent annual report, which details some of those 85 organizations and 200 individuals. The full article is pasted below. The AP broke down the network funded by Ploughshares into three kinds of groups:
— Journalists and media outlets (this is the part that’s getting the most attention, and includes NRP and at least two unnamed writers who were funded to write at Mother Jones and The Nation):
Ploughshares has funded NPR’s coverage of national security since 2005, the radio station said. Ploughshares reports show at least $700,000 in funding over that time. All grant descriptions since 2010 specifically mention Iran… Previous efforts… Ploughshares has set its sights on other media organizations, too. In a “Cultural Strategy Report” on its website, the group outlined a broader objective of “ensuring regular and accurate coverage of nuclear issues in reputable and strategic media outlets” such as The Guardian, Salon, the Huffington Post or Pro Publica. Previous efforts failed to generate enough coverage, it noted. These included “funding of reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones and a partnership with The Center for Public Integrity to create a national security desk.”
— Think tanks and nuclear-issues associations:
The 33-page document lists the groups that Ploughshares funded last year to advance its nonproliferation agenda. The Arms Control Association got $282,500; the Brookings Institution, $225,000; and the Atlantic Council, $182,500… Princeton University got $70,000 to support former Iranian ambassador and nuclear spokesman Seyed Hossein Mousavian’s “analysis, publications and policymaker engagement on the range of elements involved with the negotiated settlement of Iran’s nuclear program.”
Other groups, less directly defined by their independent nuclear expertise, also secured grants. J-Street, the liberal Jewish political action group, received $576,500 to advocate for the deal. More than $281,000 went to the National Iranian American Council.
On May 5 the NYT published its profile of Ben Rhodes, in which Rhodes bragged about creating an “echo chamber” with the Ploughshares Fund to sell the Iran deal on the basis of false pretenses [a]. A few hours ago the AP published a deep dive into Ploughshares showing that the group is funding a range of lobbies, policy shops, and journalists and media outlets, all of which are bouncing Iran messaging back and forth between each other [b].
Aspects of the Ploughshares network had already been reported out. In Feb 2012 the WFB reported on Ploughshares funding NPR [c]. In March 2015 the WSJ reported “the Ploughshares coalition includes a former Iranian government spokesman, the liberal Jewish organization J Street and a group of former American diplomats who have held private talks with Iranian government officials… [and] the Arms Control Association” [d]. In July 2015 the WFB printed details of a Ploughshares conference call that brought together White House officials with over 100 participants, in which groups were told to prepare for a “real war” that would involve “blitzing the hell out of the Hill,” pressuring Congressional Democrats, and leaning on Jewish groups [e][f]. In August 2015 Commentary published 1,500 words and a couple dozen links naming names in the network [g].
What hadn’t been widely discussed – until today’s AP story – was that Ploughshares has been directly funding journalists and media outlets in the context of the politicized Iran deal fight. In case you’re running down this angle, here are some documents published by Ploughshares Fund describing the group’s efforts in its own words.
— In 2014 Ploughshares commissioned a “Cultural Strategy Report.” It laid out how the organization could use PR firms, Hollywood studios, video games, and journalists to create a “cultural strategy that could complement existing funding and operational activities.” Here is part of the section describing directly funding journalism [PDF here – h]:
Similar to an academic chair, directly fund one or more national journalism positions at media outlets like The Guardian, Salon, Huffington Post, or Pro Publica, whose exclusive “beat” and focus of investigation and reporting would be nuclear weapons, disarmament, and nonproliferation… We understand that similar efforts supported by Ploughshares Fund in the past did not generate the desired volume of coverage (funding of reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones and a partnership with the Center for Public Integrity to create a national security desk). However we feel this strategy would be more successful by focusing on themes, media outlets and journalists who resonate with the target audiences (youth and faith communities) and by pursing this strategy in concert with other approaches.
— In 2015 Ploughshares published a video and letter from Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione titled “How We Won.” Cirincione boasted that the group leveraged its funding so lobbyists, policy voices, and journalists could “coordinate efforts” to push the Iran deal. The video ends with a scrolling list of groups involved. The letter goes into detail on how Ploughshares leveraged funding to create its network [i]:
These groups and individuals were decisive in the battle for public opinion and as independent validators… they lacked a common platform – a network to exchange information and coordinate efforts. Ploughshares Fund provided that network. Often, networks can make all the difference… We built a network of over 85 organizations and 200 individuals in favor of a negotiated solution to the Iranian crisis… We credit this model of philanthropy – facilitating collective action through high-impact grantmaking – with creating the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds.
A lot of work is now being done on how the Iran deal echo chamber worked and funded. Two other articles from the last 48 hours: how Ploughshares also funded faith groups to be part of the pro-deal network [j] and how the network was mobilized this week to attack witnesses who testified in front of the House Oversight Committee on the White House’s sales campaign [k].—
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