Newsmax has served as one of the main media outlets for the League of American Voters, a group proclaiming that it is "Leading the Fight to Stop the Obama Agenda," particularly on health care. But Newsmax is loath to disclose just how close that relationship is.
LAV makes regular use of Newsmax's mailing list to send out email missives with subject lines like "Obama Wants Nuclear Option to Ram Radical Agenda Through" and "Urgent News: League Ads Are STOPPING Obamacare" and "Obamacare Armageddon Has Arrived." ConWebWatch subscribes to Newsmax's email list and estimates that Newsmax has sent out at least 20 emails since Jan. 1, 2010, on behalf of the group or emails in which the group is a paid sponsor.
Newsmax also provides a space in the Newsmax online store for LAV to solicit donations. (A screenshot is here.) The link does not disclose the nature of the relationship between Newsmax and LAV or why Newsmax is providing this service. A supposed "news" organization actively soliciting money for a political organization is, needlessly to say, highly unusual.
The main link between Newsmax and LAV is columnist Dick Morris, who is the group's strategist; LAV has touted how Morris "actually crafted our ads and national campaign." Morris frequently uses his Newsmax column to shill for the group:
- Morris wrote in September: "I have persuaded the League of American Voters to run 10 second advertisements in key states that show an elderly person saying: "Senator _________: Please don't cut my Medicare by $500 billion. I need my Medicare." We need to get these ads on in the key states."
- In November, Morris promoted "polls the League of American Voters commissioned John Zogby to conduct," going on to link to the Newsmax LAV donation page and writing, "PLEASE keep the money flowing! We want to run ads along this line in all the swing states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, Indiana, Virginia, Connecticut)."
- Morris highlighted another poll "funded by the League of American Voters as part of its efforts to influence swing senators and defeat the healthcare legislation."
- A March 6 column told readers to "donate to the League of American Voters to step up its fierce media offensive in their districts to urge them to vote no."
Newsmax has allowed so-called "news" articles about Morris to serve as thinly veiled ads for LAV:
- A Feb. 18 article by David Patten quoted Morris as saying that "we'll be working with the League of American Voters to try and stop it."
- A Feb. 24 article by Dan Weil stated that Morris "recommends giving money to the League of American Voters so it can run ads in those districts urging the congressmen to vote no."
- A March 5 article by Weil quoted Morris as saying, "We need to pressure those Democrats who voted yes but could be induced to vote no" on health care; Weil then wrote, "The best way to do that is to donate to the League of American Voters, he adds."
- A March 11 Newsmax "news" article uncritically quoted Morris as saying, "You need to go on dickmorris.com. There's a list of 30 congressmen who could go either way, all of whom voted yes last time. I have their district numbers and their Washington numbers. Get on the phone and call them, then go to the left side of the site, click on the League of American Voters and give us money to run ads in their districts pressuring them."
None of these articles and columns disclose the fact that Morris is LAV's chief strategist. Indeed, this has been rarely disclosed at Newsmax -- one has to go back several months to find it, and even then Morris tried to downplay his work.
An Oct. 21, 2009, column by Morris claimed that he and wife Eileen McGann "are affiliated" with LAV "but have no financial relationship." The only other disclosure that could be found in Newsmax's archives was an Oct. 23, 2009, column -- not actually on the website proper but hiding in a print version -- in which he he claims he is the group's "unpaid strategist" and that "I make no money from their efforts or your donations."
But whether Morris is being paid for his LAV work is irrelevant to the issue of disclosure. Whether or not he's getting paid, he is working for LAV, and that should be disclosed every time he references the group or Newsmax quotes Morris referencing it. Not doing so is a violation of journalistic ethics (as WorldNetDaily regularly demonstrates).
Meanwhile, Newsmax has been completely silent about the fact that LAV's staff members include a regular LAV columnist and a writer who penned a vicious attack on Obama that Newsmax published.
Rabbi Morton Pomerantz -- listed on LAV's website as a staff member -- wrote in a June 2009 Newsmax column that Obama bears the blame for the killing of a guard at Washington's Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist, asserting that Obama is "creating a climate of hate" against Jews and that the Holocaust Museum shooter "felt that he could easily take retribution against the Jews for the atrocities Obama implies they are guilty of." Pomerantz insisted that Obama's "views are not vigorously opposed they will help create a danger as great as that posed by the Nazis to the Jewish people." Newsmax liked Pomerantz's column so much it was prominently promoted on Newsmax's front page.
Also on LAV's staff list is longtime Newsmax columnist Phil Brennan -- a conservative activist who reliably spouts right-wing talking points. Brennan has also smeared Obama in a Pomerantz-like fashion in an October 2008 column by likening him to Hitler:
Like the German people of 1932, many Americans seem to be willing to put our future in the hands of a messianic leader with abundant oratorical gifts, a questionable and largely unknown past and a unshakable conviction born of a socialistic background that America can spend its way out of a debacle initially caused by trying to spend our way into prosperity.
History repeats itself. The government's ultimate answer to economic crisis is always war, simply because government alone cannot create prosperity. It can only create the impression of prosperity by printing money and the more it creates the less it is worth. Or by going to war.
When the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee highlighted this "hateful rhetoric" by Brennan and Pomerantz, the LAV squealed, sending out an email (on Newsmax's mailing list, natch), whining that "Pelosi's Democratic Congressional committee issued a press release calling us a 'hate group.'" They know we are making a BIG difference." At no point did LAV mention the Pomerantz and Brennan statements that are behind the "hate group" claim.
Further, Brennan has written about health care reform in his column without disclosing that he works for LAV:
- He asserted in a Sept. 9 column: "The Obama administration is taking the first steps toward establishing an authoritarian socialist regime, and is dead serious in going about it. Nationalizing healthcare is the first goal. Once that's achieved, it will prove a simple task to create laws and programs designed to impose its Marxist agenda."
- He wrote in a Nov. 8 column that "a majority of the members of the House voted to enact into law a measure that takes one-sixth of our economy, the nation's healthcare system, out of the hands of individual Americans and medical professionals and puts it into the hands of a government now presided over by a power-crazed president and hordes of unelected bureaucrats."
- In a Feb. 23 column, he referenced "the Obama healthcare scam."
Meanwhile, if Newsmax is not going to disclose that its own writers work for LAV, it's certainly not going to report that the group's ads have accuracy issues. Factcheck.org has reported that one LAV ad " is filled with misleading claims," and LAV had to change another ad because it made false claims.
Newsmax is clearly too close to the League of American Voters for its reporting on it to be balanced -- or trusted.
(A version of this article appeared at ConWebWatch.)