Published December 20, 2015
More is being learned about the possible political and financial ties to a controversial Federal Communications Commission study that critics argued could step on First Amendment rights. And a deeper look shows possible ties to billionaire investor George Soros.
On Friday, the FCC issued a statement saying it would pull the plug on the study -- which would have sent researchers into U.S. newsrooms -- after intense criticism from lawmakers, members of the media and even a member of the commission. But lawmakers say they still have questions about the project and its origins.
The two schools working with the FCC on the project – the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy – were responsible for coming up with criteria for what information is “critical” for Americans to have. The original mission of the project was to study what barriers exist to "critical information" reaching the public.
The journalism schools, it turns out, have financial ties to Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Between 2000 and 2011, about $1.4 million was paid to UW-Madison recipients from the foundation. In 2007, Soros’ foundation gave $300,000 to the Madison Commons Project but it is not known how much of that money, if any, is connected to the study.
Some faculty members also write for university-based publications allied with Soros-funded outlets, CNS News reported.
The outlet also reported that Lewis Friedland, the “principle investigator” on the FCC project, heads up the Center for Communication and Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Soros has almost doubled his net worth in the years President Obama has occupied the Oval Office. Under Obama, his fortune jumped to $20 billion in 2013 from $11 billion in 2009. During the George W. Bush presidency, Soros made $2.1 billion.
In October, Soros signed on to be a co-chairman of the national Ready for Hillary, a super PAC tasked with drumming up support for a 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton.
Soros, a longtime Democrat who is ranked No. 19 on the Forbes 400 list of richest people in America, donated $1 million to Priorities USA, the former pro-Obama super PAC that was responsible for launching multiple negative attacks against GOP nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election.
Sixteen House Republicans had previously voiced their discomfort with the FCC study, declaring in a letter that government has no business "probing the news media’s editorial judgment and expertise" or "prescribing a set diet of ‘critical information.’"
The FCC told GOP lawmakers that the agency had “no intention” of interfering with the editorial decision-making process that takes place in newsrooms.