Political Correction: Media Matters Re-Launches Sister Site, Then Slams Issa

06/01/2010 10:38 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

In a sign of the continued impact of online progressive institutions in the post-Bush era, the media watchdog organization Media Matters re-launched a website on Tuesday devoted to opposition research against Republicans and debate shaping in general.

Titled "Political Correction", the site is distinct from Media Matters itself in that its purview extends well beyond refereeing the Fourth Estate. Instead, the separate nonprofit entity (which is not registered to lobby) will spearhead public action campaigns, organize and work with other progressive institutions and target individual lawmakers.

As an inaugural act, the brass at Political Correction launched a broadside against Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cali.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs, by re-airing the list of scandals in which the California Republican has been embroiled as he pursues what appear to be slim charges of a nefarious job offer from the White House to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.).

The widespread publication of opposition research is an increasingly common trend in modern politics, with Senate campaigns even taking credit for the hits they land on their opposition. What distinguishes Political Correction, to a certain degree, is the context in which it pursues this partisan role.

Media Matters was launched during the height of the Bush years when progressivism was at its nadir and the threat of conservative talk radio and Fox News seemed existential. Since then, of course, the political dynamics have changed drastically. A Republican Congress has turned Democratic. The Bush administration has given way to Obama. And the new media culture is largely dominated by voices sympathetic to Democratic politics.

Instead of retreating from the debate, however, Media Matters has decided to punch harder. And while the absence of a Republican president or Congress would seem to give them less material to work with, the group has managed to find a niche.

"'Media Matters' expanding operations show that the progressive institutions put in place during the Bush years are continuing to grow and have an impact in a Democratic Washington," said the group's Communications Director Chris Harris. "Organizations founded to keep the Bush White House and Republican Congress in check are now helping lead the fight for a progressive agenda, such as health care reform, Wall Street reform, clean energy legislation, and immigration reform."

The predecessor for Political Correction -- Media Matters Action Network -- was launched in May 2009 for similar purposes. The name didn't exactly work -- tough, as it was, to distinguish itself from the mother institution. But more than that, executives wanted to streamline the layout and operations of the site to help stay ahead of conservative and Republican competitors.

"The new surge of similar institutions on the right shows that they're struggling to catch up," said Harris. "Without a clear party leader and with a weak RNC, conservatives relied on Reagan-era relics and Fox News personalities to drive their message during the legislative battles of the 111th Congress."