Over the past year, and especially since the tea party protests on April 15th, there's been a lot of chatter about "AstroTurfing" (fake grassroots activism). As these "AstroTurf" organizations sprouted up, progressive operatives and bloggers scrambled to link them to big business and political players in Washington. Well, the scrambling days are over.
As Congress enters another stage in the debates over health care and clean energy, Media Matters Action Network is launching a brand new database that tracks the money flowing into the coffers of conservative groups from the nation's largest corporations and conservative foundations. The database, found at ConservativeTransparency.org, presents data in a way that is easily digestible by bloggers, reporters, researchers and the public-at-large.
Most databases tracking money in politics focus on Federal Election Commission reports filed by candidates and party committees, but we went a different way. Instead, we compiled IRS data off of 990 forms filed by conservative think tanks, nonprofit activist groups, and foundations.
The 2008 elections revealed the country's appetite for change. Yet as Washington takes up the mantle of progress, powerful lobbying firms and interest groups are spending millions of dollars to keep things the way they are. Businesses, industry groups and well-funded conservative foundations funnel money - in the name of grants - to inside-the-beltway political players and national organizing groups that serve only to derail the change the American public demanded last November.
We hope Conservative Transparency will enable progressive activists and bloggers to to discover the interconnected web of funders, board members and employees linking conservative organizations to one another. With the painstaking research involved in delving through years of IRS reports out of the way, the progressive community will be able to instantaneously expose the real forces behind the conservative movement.