From Watch Dog to Lap Dog

UPDATE:

It seems the Lap Dog just made my case rather clear in their latest article.

Jon Cassidy, the Texas Bureau chief, finally broke his streak of seven straight articles defending Wallace Hall to declare that, “Empower Texans is a bona fide news medium”. Really?

Cassidy (a self-described libertarian on his Twitter profile), says:

At Watchdog.org, we are all committed to the democratic proposition that journalism is not a matter of who your employer is. It should be understood as a practice, as something you or anybody else can do.

Boy, that would be convenient if no one ever had to think about who was paying the salary of the people delivering the message, wouldn’t it? Back in the real world, that quote  telegraphs how desperately this faux news organization would like you to believe they aren’t just a propaganda tool for Tim Dunn.

I’m not familiar with Mr. Cassidy’s work before he jumped onto the Watchdog money wagon, but his brand of journalism, particularly since Tim Dunn obviously directed him to devote most all of his time to defending his friend Wallace Hall, is a rather bad shade of yellow.

Cassidy’s bio page claims that he has real credentials as a journalist. I wonder how he feels being told what to write all the time?

– – – – – – – – –

Texas has experienced a void in coverage about what is really happening in our state. Like the rest of the country, we now must get information from more ideological outlets than from networks delivering new information— even new information from a liberal or conservative tilt.

What we are seeing happen now, however, is the manipulation of this void by moneyed interests trying to control the message. One of my readers brought to my attention a perfect example: the story of Texas Watchdog and its transition into Watchdog Texas. What is the difference?

In 2009, current Houston KTRK-13 investigative reporter, Trent Seibert (@texaswatchdog, @trentseibert) founded Texas Watchdog.  They seemed to be on point in their explanation for creating the site:

“…the owners of newspapers and television news teams have, in too many cases, cut back on investigating government and chipped away at their ability to be a watchdog for the voter and the taxpayer.”

TexasWatchdog.org for several years wrote thoughtful and probing pieces on a variety of topics—covering everything from corporate cronyism to municipal mismanagement. They were recognized and awarded for their work. They had legitimate staffers and board members who were committed to reporting on our out of control government and shining a light on waste and corruption. Former writer Jennifer Peebles is now the Managing Editor/Digital of the Washington Examiner. Michael Berryhill runs the journalism department at Texas Southern University.  So what happened? Why did the site stop putting out reports?

According to the message from Seibert in June of 2013:

“Regular readers to Texas Watchdog may have noticed there hasn’t been much posted to the site over the past several months. The reason is simple: We’ve run out of money to keep delivering our award-winning local journalism.

We’ve had many generous donors since we launched in the summer of 2008, but a key donor for our operation in 2012, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, announced last year they would not be supporting independent journalism operations in 2013. We remain grateful for their support.

We were unable to secure the funds we would need to continue operating as an independent journalism site on a meaningful level.”

From 2008-2012, TexasWatchdog.org received over $2.2 million in gifts, grants and contributions, primarily from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. They received $322,500 in 2012 alone from the organization.   So what happened with the funding? Why did it dry up?

Now, this is where you have to follow the money trail.   I’ll give you one guess where it leads…

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was founded primarily from funding from the Sam Adams Alliance. The director of the Sam Adams Alliance is/was Eric O’Keefe. Eric O’Keefe is also on the board of directors of an outfit formed in Washington D.C. called the John Hancock Committee for the States.  Who were the other original directors listed on that board? Our old friends Mike Sullivan and Tim Dunn:

hancock-board

In 2010, the Sam Adams Alliance gave $615,975.00 to the John Hancock Committee.

sam-adams

Also in 2010, that same John Hancock Committee gave the Texas Public Policy Foundation: $124,000.

hancock-to-tppf

The key part of the quote from Seibert at TexasWatchdog.com is that they said the Franklin Center would no longer support “independent journalism”. That is because Tim Dunn wants to control the message.

Watchdog.org launched their “Texas Bureau” in April of 2013. Since then, it’s been all about one particular focus.

A scrub of the Watchdog.org/Texas site shows there have been roughly 200 articles written since the beginning of 2013. Of those 200 articles, almost 75% have been about one topic: Wallace Hall Jr. and the University of Texas. 15 of the last 20 stories released by the  Watchdog.org/Texas site have been focused on defending Wallace Hall.   Is that commitment to finding facts or staying or message?

You see, Tim Dunn’s world stretches far and wide and he is working hard to hide his movements. Thanks to my readers we are able to keep tabs on him. This group was just another asset waiting to be deployed by Tim Dunn’s machine. Another weapon in the arsenal in case something came up. This time,  he pulled strings to add another communications channel to protect Wallace Hall and drive the message the way he wants it to go. (I wonder what strings he pulled to get Mike Sullivan a gig as a columnist for Breitbart News)

I hope that Mr. Seibert will remain a true to his investigative reporting roots and continue to be a good source of news that we can trust. I also wonder if he understands how badly he was used.

The only thing worse than a lack of journalism is lackey journalism.  As we can see, dark money is the tail wagging the Watch Dog…

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