Media Matters for America (MMfA) was established in 2004 by conservative-turned-liberal activist David Brock. MMfA was created as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. MMfA positions itself as a fact-checker, focusing on conservative media bias and inaccuracies. In practice, the organization frequently criticizes opinions of conservative commentators.
Media Matters for America was founded on May 3, 2004 by David Brock. In the early 1990s, Brock was a conservative investigative journalist. By the end of the decade, he had become a liberal activist. He created MMfA to confront the conservative journalism of which he was previously a part.
In founding MMfA, Brock received help and guidance from the Center for American Progress, which at the time was also recently formed by former officials from the Clinton White House. The site was intended to become part of a larger liberal media apparatus, aimed at combating conservative opinion-makers like radio host Rush Limbaugh. Brock stated he hoped MMfA could provide content for struggling new liberal talk show hosts, including future U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Janeane Garofalo.
According to MMfA’s application to the IRS for nonprofit status, it aimed to address the following problem:
It is common for news and commentary by the press to present viewpoints that tend to overly promote corporate interests, the rights of the wealthy, and a conservative, Christian-influenced ideology.
MMfA has been established to identify occurrences of excessive bias in the American media, educate the public as to their existence, and work with members of the media to reduce them in order to ensure that the public receives news coverage and information that is not only accurate but free from domination by a particular world view.
MMfA was founded with about $2 million in donations from prominent liberal donors, such as Susie Tompkins Buell, Leo Hindery, and James Hormel.
MMFA’s stated purpose is “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” It claims to conduct “in-depth media analysis,” but its website is equally filled with liberal calls to action for its users.
The MMfA website includes sections for its blog, videos, research, and Mythopedia. Mythopedia prompts users to “Search the Dictionary of Conservative Lies.” When searching simple words or phrases like “tax” and “climate change,” a list of “lies” paired with “truths” is presented, with links to longer entries. Supposed lies include phrases like “Progessive taxation is class warfare”; truths include “Higher tax rates on the rich are not punishment.”
Every year, MMfA gives the “Misinformer of the Year” award to the commentator, journalist, or network it believes reported the most factual errors. Fox News has been a main focus for MMfA, launching what David Brock called a campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against the network in 2010 that lasted until 2013, when MMfA declared victory.
In 2007, MMfA released a study on 1,377 U.S. newspapers and 201 syndicated political columnists regularly carried by those papers. It concluded that conservatives receive much more space in newspapers than do liberals. Reporter John Diaz debunked the study, citing methodological bias: many reporters were classified as “conservative” despite their varied and nuanced opinions.
Although Media Matters spends much of its efforts attacking conservative and libertarian donors, MMfA does not clearly disclose its donors on its website. The following funders of MMfA have been identified using publicly available documents filed with U.S. Government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor, as well as media reports.
Media Matters was founded with $2 million in funding from wealthy progressives funneled through the Tides Foundation with additional funding from MoveOn.org and the New Democrat Network. The left-of-center donor group known as Democracy Alliance endorsed the group in 2004, resulting in a flood of donations. In 2010, George Soros gave the group $1 million. MMfA has also received substantial funding from labor unions, most notably the National Education Association (NEA).
The following organizations have made major contributions to MMfA. Unless otherwise noted, the contribution was made in the donor’s 2014 tax or fiscal year. Contributors in italics are from donor-advised funds, a philanthropic vehicle that can be used to hide donors’ identities which has often been attacked by liberal groups as “dark money.” MMfA also receives substantial funding from community foundations.
- Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston: $400,000
- Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund: $500,000
- Bohemian Foundation: $200,000
- Community Foundation of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego: $200,000
- National Education Association: $200,000
- Marin Community Foundation: $150,000
- Glaser Progress Foundation: $100,284
- Joseph and Marie Field Foundation: $100,000
- Orange County Community Foundation: $75,000
- Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program: $68,200
- Jewish Communal Fund: $62,000
- New York Community Trust: $54,250
- Rebecca and Nathan Milikowsky Family Foundation: $50,000
- Small Change Foundation: $50,000
- Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Family Foundation: $50,000
- Fairfield County Community Foundation: $50,000
- Phoebe Snow Foundation: $50,000
Media Matters itself has made some contributions to other progressive groups. In 2014, it provided $930,000 in assistance to the Franklin Education Forum, a progressive media training group that is also part of the Brock network. The American Independent, a Brock-linked investigative outfit, received $150,000.
Angelo Carusone is the current president of MMfA, after taking over from Bradley Beychok in late 2016. Prior to his arrival at Media Matters, Carusone worked for the 2016 Democratic National Convention committee. Beychok remains with the Brock network, serving as David Brock’s chief of staff and as an advisor to MMfA.
MMfA founder David Brock continues to serve as chair of the MMfA board. Prominent MMfA-affiliated activists and commentators include controversial senior fellow Eric Boehlert, who has received criticism for factual errors in his reporting.
The MMfA website does not list staff members or its board of directors, as is common with many 501(c)(3) organizations. At the close of its 2014 tax year, the following individuals served as directors of MMfA:
- David Brock, Chair
- Bonnie Turner
- Will Lippincott
- Susan Buell
- Tom Castro
- Chris Bell, Treasurer
Talia Lavin is a researcher for MMfa. She lists her research goal as identifying “far-right extremism.” Lavin has also been a freelance writer for left-of-center publications such as the Washington Post and Lilith magazine.  Lavin previously worked at the New Yorker, where she resigned in June 2018 after falsely labeling an ICE agent’s U.S. Marine tattoo a neo Nazi symbol. Lavin has also denounced conservative criticism of left-wing billionaire and donor George Soros as an anti-Semitic “dog-whistle.”
Media Matters Action Network is the 501(c)(4) arm of MMfA.
In 2014, employees at MMfA voted to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Management initially opposed the unionization, to the dismay of employees. MMfA was also criticized for refusing to agree to a card check organization process, despite previously advocating that Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a federal proposal which would change the union organization procedure at most non-government work sites from a secret-ballot vote to a public “card check” of workers.