Non-profit

ThinkProgress (ThinkProgress.org)

Website:

thinkprogress.org

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

30-0192708

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $7,751,090
Expenses: $8,240,074
Assets: $5,490,859

Formation:

2005

Type:

Left-Wing News Website

Published by:

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Editor-in-Chief:

Jodi Enda

Judd Legum (Former)

ThinkProgress is a left-of-center online media outlet published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It began as a blog in 2005, but later began covering news from a liberal perspective with a staff of reporters and editors.

Jodi Enda, a veteran of CNN and other metropolitan-left-of-center media, became the editor-in-chief in late 2018.

The outlet has faced criticism for alleged anti-Semitism and for allegedly censoring content at the request of the Obama administration. The watchdog website Media Bias Fact Check gives ThinkProgress a “mixed” rating for factual reporting, citing fact-checks by the left-of-center Politifact that held ThinkProgress rhetoric to be inaccurate,[1] including one “Pants on Fire” claim. [2]

Background and Leadership

ThinkProgress, a left-leaning internet reporting and opinion website, was established in 2005 under founding editor-in-chief Judd Legum, two years after Legum graduated from Georgetown Law and went to work for the Democratic Party establishment-aligned Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank. [3]

The site is published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, also known as CAP Action. CAP Action is a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group which can support candidates and has few restraints on direct lobbying for legislation affiliated with and funded by CAP. [4] As a 501(c)(4), ThinkProgress has considerably more leeway in commentary and political coverage than it would as a public charity. The site boasts about 1.8 million followers on Facebook and 840,000 Twitter followers. [5]

Legum left the editor’s post in 2007 to work for Hillary Clinton’s first unsuccessful presidential campaign. Legum ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2010. [6] During Legum’s absence, Faiz Shakir worked as editor-in-chief. In 2012, Shakir went to work as a new media director for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-California). [7]

Legum returned to his old job leading the publication and working as vice president of communications for CAP Action. He earned a salary $176,334, according to CAP Action’s 2015 tax returns. [8] After leaving the publication again, Legum went on to run a political newsletter called Popular Information. [9]

In December 2018, Jodi Enda, a veteran mainstream media journalist, was named as the first woman editor in chief of the site. Enda was previously the assistant managing editor for special projects at CNN. Before that, she covered the White House and Capitol Hill for Knight Ridder, and was once a national correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer. [10]

Tara Culp-Ressler works as managing editor at ThinkProgress. Prior to being named editor, she was the health editor and a reporter for the site. Previously she worked for several religious-based liberal nonprofits, according to ThinkProgress. [11]

Charges of Anti-Semitism

In December 2011, Think Progress national security reporter Eli Cliftion was upset with a Quinnipiac University poll that referenced Iran’s nuclear program. Clifton wrote, “Such assertions, and the resulting polling statistics, serve to tilt public opinion toward preemptive military action when intelligence reports paint a far more complex picture of Iran’s nuclear program and the extremely risky outcomes of an Israeli and/or U.S. airstrike.” [12]

Clifton further questioned the U.S. Justice Department’s assertion that Iran was behind a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabian diplomats in the United States. He blamed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, accusing the pro-Israel lobby of “the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq.” [13]

Then-ThinkProgress writer Zaid Jilani tweeted in 2011 that “Obama is still beloved by Israel-firsters and getting lots of their $$.” [14]

Shakir, who was editor in chief at the time, did not speak publicly about the matter. However, in a leaked email, he wrote, “Yes, I agree ‘Israel Firster’ is terrible, anti-Semitic language, and that’s why that language no longer exists on Zaid’s personal twitter feed, because he also knows and understands the implications.” [15]

Alleged Pressure from Obama White House

After leaving ThinkProgress, Zaid Jilani complained about editors caving to pressure from the Obama White House’s demands to censor content. Jilani wrote a piece on his personal website titled, “How Working in Washington Taught Me We’re All a Little Like RT America.” This was a reference to the Russian government’s editorial control over the media outlet formerly known as Russia Today and its U.S. affiliate, RT America.

“One of the controversial topics that was very constrained in our writing at ThinkProgress in 2009 was Afghanistan.,” Jilani wrote. “CAP had decided not to protest Obama’s surge, so most of our writing on the topic was simply neutral — we weren’t supposed to take a strong stand.” [16]

Jilani wrote that troops levels at the end of Obama’s Afghan “surge” would actually be higher than at any point in the George W. Bush administration. The story was very successful click wise, but the Obama administration wasn’t happy, according to Jilani. [17]

“Phone calls from the White House started pouring in berating my bosses for being critical of Obama on this policy,” Jilani wrote. “Soon afterwards all of us ThinkProgress national security bloggers were called into a meeting with CAP senior staff and basically berated for opposing the Afghan war and creating daylight between us and Obama.” [18]

He added, “It confused me a lot because on the one hand, CAP was advertising to donors that it opposed the Afghan war — in our ‘Progressive Party,’ the annual fundraising party we do with both Big Name Progressive Donors and corporate lobbyists (in the same room!) we even advertised that we wanted to end the war in Afghanistan.” [19]

Legum, editor in 2014, challenged the assertion in a statement as “an inaccurate portrayal of our editorial process.” He added, “ThinkProgress is editorially independent and we regularly publish critical reporting of Republicans, Independents and Democrats, including the White House. Like any aggressive journalistic outlet, our work can generate controversy and debate. But we stand by our work and are guided simply by the facts and our progressive values.” [20]

Other Controversies

Other problems over the years include incendiary tweets by editors and reporters, as well as major errors presented as “Exclusives.”

After a Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officer was murdered in 2016, Zack Ford, the ThinkProgress LGBT editor, wrote on Twitter: “Given how police haven’t been held accountable for murdering black people, it’s no surprise some are taking justice into their own hands” in response to a murder of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [21]

On Aug. 14, 2014, ThinkProgress deputy economic policy editor Alan Pyke tweeted of the then—head of Fox News, “I hope Roger Ailes dies slow, painful, and soon. The evil that man has done to the American tapestry is unprecedented for an individual.” [22]

In 2010, the publication reported a story, “Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads.” ThinkProgress alleged that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business association that mostly supported Republicans in 2010, broke U.S. laws against using foreign money in U.S. elections. However, the New York Times debunked the story, reporting that ThinkProgress’s piece “detailed the chamber’s overseas memberships, but it provided no evidence that the money generated overseas had been used in United States campaigns.” [23]

In another “Exclusive,” this one during the 2008 presidential campaign, ThinkProgress published a story asserting Republican presidential nominee John McCain plagiarized a Navy admiral in a speech. The website retracted the story the next day. McCain had used the line before the admiral used it. [24]

References

  1. “Think Progress.” Media Bias/Fact Check. Accessed March 21, 2019. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/think-progress/.
  2. Kertscher, Tom. “GOP Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy Spent Tax Money on Car for Personal Use, Left-leaning Blogger Says.” Politifact Wisconsin. July 27, 2012. Accessed March 21, 2019. https://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/jul/27/scott-keyes/gop-wisconsin-us-rep-sean-duffy-spent-tax-money/.
  3. Beaujon, Andrew. “How ThinkProgress Became ‘Real Competition for Scoops’.” Poynter. April 7, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2014/how-thinkprogress-became-real-competition/.
  4. Center for American Progress, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule I Part II
  5. “Veteran Journalist Jodi Enda Named New Editor in Chief of Think Progress.” Press Release. Center for American Progress Action Fund. December 5, 2018. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.americanprogressaction.org/press/release/2018/12/05/172659/release-veteran-journalist-jodi-enda-named-new-editor-chief-thinkprogress/.
  6. Beaujon, Andrew. “How ThinkProgress Became ‘Real Competition for Scoops’.” Poynter. April 7, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2014/how-thinkprogress-became-real-competition/.
  7. Stein, Sam. “Nancy Pelosi Hire Think Progress’ Faiz Shakir as Director of New Media.” Huffington Post. May 8, 2012. Accessed March 16, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/nancy-pelosi-online-director-faiz-shakir-_n_1500180.html?ref=politics.
  8. 2015 Center for American Progress Action. 990 Form. Accessed March 16, 2019.
  9. Judd Legum. Twitter. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://twitter.com/JuddLegum
  10. “Veteran Journalist Jodi Enda Named New Editor in Chief of Think Progress.” Press Release. Center for American Progress Action Fund. December 5, 2018. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.americanprogressaction.org/press/release/2018/12/05/172659/release-veteran-journalist-jodi-enda-named-new-editor-chief-thinkprogress/.
  11. Tara Culp-Ressler Bio. ThinkProgress. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://thinkprogress.org/author/tara-culp-ressler/
  12. Clifton, Eli. “Quinnipiac Poll Poses Factually Inaccurate Questions Assuming Iran Has A Nuke Weapons Program.” ThinkProgress. November 23, 2011. Accessed March 21, 2019. https://thinkprogress.org/quinnipiac-poll-poses-factually-inaccurate-questions-assuming-iran-has-a-nuke-weapons-program-a52e8e7fc4b6/.
  13. Smith, Ben. “Israel Rift Roils Democratic Ranks.” Politico. December 7, 2011. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2011/12/israel-rift-roils-democratic-ranks-069929?o=0.
  14. Goodman, Alana. “Center for American Progress Scrubs “Israel Firster” Accusations.” Commentary. December 12, 2011. Accessed March 21, 2019. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/middle-east/israel/center-for-american-progress-israel-firster/.
  15. Kredo, Adam. “Career Firster.” Washington Free Beacon. May 9, 2012. Accessed March 16, 2019. https://freebeacon.com/national-security/career-firster/.
  16. Adler, Jonathan H. “When Think Tanks are in the Tank.” The Washington Post. March 9, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/09/when-think-tanks-are-in-the-tank/?utm_term=.a9b4d3186549.
  17. Adler, Jonathan H. “When Think Tanks are in the Tank.” The Washington Post. March 9, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/09/when-think-tanks-are-in-the-tank/?utm_term=.a9b4d3186549.
  18. Adler, Jonathan H. “When Think Tanks are in the Tank.” The Washington Post. March 9, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/09/when-think-tanks-are-in-the-tank/?utm_term=.a9b4d3186549.
  19. Adler, Jonathan H. “When Think Tanks are in the Tank.” The Washington Post. March 9, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/09/when-think-tanks-are-in-the-tank/?utm_term=.a9b4d3186549.
  20. Adler, Jonathan H. “When Think Tanks are in the Tank.” The Washington Post. March 9, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/09/when-think-tanks-are-in-the-tank/?utm_term=.a9b4d3186549.
  21. Taranto, James. “The Politics of Disorder: Trump, Baton Rouge and the Center for American Progress.” The Wall Street Journal. July 18, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-politics-of-disorder-1468858069.
  22. Murdock, Deroy. “Think Progress to Fox News’s Roger Ailes: Drop Dead.” National Review. August 19, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/think-progress-fox-newss-roger-ailes-drop-dead-deroy-murdock/.
  23. Lichtblau, Eric. “Topic of Foreign Money in U.S. Races Hits Hustings.” The New York Times. August 8, 2010. Accessed March 16, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/09/us/politics/09donate.html?_r=2.
  24. Calderon, Michael. “Think Progress Retracts McCain Plagiarism Charge.” Politico. Accessed March 16, 2019.  https://www.politico.com/blogs/michaelcalderone/0308/Think_Progress_retracts_McCain_plagiarism_charge.html.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Tom Perriello
    Former President (CAP Action Fund)
  2. Judd Legum
    Founder and Editor-in-Chief
  3. Tony Carrk
    Former Health Policy Director (2009-2011)
  4. Faiz Shakir
    Founding Member and Former Editor-in-Chief
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2004

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $7,751,090 $8,240,074 $5,490,859 $1,264,913 Y $6,489,280 $0 $71 $100,234
    2015 Dec Form 990 $8,526,740 $7,693,829 $7,659,651 $2,924,143 Y $7,263,740 $0 $72 $176,715 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $6,455,380 $7,678,925 $5,252,523 $1,349,926 Y $5,598,583 $0 $73 $356,700 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $6,880,760 $6,872,566 $8,224,674 $2,623,374 Y $6,824,087 $0 $87 $266,183 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $6,468,781 $6,763,488 $6,518,990 $925,884 Y $6,176,307 $123,050 $260 $360,494 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $6,872,955 $6,478,924 $6,052,655 $164,842 Y $6,795,019 $0 $317 $395,138 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $9,490,903 $7,999,512 $5,683,067 $189,285 Y $9,358,653 $93,282 $677 $276,159 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    ThinkProgress (ThinkProgress.org)

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