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Wall Street Journal Honcho Shills for Secret Worker 'Education' Program Linked to Koch Group

During the 2010 election campaign, WSJ editorial board member Stephen Moore carried the Koch agenda to Wisconsin workers -- in workplace seminars called by their bosses.

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Less than six weeks later, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, whose career has been propelled by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), introduced the anti-labor budget bill that incited 18 days of mass protests in the state capitol.

A Koch-Murdoch Alliance

The Prosperity 101 program endorsed and fronted by Moore claims to "educate" workers in their workplaces about several high-priority policy concerns for "business prosperity." Program materials have a decidedly anti-government slant, and Prosperity 101 boosters, including Moore, are well known for their anti-labor views. In a promotional video for the program, the Journal's Moore asserts that "the most important lessons of economics -- from Prosperity 101 -- is that jobs come from businesses; jobs do not come from government." The program's textbook, Prosperity 101™: Job Security Through Business Prosperity, asserts: "Government can never create prosperity" and argues against social service programs, implying that those who need them lack the values of "hard work and determination."

Much is made in liberal and progressive circles of the echo chamber in which right-wing news outlets amplify the talking points of right-leaning think tanks and often succeed in pushing these themes into mainstream media. Fox News is widely reviled for its prowess at such message projection, but the Wall Street Journal is rarely mentioned -- perhaps because the Journal is perceived as far more mainstream. (Both the Journal, which is part of Dow Jones & Company, and Fox News belong to the same parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.) There are good reasons for this perception: the Journal's celebrated news pages are fair to their subjects, and its hard-right opinion pages are seen as a separate realm.

Yet the Journal's opinionators have reaped rewards from the AFP Foundation for conveying views that coincide precisely with the Koch agenda. For starters, Moore receives speaking fees for his frequent appearances at AFP Foundation events. While requests for information on Moore's compensation for these engagements received no response from the AFP Foundation, spokesperson Mary Ellen Burke did say it was a "specific negotiated honorarium," arrived at on an event-by-event basis. (Burke recently left the organization.) The speaker's bureau that represents Moore lists his fee as between $7,500 and $10,000 per appearance. Since 2006, Moore has made at least 24* appearances at AFP Foundation gatherings. If Moore received his minimum listed fee for each of these appearances, he'd have earned upward of $180,000* from the AFP Foundation so far. Moore says he has given all of his earnings from the Americans For Prosperity Foundation to charity.

Both Moore and Prosperity 101 founder Linda J. Hansen say he was not compensated for his multiple appearances on behalf of the for-profit Prosperity 101.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot declined to answer an e-mail request for the Journal's guidelines on outside activities by its employees, nor would he comment on Moore's AFP Foundation gigs, forwarding my query to Ashley Huston, senior director of corporate communications for Dow Jones. She replied, " Journal editorial page staff attend a variety of meetings and conferences in their capacity as journalists. We address the utility and appropriateness of attending such meetings on a case by case basis." Huston would not say whether the Journal had signed off specifically on Moore's AFP Foundation appearances or his involvement in Prosperity 101.

For a point of comparison, I asked a spokesperson for the New York Times, which has a mostly liberal editorial page, whether editorial board members are permitted to accept speaking fees from political advocacy groups, including those that run political television advertisements. "NO," replied Eileen Murphy, vice president of communications for the New York Times Company, by e-mail. "In fact a Times editorial board member would not be permitted to take speaking fees from a political organization…full stop."