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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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Before he joined the Wall Street Journal, Moore served as the founding president of the Club for Growth, an organization which, as of March 9 -- the day Walker's union-stripping bill passed the Wisconsin Senate -- had purchased 826 ads in support of the bill, at a cost of $193,605, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette, outstripping opposition spending by the AFL-CIO.

When I caught up with Moore between sessions, he said that he had appeared at a dozen Prosperity 101 sessions so far across the country, including eight in Wisconsin. Moore, who, at 51, exudes a youthful air, complete with Harry Potter-style glasses, offered up a benign description of his Prosperity 101 speaking engagements.  "You know, they have forums on how to create prosperity, create jobs, high-income-paying jobs," he said. "So we just walk them through the ABCs of how our economy works. And what happens is, a lot of employers ask their workers, just voluntarily, if they'd like to take an hour and just hear a presentation on this. So, we've been going around the State of Wisconsin with this."

"So, do you think of yourself as an activist?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "Well, I once was, but now I'm a journalist."

Astroturfing the Fourth Estate?

While it's not uncommon for big-name journalists to supplement their incomes on the lecture circuit, Stephen Moore's relationship with such expressly political groups as AFP and Prosperity 101 is unusual.

Kelly McBride, who teaches journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute, a non-profit center for journalism education, said that while she was unfamiliar with the particulars of the Moore case, "outside employment with organizations that are promoting a political agenda" is prohibited in most news organizations -- even for editorial board members.

"Even in a newsroom that has a political tilt to its editorial board," McBride continued, "in most cases, it's important for that newsroom to maintain its independence so that the readers believe that the editorial board's loyalties are with the readers -- and not necessarily with another organization."

But the Journal isn't quite like other papers, suggested Nicholas Lemann, a longtime New Yorker writer and dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism. Moore's tenure as founder and president of the anti-tax group Club for Growth would have disqualified him as an editorial board member in most newsrooms, Lemann said, but the Wall Street Journal appears to have long operated according to a different standard. "The fact that [the Journal] would hire Steve Moore as an editorial writer in a sense proves the point," he said. (As far back as the 1980s, writers for the Journal's editorial page would turn up at meetings of the American conservative movement, Lemann recalled, mentioning John Fund in particular, "and the vibe was that they were attending as a member of the movement.")

"I don't think the New York Times would hire as an editorial writer somebody who ran a major advocacy organization on the left," he said.

Lemann suggested that the key to assessing the Moore situation is whether or not his involvement with Prosperity 101 and the AFP Foundation violates the Wall Street Journal's own ethical standards. Per the  Journal’s Policies for News Departments, Moore's involvement with Prosperity 101 would appear to violate a proscription against "outside activities" that exploit the Wall Street Journal's name. The code also clearly states that employees of the Journal's news departments are prohibited from accepting speaking fees or honoraria of any kind. Editorial page personnel are typically considered to be part of a paper's news staff, according to Poynter's McBride.