After spending the 2010 campaign worrying over the scourge of anonymous "deep-pocketed" conservative donors out to "buy the election," reporter Michael Luo led Tuesday's National section with a look at a new outlet for left-wing money, American Bridge, a creation of Media Matters founder David Brock: "Effort to Set Up Liberal Counterweight to G.O.P. Groups Begins."
Brock is accurately described as a "prominent Democratic political operative."
In what may prove a significant development for the 2012 elections, David Brock, a prominent Democratic political operative, says he has amassed $4 million in pledges over the last few weeks and is moving quickly to hire a staff to set up what he hopes will become a permanent liberal counterweight over the airwaves to the Republican-leaning outside groups that spent so heavily on this year's midterm elections.
Luo documented Brock's left-wing leverage, including the fact that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and oldest child of Robert Kennedy, will be chairwoman of the nascent group.
Luo raised a mild eyebrow in reaction to Brock's fundraising tactics, while avoiding the melodramatic tone of his coverage of Republican donations.
Certain to set off debate, however, is that Mr. Brock appears to be positioning his new organization so that fund-raising consultants can raise money for Democratic-oriented news media efforts not just through American Bridge but also via one of the nonprofit organizations Mr. Brock currently runs, Media Matters Action Network, which does not disclose its donors.
The action network, which tracks conservative politicians and advocacy organizations, is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group and is set to take on an expanded role in the 2012 elections, including potentially running television ads, according to an internal draft concept paper about American Bridge's and Media Matter Action Network's plans obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Brock said that "money is money," and that he would actively solicit donors for both entities and, in the end, the media spending would be apportioned accordingly.
But Mr. Brock, a former conservative journalist who publicly disavowed the right in the late 1990s, is a respected political player, who has drawn plaudits from liberal donors for his running of the array of groups under the Media Matters umbrella.
Mr. Brock pointed out that the various groups associated with Media Matters had raised a combined $23 million this year. Its backers include major Democratic donors like George Soros, the billionaire who recently announced he had given $1 million to the group; Peter B. Lewis, the billionaire chairman of Progressive Insurance, who, like Mr. Soros, gave more than $20 million to Democratic-oriented groups in 2004; and the Hollywood producer Steve Bing.
White House officials have signaled in recent weeks that the Obama administration would not object to Democratic-leaning outside groups getting involved in the 2012 elections, a change from the Obama campaign's attitude toward such groups in 2008. But they have also indicated that they would prefer that the names of donors be disclosed.
The lack of disclosure among Republican-leaning outside groups became a central Democratic talking point this year as spending by outside groups on the right exploded before the midterm elections.
Luo is being modest here, reporting by him and other Times reporters drove much of that discussion.