Politics

Media Matters Founder’s Group Accused of ‘Pay-For-Play’ Scheme

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), chaired by Media Matters founder David Brock, is under fire for its part in an alleged “pay-to-play scheme” to block proposed Obama administration regulations on the for-profit education industry.

For-profit college University of Phoenix founder John Sperling’s Aurora Foundation gave the Civic Duty Coalition $7.15 million in grants between 2007 and 2012, according to a new report from the Center for Consumer Freedom. The Civic Duty Coalition gave $150,000 to CREW between 2010 and 2011, according to IRS filings cited in the report. The University of Phoenix is still owned by the Sperling-founded Apollo Group, chaired by Sperling’s son.

In August 2010, CREW founder and then-executive director Melanie Sloan wrote a Huffington Post op-ed criticizing efforts to regulate the for-profit education industry. CREW actually filed a 2010 lawsuit against the Department of Education to get at information about the Education Department’s communications involving the for-profit education industry.

Civic Duty Coalition’s principal officer is the managing partner of a political consultancy firm headed by consultant Jim Gonzalez, who worked with Sperling on a campaign supporting a renewable energy ballot initiative in California in 2008.

The Center for Consumer Freedom said that CREW has been implicated in a “suspected pay-for-play scheme.”

“Our response to this report is that we do not discuss our funders,” a CREW spokesman told The Daily Caller.

Media Matters founder David Brock was elected chairman of CREW in August. “CREW gives us some potentially powerful tools in the tool box,” Brock said. “We have been in the accountability [field] for 10 years very successfully. It is kind of a one-stop-shop now.”

Observers described the move as a veritable “merger” between Media Matters and CREW. A Republican House committee spokesman criticized CREW “becoming partners with Media Matters.”

Follow Patrick on Twitter