A Washington, D.C., non-profit that allegedly acted as a key proxy for the Obama administration to help push the Iran nuclear deal reportedly spent millions on various media outlets in order to promote reporting and analysis of the resulting nuclear agreement.
Ploughshares Fund provided over 90 grants to various organizations in 2015 in order to engage in reporting, research and analysis on Iranian nuclear issues. The over 90 grants given out in 2015 nearly doubles those the organization provided in 2014, and triples the amount given in 2013. Ploughshares’ increases in grant funding directly coincides with the time period during which the Iran nuclear deal was being finalized and presented to Congress.
The non-profit was named directly by Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication, in a piece for New York Times Magazine as one of the groups that he and his team utilized to spin the Iran nuclear deal to the American public. In the piece, Rhodes claimed he and his team created an “echo chamber” which involved various friendly journalists and organizations.
The organizations and individuals which received the grants spanned from National Public Radio (NPR), which received $100,000 for ” reporting that emphasizes the themes of US nuclear weapons policy and budgets, Iran’s nuclear program, international nuclear security topics and US policy toward nuclear security,” to think tanks such as the RAND Institute which was given $40,000 to write “a series of articles that analyze specific elements of the diplomatic agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.”
The NPR-Ploughshares Fund relationship dates back to at least 2005. Since 2010, every grant Ploughshares made to NPR specifically name Iran. NPR continued to receive Ploughshares grants in 2013 when the nuclear negotiations resumed in February of that year.
“It’s a valued partnership, without any conditions from Ploughshares on our specific reporting, beyond the broad issues of national and nuclear security, nuclear policy, and nonproliferation,” said NPR in a statement to the Associated Press. “As with all support received, we have a rigorous editorial firewall process in place to ensure our coverage is independent and is not influenced by funders or special interests.”
Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione spoke about the Iran deal on NPR twice last year. He was identified as a donor to the radio station on only one of the two occasions.
Many of Ploughshares’ grantees were open supporters of the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
One of the largest grant recipients included J Street, a left-wing “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization which has been criticized for allegedly claiming to be pro-Israel while promoting what are thought to be anti-Israel policies. Legal professor and political commentator Alan Dershowitz has said “J Street has done more damage to Israel than any [other] American organization.” J Street was, and continues to be, a vocal proponent of the Iran deal, and was awarded $150,000 by Ploughshares in 2015 while its sister organization J Street Education Fund received a remarkable $425,500.
Ploughshares also provided over $280,000 to the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for its work supporting the Iran deal, some of which went directly towards sending NIAC staff to the nuclear negotiations in Vienna. NIAC was accused of engaging in lobbying efforts on behalf of the Islamic Republic around 2007, which led to the organization’s president Trita Parsi bringing suit against journalist Hassan Daioleslam for defamation. Parsi eventually lost the protracted legal battle.
In Ploughshares’ 2015 annual report, Cirincione wrote that his organization “provided a network uniting hundreds of organizations and individuals in common cause” in order to secure the Iran nuclear deal’s passage. “For every critic on cable news, there was an advocate answering.”
Ploughshares spokeswoman Jennifer Abrahamson defended the organization’s media campaign Friday.
“It is common practice for foundations to fund media coverage of underreported stories,” said Abrahamson to the Associated Press. She went on to note that funding “does not influence the editorial content of their coverage in any way, nor would we want it to.”
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