Saturday, December 06, 2014

Shepard Murder, Media Matters, Focus on Family & Transparency

As a death penalty abolitionist, I traveled with my friend and colleague Bill Dobbs on behalf of Queer Watch to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the trial of Matthew Shepard's killers. I've long believed the tragic murder of this young gay student was not the black-and-white anti-homosexual hate crime portrayed by the media, politicians and Gay Inc groups pushing a law-and-order agenda to enact a federal hate crime law.

That said, I've skimmed Steve Jimenez's controversial and exhaustively researched book "The Book of Matt" and don't subscribe to the notion that he's a sloppy reporter twisting facts or omitting them to suit an agenda.

But the pile-on against the book from, for lack of a better term, Matthew Shepard Inc, the complex of liberal nonprofits with a vested interest in maintaining the narrative that Shepard's murder contains no gray areas, reinforced my conviction that the many legitimate questions about the case needed a public airing.

Jimenez recently penned a take-down of Media Matters For America for Out magazine and the last paragraph stood out:

The media reported the story of Matthew’s murder inaccurately from the beginning, and an overly simplistic narrative got set in stone. One would think a 501 (c) (3) media watchdog group that enjoys tax exempt status such as Media Matters would be in the business of supporting independent journalists who uncover and document cases of media malfeasance. Apparently, Media Matters has a different agenda.

(Actual empty white space screen-grab from the Media Matters About page.)

Jimenez jogged memory of my unsuccessful August 2011 effort to persuade the group to become transparent and post their IRS 990s on their site. Three years on, still no online transparency at Media Matters's About page. In response to my request for an electronic edition of their most current tax filing, which was submitted to the Treasury Department in early November, their spokeswoman Laura Keiter said:

Thank you for sending a formal request Media Matters For America’s 2013 [IRS 990]. The IRS allows for a tax exempt organization to charge a reasonable fee for both copying costs and actual cost of postage. As laid out in the fee schedule, non-commercial requesters will be charged $.20 per page. Please find the costs below. [...] Copies will be mailed upon receipt of payment. Please provide a mailing address where you would like the documents mailed to.

I replied it behooved Media Matters to simply post their three most current 990s on their site and pointed to the Focus on the Family web site as an example of nonprofit transparency, and included this explanation, pictured, from the conservative anti-gay nonprofit:

At Focus on the Family, we recognize that our finances are donations sent by loving people who have sacrificed to make their gifts possible. [...] Part of that obligation is openness and accountability in our financial practices. In accordance with standards established by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and the Internal Revenue Service, our annual financial information is freely available for public review [here].

No need to make a written request or send payment. Just a few clicks and you get transparency from the conservatives. By the way, the 2013 tax filing for Focus on the Family reveals a $90.5 million budget and the CEO James Daly earned $250,000.

The filings from the liberal Media Matters shows that in 2010 their budget was $13.2 million and their top executive, David Brock, took home $266,291.

For 2011, Brock earned $270,914 and his deputy, longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton cheerleader, Richard Socarides, was paid $254,250 and the budget was $8.3 million. This was the only year Socarides worked for the group. In 2012, the revenue was at $9.6 million and Brock was compensated $284,925.

Media Matters can and should just post their 2013 filing, get with the online transparency program and also agree to debate Jimenez about his Shepard book and give the LGBT community a public discussion about a tragic murder, and the circumstances that led to it and what happened afterward.

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