Republican Governors Create Propaganda Unit to Trash Democrats

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (L) and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker talk in a hallway during the National Governors Association summer meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., July 14, 2017. The Republican Governors Association launched a website branded as a news outlet in the summer. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and has its own social media account, the Associated Press reports.

The website, called The Free Telegraph, runs stories that are critical of the Democratic party and ones that highlight the virtues of the GOP governors. The "fake news" publication, which was launched in the summer, does not disclose that it is produced by the party committee whose goal is to get more Republicans elected.

On Twitter, The Free Telgraph's description reads "Bringing you the political news that matters outside of Washington," but does not disclose its affiliation with the association. The website is also labeled as a Media/News company on Facebook. A disclosure was added to the website last week after the Associated Press had inquired about a page identifying its partisan backing.

Some of The Free Telegraph's content is based on material from traditional media organizations and from right-leaning outlets such as The Daily Caller. There are press releases, headlines and photos used on the website that are exact duplicates of content on the RGA's website.

Critics, some who identify as Republican, said the website pushes the limits of campaign tactics at a time when "fake news" is under scrutiny.

"It's propaganda for sure, even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate," Republican communications veteran Rick Tyler told the AP.

The website was registered July 7 through Domains By Proxy, a company that allows the originators of a website to shield their identities. According to a search done by the AP, there were no corporate, Federal Election Commission or IRS filings establishing The Free Telegraph as an independent entity.

A spokesman for RGA Chairman Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, deferred questions to the group's national staff. RGA spokesman Jon Thompson told the AP the site is "just another outlet to share those positive results" of the GOP's 34 Republican governors.

Democrats say Republicans are laying the groundwork with headlines that will appear in future digital and television ads, and are providing individual voters with fodder to distribute across social media.

"They're just seeding the ground," said Angelo Carusone, who runs Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group. "They are repackaging their opposition research so it's there as 'news,' and at any moment that publication could become the defining moment of the narrative" in some state's campaign for governor.

It's not uncommon for politicians to try out a news distribution service. President Donald Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, hosted "real news" video segments in the summer, posted to the president's Facebook page. She told viewers in one segment she wanted to showcase "all the accomplishments the president had this week because there's so much fake news out there."

When he was a state governor, Vice President Mike Pence considered establishing a state run news agency in 2015 but ditched the idea in the face of criticism.

Republican Governors Create Propaganda Unit to Trash Democrats | U.S.