Housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Journalism School (along with Marquette University), the formation, affiliation(s) and funding sources of Wisconsin Watch have generated some controversy. Jim Piwowarczyk noted in November, 2022:
“Wisconsin Watch, a 501(c)(3) organization that disseminates news stories to many prominent media outlets statewide and is housed at the taxpayer-funded UW-Madison campus, has taken more than $1 million from an organization founded by George Soros over the years. Wisconsin Right Now discovered that the group is still prominently pushing out stories by a writer, Howard Hardee, who was dispatched to Wisconsin by a Soros-funded organization to work on “election integrity” stories and projects.” When major media outlets like WTM-TV and the Wisconsin State Journal run stories by Wisconsin Watch or Hardee, they fail to advise readers that he’s a fellow with a Soros-linked group. The group says that “hundreds” of news organizations have shared its stories over the years, giving them wide reach.
The Soros family also boasts significant influence over American media. An analysis from the Media Research Center found numerous media outlets employ journalists who also serve on boards of organizations that receive large amounts of funding from Soros.
More recently, and amidst Wisconsin’s biennial budget deliberations including many billions ($11.97B in 2019! [xlsx] excluding federal and other sources) for traditional government K-12 school districts, Wisconsin Watch writer Phoebe Petrovic posted a number of articles targeting choice (0.797%!! of $11.97B) schools:
May 5, 2023: Considering a Wisconsin voucher school? Here’s what parents of children who are LGBTQ+ or have a disability should know. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).
May 5, 2023: False choice: Wisconsin taxpayers support schools that can discriminate. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).
May 20, 2023: Federal, state law permit disability discrimination in Wisconsin voucher schools. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).
## May 22, 2023 via a St Marcus Milwaukee sermon [transcript]- a church family whose incredible student efforts are worth a very deep dive. Compare this to Madison, where we’ve tolerated disastrous reading results for decades despite spending > $25k+/student!
## May 23, 2023: Curious (false claims) reporting on legacy k-12 schools, charter/voucher models and special education via Wisconsin coalition for education freedom. (Focus on 99% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).
May 31, 2023: ‘Unwanted and unwelcome’: Anti-LGBTQ+ policies common at Wisconsin voucher schools. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).
May 31, 2023: Wisconsin students with disabilities often denied public school options via another Wisconsin Watch writer: Mario Koran. (Focus on 99% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).
WI’s open enrollment program is one of the best in the country, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t limitations. When anti-#SchoolChoice folks use @WisconsinWatch articles to attack, they should also remember the same things happen in public schools. https://t.co/EwPIiwm7CU
— Will Flanders (@WillFlandersWI) June 1, 2023
The free market roots of #SchoolChoice are often overlooked in today’s political debates. It’s important to remember that the goal of school choice isn’t the elimination of public schools, but rather the lifting of all ships by providing competition to the public school monopoly. https://t.co/t49It5boHq
— Will Flanders (@WillFlandersWI) June 1, 2023
June 2, 2023 Wisconsin Watch’s Embarrassing Campaign against Vouchers and Christian Schools
“Wisconsin Watch isn’t nonpartisan in a way that a layman would understand the term. Rather, it’s nonpartisan because there isn’t a party far enough to the left to earn its support.” @LutherAbel1 dismantles Petrovic’s reporting.https://t.co/2U1miyLSv7
— Patrick McIlheran (@PaddyMacMke) June 2, 2023
In examining who Wisconsin excludes from school choice, we’ve seen how private voucher schools discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and those w/ disabilities.
— Jim Malewitz (@Jmalewitz) June 1, 2023
— Chris Rickert (@RickertWisSJ) June 3, 2023
Their literal next piece (by a different reporter, true) was on inadequate special needs funding, so it’s suspicious to overlook that when critical of voucher schools and special needs.
The sexuality piece was bad journalism with unfounded logical leaps.https://t.co/A8WQgg2bdP
— Quinton Klabon (@GhaleonQ) June 3, 2023
Why might civics minded have an interest in funding sources (such as Wisconsin Watch, WILL, ActBlue and so on)?
Billionaire George Soros is taking a stake in the Bernalillo County district attorney’s race, backing Raul Torrez with a $107,000 contribution to an independent expenditure committee.
George Soros, a multibillionaire who has only the most tenuous connection to Colorado, is paying for negative ads against incumbent District Attorney Pete Weir, a Republican, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the effort.