For years, Real Clear Politics has been a go-to site for campaign wonks to get a top-level state of major political races around the country, gathering polls for presidential, House, and Senate contests. But in recent years, it has taken a hard ideological turn, becoming a cheerleader for President Donald Trump, curating polls to favor those that showed the GOP performing better, and providing a platform for right-wing conspiracy theories.
A new deep dive by The New York Times on Tuesday highlights how this shift took place.
"As the administration lurched from one crisis after another — impeachment, the coronavirus, a lost election the president refuses to concede — Real Clear became one of the most prominent platforms for elevating unverified and reckless stories about the president’s political opponents, through a mix of its own content and articles from across conservative media," reported Jeremy Peters. "In recent days, as Mr. Trump and his loyalists repeated baseless claims of rampant voter fraud and counting errors, Real Clear Politics gave top billing to stories that reinforced the false narrative that the president could still somehow eke out a win. Headlines on Monday — more than a week after Mr. Biden had clinched the race — included 'There’s Good Reason Not To Trust Election Results' and 'Trump Attorney Says Results in Several States Will Be Overturned.'"
One potential source of these shifts, said the report, was a change in the newsroom's structure and funding.
"Interviews with current and former Real Clear staff members, along with a review of its coverage and tax filings, point to a shift to the right within the organization in late 2017, when the bulk of its journalists who were responsible for straight-news reporting on Capitol Hill, the White House and national politics were suddenly laid off," said the report. "Though the staff always knew the website’s founders were conservative and harbored strong views about liberal media bias, several said they never felt any pressure from above to slant their stories." The writers were never given a reason for their dismissal, and were replaced with writers who had strong ties to the GOP, including a former Manhattan Republican Party chair.
"Top Real Clear executives also developed business ties with a hard-right conservative outlet, The Federalist, that is frequently promoted on the Real Clear flagship website," said the report. "Public records and interviews show that The Federalist, whose funding sources have been largely secret, draws from the same pool of donor money as Real Clear."
"From 2016 to 2017, donations to the Real Clear Foundation more than quadrupled to $1.7 million, with nearly all of that coming from two entities that conservatives use to shield their giving from public disclosure requirements, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund," the report continued. "In 2018, the Real Clear Foundation had its best year yet, reporting more than $3 million in donations. One donor whose identity is disclosed on tax filings is Andrew Puzder, who was briefly Mr. Trump’s nominee for labor secretary and writes opinion pieces for Real Clear."
Both Real Clear and The Federalist also received backing from GOP megadonors Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein. Furthermore, "The Real Clear publisher David DesRosiers was listed as a director with The Federalist’s nonprofit foundation. And as reported by BuzzFeed and others, The Federalist has used the same address that Real Clear Politics uses as the location of its Chicago office."
You can read more here.