Look, I'm used to getting disingenuous complaints – almost exclusively from conservative politicians, activists, political consultants and corporate lobbyists – that we exist to ensure Democrats are elected and are part of a “dark money” propaganda plot.
And, of course, so many of those complaints come from people who *actually do* work in the "dark money" campaign world. Just as a carnival is great for people-watching, politics is great for observing hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance.
Of course, we're not a "dark money" operation in any sense of the word. What we are is a team of professional and veteran reporters who have a depth of experience. We have complete editorial independence. Our work stands on its own.
To the extent that our work angered people in the halls of power, well, reporting on things that the powerful don’t want you to know is the entire purpose of journalism.

It's the reason I show up to work and work 14+ hour days.
To be crystal clear: A single thin dime from a 501(c)(4) corporation has not paid for us to do what we do. Our funding comes from philanthropists and normal, everyday people who believe in good journalism.
The argument that we're "dark money" is because our parent org did what many nascent charities do when they launch: It found a fiscal sponsor so it could begin its work while it applied to the IRS for certification as a 501(c)(3) public charity.
What is fiscal sponsorship? Basically, it allows new nonprofits to raise money tax-free under the IRS certification of the sponsoring org.
For States Newsroom, our parent org, fiscal sponsor was Hopewell Fund, a charity with ties to the progressive world and some more nakedly political nonprofits. That has ginned up the talk that we're "dark money."
But here's the thing: Hopewell provided organizational support when we were a start-up. They didn't provide any money.
And when the IRS approved our (c)(3) status last summer, we separated from them. By the fall, the complicated process of separating from that fiscal sponsorship was complete, and all ties with Hopewell were severed.
You might have seen the Open Secrets story today about the web of "dark money" news sites on the left that they characterized as "fake news" and "pseudo-news."
The basic model is gross: Masquerade as a local outlet, leverage content on social media, gather tons of data on the people that interact with the content, then feed those people political ads from the affiliated political groups.
Their local presence is minimal, at best, and is primarily composed of people without serious journalism backgrounds.

Many of those groups and sites and Facebook pages no longer exist, and I’m betting that many of those that do in 2020 won’t in 2022.
After detailing several actual pseudo-news operations that are simply fronts for political efforts, the story turned to Hopewell and States Newsroom.

The implication was that we were in the same league as those other operations.

We aren't.
Open Secrets would have known as much had it bothered to contact States Newsroom before publishing; several hours after the story went live, it was updated to include some of that detail.

But let me explain just what separates us, aside from the "We don't take dark money" thing
The States Newsroom mission is to cover statehouses in places where failing corporate media has left an absence of coverage. More eyeballs on state capitols means more accountability from government officials. That's the driving force.
We're staffed by veteran journalists who have experience covering their communities and capitals. We have a physical presence at the Capitol, and attend meetings and press conferences and political events right alongside the other members of the Capitol press corps.
We're also raising money from our community – not for political campaigns, but to support the news we already cover and build on what we do. The Mirror’s local fundraising efforts have allowed us to increase pay, bring on interns and hire more freelancers.
We don't have associated 501(c)(4) outfits or super PACs. We don't gather data from our subscribers or followers so we can later microtarget them with political ads aimed at supporting particular candidates or issues.
One thing I want to be CRYSTAL CLEAR about: We don't get told what to write or what to cover or how to do our jobs.

If we were, I wouldn't have taken this job. If that ever changes, I'll be a goddamned ghost.
The truth is that I’ve never had more journalistic freedom at any point in my career.

That allows us to write original news, to break stories, to cover under-served communities, to provide information for people to engage with their government.
I know that my professional reputation is on the line.

And I took this opportunity because I believe in my core that this is essential work: A community can't effectively govern itself if it isn’t informed.
That's why freedom of the press is in the First Amendment.

And it's the mission that drives me.

You can follow @JimSmall.
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