“‘Dark money’ networks hide political agendas behind fake news sites”

Open Secrets:

At a time when trustworthy journalism is more important than ever, political operations are pouring millions of “dark money” dollars into ads and digital content masquerading as news coverage to influence the 2020 election.

One newer group heralding the new era of pseudo-news outlets is Acronym, a liberal dark money group with an affiliated super PAC called Pacronym. The nonprofit also is an investor in a for-profit digital consulting firm that gained notoriety for its role in launching Shadow Inc., the secretive vendor behind a vote tabulation app at the center of the pandemonium at the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

Acronym is behind Courier Newsroom, a network of websites emulating local news outlets. Courier has faced scrutiny for exploiting the collapse of local journalism to spread “hyperlocal partisan propaganda.” It claims to operate “independent from” Acronym and says ownership is shared with “other investors.” But a new tax return obtained by OpenSecrets lists Acronym as the full owner of Courier as of Dec. 31, 2018, the most recent date on record.

Websites affiliated with Courier Newsroom that appear to be free-standing local news outlets are actually part of a coordinated effort with deep ties to Democractic political operatives. OpenSecrets first revealed the network’s digital ad spending at the Investigative Reporters and Editors NICAR conference in March. 

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