Follow the Money

Man Bites Dog. Political Group Returns Big Contributions.

This from Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Will and NPR's money-and-politics maven, Peter Overby, are working together on the Secret Money Project, an investigation of the outside groups that want to influence voters.

Here's something that doesn't happen everyday: a political advocacy organization giving back money.

Progressive Media Action has reported returning $2 million in contributions it had received to do battle with Republican presidential candidate John McCain. It's quite a turnaround for a group that had loudly announced a $40 million campaign to influence the 2008 election.

Headed by right-wing-attack-dog-turned-left-wing-attack-dog David Brock, the non-profit Progressive Media USA and affiliated political organization Progressive Media Action morphed out of another big-money operation, the modestly titled Campaign to Defend America, which we covered back in March. But after the big roll-out, PMA pulled its own plug when Democratic candidate Barack Obama made it known he doesn't approve of independent efforts — an edict that chilled liberal donors.

Now, Progressive Media has given back $1.5 million to film producer and Hollywood playboy Steve Bing; half a million dollars to a government employees union, and $100,000 to Win McCormack, an alternate Obama delegate from Oregon. Did Brock not know how to spend the money? Calls to his organization were not returned.

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