Over the years the media has made much of the sleazy business model of mugshot sites and similar operations whose business model is getting people to pay to take down negative content about them. After publishing the tax data of assorted wealthy people, but not its own donors, ProPublica’s business model is starting to look like a high-end non-profit version of the familiar scummy internet routine.
ProPublica made waves after it obtained thousands of private tax documents for the country’s wealthiest citizens and published a scathing investigation centered on the tax rates of Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Michael Bloomberg, among others. Absent from the report: any of the publication’s largest donors, including Laurene Powell Jobs, David Filo, and Pierre Omidyar.
The nonprofit news organization’s June 8 story boasted about a “trove of never-before-seen records [that] reveal how the wealthiest avoid income tax.” ProPublica documented the staggering wealth of business and finance titans, while emphasizing that they paid taxes to the federal government at a lower rate than many middle-class Americans. Conspicuously missing from the report, however, were details on whether the billionaires who fund ProPublica engage in similar tax avoidance schemes. ProPublica declined to say whether it had obtained tax returns for any of its donors or whether it planned on publishing them.
Omidyar’s name is significant because the Franco-Iranian billionaire also funds The Intercept whose big thing is posting stolen, hacked, or leaked information. (He also funds The Bulwark.)
Would ProPublica publish damaging information about its donors? It’s fairly obvious that it would not. That would be a good way to make them ex-donors.
And those non-donors whose information still hasn’t been published or leaked? A good way to make sure it’s not would be to stay on ProPublica’s good site by writing a check, wouldn’t it?
“Nice tax return you have there, would be a shame if someone published it”.
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