While watching the Stanley Cup match on Saturday, the first period ended and legendary sportscaster Bob Costas appeared on the screen with the Lexus Intermission Report.It made me chuckle seeing an overt corporate placement because the day before, a blogger at the political website Mother Jones named Tom Philpott had asked me on Twitter what I thought of a new EPA paper on the herbicide atrazine.Since it's Twitter and only 140 characters, I replied he should ask the maker of the pesticide. To rational people, this makes sense. The EPA's career scientists have produced some of the best pesticide papers in the world and Syngenta employs world-class scientists of their own. I have only written about atrazine a few times in over 1,000 articles and 10 years, so I can hardly be considered an expert compared to them. Why ask me? The answer became obvious with his response and a limp effort at the kind of 'gotcha journalism' Mother Jones does (even on Twitter, where character limits are fixed) - he had no interest in science or context, he was just looking for an excuse to engage in political grandstanding. He smarmily repliedWell, of course he should ask them, that is why I said it. The weird thing is that he believes it would be legitimate to ask anyone else. The reason is obvious, by way of an analogy; if you want to know about the weaknesses of an Intel processor, you go ask AMD, not Intel, and certainly not me. If there are flaws in the EPA's paper or gaps in the studies they selected for their analysis, the obvious way to find them is to ask is the manufacturer. That is Journalism 101. 

Obviously, he did not want to engage in journalism, he wanted to engage in political posturing. But to what avail? Does he really think a small, unrestricted grant (.009 of American Council on Science and Health revenue last year) from a company allows them to buy some special clout with us?  It's batty conspiracy talk. I wondered, watching that hockey game and that corporate-sponsored intermission report, if Mother Jones similarly believes Bob Costas is rigging the score of the hockey game to be whatever outcome Lexus wants. Because, you know, the network that pays him proudly lists Lexus right on the screen.

At the Council, we also proudly list our corporate donors, as does the American Heart Association, United Way and numerous prominent non-profits. You know who doesn't? Mother Jones. But they have them. A lot of them. On their last available Form 990, the Foundation for National Progress, the parent of Mother Jones, had ~$13,000,000 in revenue. A subscription to Mother Jones magazine costs $12. They have just under 167,000 subscribers. That's around $2,000,000 in subscription revenue, meaning about $11,000,000, a whopping ~84 percent of their revenue, is dark money. Where does that 84 percent of their revenue come from, then? Obviously corporations and certainly partisan political activists like George Soros.

So what? Why don't we use that to smear Mother Jones writers the way they have persistently done to us and every scientist that doesn't match the political proclivities of their donors? For the same reason I don't think everyone is out to pick my pocket. Unlike Mother Jones employees, I don't assume all employees at Mother Jones are shills for corporations and political ideologues just because they have so many corporations and political ideologues giving them money. (1)

Anyway, in case it remains unclear; no, Mother Jones employees, Bob Costas is not a shill for Big Lexus, nor is he manipulating the score of hockey games, no matter what Vast Corporate Conspiracy you choose to believe about scientists. And even less believable is that any of us at the American Council on Science and Health manufacture articles that are false because anyone paid us to do so.

If you want to read our recent peer-reviewed publications, free of charge, because that is actually what donors want us to produce...

Does ‘Excess’ Dietary Salt Cause Cardiovascular Toxicity?

Concussions: Fact v. Fiction

The Name Game: How Unethical Environmental Groups and Toxic Fanatics Scare You With Words

And more to come this year. If only Mother Jones used its millions of dollars so constructively, rather than paying employees to engage in social media smear campaigns.


(1) Though Tom Philpott may be. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that organic corporate marketing groups routinely call on him to promote their message against competitors:

Unsurprisingly, other journalists were not giving him a free pass when he ridiculed the notion that he had been bought off, though he persistently claims everyone else has been: