Republican governors are getting into the "news" business.
The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.
Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph's pages identifying the publication's partisan source.
Even some GOP operatives are calling foul on this
The governors association describes the website as routine political communication. Critics, including some Republicans, say it pushes the limits of honest campaign tactics in an era of increasingly partisan media and a proliferation of "fake news" sites, including those whose material became part of an apparent Russian propaganda effort during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"It's propaganda for sure, even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate," said Republican communications veteran Rick Tyler, whose resume includes Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign.
And the upside for them?
Democrats say Republicans are laying the groundwork with headlines that will appear in future digital and television ads, while also providing individual voters with fodder to distribute across social media.
"They're just seeding the ground," said Angelo Carusone, who runs Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group. "They are repackaging their opposition research so it's there as 'news,' and at any moment that publication could become the defining moment of the narrative" in some state's campaign for governor.
So basically in for a penny in for a pound. The GOP realizes its sold its soul for the last election cycle, and they just might be realizing that this is the route they will have to be taking to stay in power. Propaganda: the "reliable" news of any authoritarian regime