ATLANTA (AP) — 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 was added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.
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.
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“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.
The website was registered July 7 through Domains By Proxy, a company that allows the originators of a website to shield their identities. An AP search did not find any corporate, Federal Election Commission or IRS filings establishing The Free Telegraph as an independent entity.
As of early Monday afternoon, The Free Telegraph’s Twitter account and Facebook page still had no obvious identifiers tying the site to RGA. The site described itself on Twitter as “bringing you the political news that matters outside of Washington.” The Facebook account labeled The Free Telegraph a “Media/News Company.” That’s a contrast to the RGA’s Facebook page, which is clearly disclosed as belonging to a “Political Organization,” as is the account of its counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association.
RGA Chairman Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, deferred questions through a spokesman to the group’s national staff. At RGA, spokesman Jon Thompson said the site is “just another outlet to share those positive results” of the…