Last year, a new website called The Free Telegraph launched, offering visitors Republican-friendly online news. What visitors probably didn't realize was the online venture didn't just look like partisan propaganda; it was quite literally partisan propaganda: the site was the creation of the Republican Governors Association.
When the Associated Press inquired about this, the RGA added a disclosure notice about who was paying for the content -- the notice was put in a small, gray font, at the bottom of the page, against a gray background -- though the Republicans responsible for the site have since removed that language. Those who visit the outlet, designed to look like an online news website, have no way of knowing that the stories are paid Republican content.
There's a lot of this going around. For example, the Maine Examiner looks like a state-based news website, and purports to be a project of "a small group of Mainers who simply publish Maine news, trends, and interesting pieces about you, the people of Maine." Its critics have made a compelling case, however, that the site appears to be "working in conjunction with the state Republican Party."
According to a report in Politico, a leading House Republican appears to be playing the same game.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation -- by operating his own partisan news outlet.
Resembling a local, conservative news site, "The California Republican" is classified on Facebook as a "media/news company" and claims to deliver "the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis."
One recent item from the California Republican's Twitter feed featured a photograph of Nunes beneath text that read, "This is what a hero looks like." How subtle.
Though the CaRepublican.com website now appears to be off-line, there was an easy-to-miss disclosure notice at the bottom of the home page -- in a small, gray font against a black background -- letting eagle-eyed visitors know that the site is "paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee."
Why should you care? Because when politicians and their campaign operations get into the propaganda business, no one benefits.