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Blue Dog-Affiliated Website Blurs Line Between Newsroom and Political Advertiser

The Well News, founded by employees of a Blue Dog-affiliated nonprofit, appears to be exploiting a campaign finance loophole to run ads boosting Blue Dog Democrats.

Another option is for them to start their own platforms that appears to be a news outlet but also puts out information designed to promote candidates, which they can pay to show to targeted constituencies on digital ad networks such as Facebook’s. The Democratic Party-aligned digital agency Acronym created a website called Courier Newsroom in 2019 that spent millions of dollars on Facebook to promote articles and videos favorable to Democratic politicians. On the Republican side, the House GOP campaign arm did something similar in 2014 with a network of fake local news domains to run Google ads against Democrats. Now, another faux news outlet has popped up that appears to be doing something similar to boost conservative House Democrats.


{The Facebook page for Well News typically promotes a handful of posts per month on the site’s ad network, but there is a stark contrast between two types of posts that tend to get boosted. While the majority of the paid posts are articles on the political issues of the day or ads meant to promote the website in general to a larger audience, there is another category of paid posts that feature photos of Blue Dog politicians and blurbs promoting their work in Congress that are generally given much larger promotion budgets.}

News Outlet Founded by Blue Dog Dem Operatives Promotes Big Pharma’s Lobbying Aims


{Not disclosed in the stories is that The Well News was founded in 2018 by political operatives affiliated with the House Blue Dog Coalition, as reported this weekend for Axios by Lachlan Markay. In addition to promoting glowing stories about Blue Dogs, of which Gottheimer is a prominent member and Murphy is a co-chair, The Well News runs positive coverage and sponsored content for corporate lobbying and consulting clients of the board members of Center Forward, the “dark money” nonprofit affiliated with the Blue Dog Coalition.}

{The two recent stories on health care reform covered the results of surveys sponsored by Center Forward claiming that voters are concerned about the national debt and inflation, and want to see their congresspeople reach across the aisle. The Gottheimer story relays the survey result that 80% of over 400 voters in his New Jersey congressional district oppose what it describes as government “interfering” with drug price negotiations between Medicare, pharma companies, and pharmacies. This conclusion runs counter to the results of a Public Policy Polling survey of nearly 600 voters in the same swing district, conducted on Aug. 25 and 26, finding that 75% of respondents support empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drugmakers.}

{During last year’s elections, Center Forward sponsored positive Facebook ads cheering on pharmaceutical industry innovation after taking in over $2.9 million in donations from PhRMA from 2016 to 2018. Earlier in 2019, around four dozen congressional staff enjoyed a luxury retreat sponsored by Center Forward while hearing from industry groups that oppose a public Medicare option or a transition to a single-payer system, which could save trillions in public and private spending over a decade.}

William_Mary 8 Sep 19
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