Not too long ago, we covered a story at The Daily Banter about a tranche of grant money distributed to several nonprofits by Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media. In case you’re just joining us, author Glenn Greenwald is the founding editor for First Look’s The Intercept, a news and commentary site geared around national security and civil liberties matters. It just so happens that the recipient of roughly 65 percent, or $350,000, of the first chunk of grant money went to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, for which Greenwald also happens to be a board member.
Later, the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Greenwald a glowing review for his latest book, No Place to Hide, but the EFF failed to disclose in the review that it received $100,000 from First Look Media.
Today, First Look Media announced that it’s newly formed Press Freedom Litigation Fund will provide grants…
…designed to strengthen the ability of journalists to pursue legal fights where a substantial public interest is at stake. Grants under the program can be used to fund challenges to government policies or actions that restrict press freedoms or denials of freedom of information act requests; motions to quash subpoenas seeking source information or journalistic material; defamation cases where the underlying report concerns a matter of public interest; access cases to closed proceedings or sealed documents; and amicus efforts in support of press freedom. There must be a substantial public benefit to any litigation receiving a grant.
Rather than “substantial public benefit,” it might be more appropriate to have written “substantial benefit to Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda.” It turns out that the first grant from this fund will be distributed to “support the appeal in the case of Miranda v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the UK Court of Appeal.”
Yes, Glenn Greenwald’s husband is the first recipient of the Press Freedom Litigation grant money.
Now, I hasten to note that it doesn’t appear to be illegal, but it absolutely seems nepotistic, a conflict of interest with hints of self-dealing. Should the beneficiaries of these grants, each one aiding a Greenwald associate, be taken as pure coincidence? Or, as it appears, are these grants explicitly directed to Greenwald associates because Greenwald, with his golden goose source, Edward Snowden, is the founding editor for First Look Media? One grant is perhaps a coincidence; a favorable book review from another grant recipient might’ve occurred anyway; but this third grant directed to Greenwald’s husband will serve as a significant financial benefit to Greenwald himself, without whom it’s arguable that First Look would even exist.
Again, the largest chunk of money provided by First Look has gone to both a nonprofit for which Greenwald is a board member, and the first grant from a newly established fund is going to Greenwald’s husband. It’s fair to ask: will First Look only offer grants to relatives of employees and related nonprofits?