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The Great NPR Bank Controversy of 2012

Radio Microphone
Radio Microphone

NPR’s Planet Money and the show's host Adam Davidson came under fire recently from Yasha Levine and Mark Ames, who run an outfit called The S.H.A.M.E. Media Transparency Project.

Levine and Ames criticize Planet Money and Davidson for, among other things, accepting the sponsorship of Ally Bank. They say this creates a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting about things like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. You can read their case here. Foster Kamer of the New York Observer has a good summary here.

The cable television news network Russia Today invited Kamer on to discuss the controversy. Awkwardly, the program began with a word from the sponsor: Ally Bank .

Here's the video:

NPR, I should note, says the above RT video and the Ames-Levine story are inaccurate. "NPR receives support from a vast portfolio of corporate sponsors, philanthropists and foundations. There is a very strict and effective firewall between those who support us and NPR's journalism. All parties understand this principle. Sponsor relations are managed and handled independently of NPR's journalists," NPR says.

(This post seems like one that calls out for my own personal extensive disclosure statement:
-I was a huge fan of the eXile, the paper founded by Mark Ames and [current Rolling Stone writer] Matt Taibbi when they lived in Russia.
-I met Ames for drinks at The Scratcher in Manhattan's East Village once; we got along well. I think I lost his contact info. Call me, maybe, Mark?
-I've been a critic of the CFPB but I like Elizabeth Warren.
-I've known Kamer for years and years and consider him a close friend.
-I've never appeared on Russia Today.
-I'm a regular guest on Marketplace Radio, which is produced by American Public Radio — which is not the same thing as NPR at all.
-When I was a corporate attorney, I frequently represented banks.
-I keep my savings in a bank account, although not Ally Bank.
-My grandfather fought for the Allies in World War II but that is unrelated to Ally bank.
-My niece is named Ally, but that is short for Alethea and we pronounce it differently.)

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