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Democratic U.S. Representative Karen Bass at a Get Out The Vote rally for 2016 Hillary Clinton in Leimert Park Village Plaza a day before the California Primary. (Photo: Joseph Sohm, Shutterstock)

NED, Karen Bass, and the World

LA Mayor Served on Board of Notorious NGO National Endowment for Democracy

By Thomas Buckley, March 4, 2023 9:00 am

Before becoming Los Angeles’ 43rd Mayor, Karen Bass served in the United States Congress.  During part of that time, she also served on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy, one of the more controversial “non-governmental organizations” in the world.

While Bass was on the board, NED – using a small part of the $250 million or so it gets from the federal government to help spread democracy around the world – helped fund the Global Disinformation Index, another “NGO,” that, among other things, ranks American news websites on their “trustworthiness.”

Interestingly, the GDI rated NPR, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, ProPublica, and the New York Times – all liberal sites –  as among the most trustworthy news organizations while rating conservative sites like the New York Post, the Federalist, and even Real Clear Politics (a true head-scratcher as it typically runs two stories on a topic, one from each side of the discussion) as untrustworthy.

The GDI also goes beyond mere rankings and actively attempts to demonetize sites that it feels are problematic, in part by sending advertisers a “dynamic exclusion list” listing the putatively untrustworthy sites that should get their ad money.

While NED, after an investigation by the Washington Examiner,  announced about a week ago that it would no longer funnel tax dollars to a group directly involved in influencing the American media landscape, funds were provided to GDI while Bass was vice-chair of NED’s board.

Mayor Bass’s office did not respond to multiple calls and emails asking for comment.

Since its founding, NED has been a lightning rod for criticism from both the left and the right, which is unsurprising as its founding president, Carl Gershman, has been quoted as explaining its creation in the early 1980s as sparked by the fact that “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the 1960s and that’s why it has been discontinued.”

Others have stated that NED currently does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly.

Now, many on the right see NED as exporting a corrosive form of “social/global” democracy while the many on the left believe (or at least believed until recently) it improperly meddles in the internal affairs of other countries.

For example, NED, which has been highly critical of Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, is linked to a group called Action for Democracy (AFD) which, according to the man who ran the opposition to Orbán in last year’s election, provided the opposition with at least $4.4 million, a violation of Hungarian law.

A spokesperson for NED (more on that later) stated categorically that the group “does not work with Action for Democracy in any way, shape or form.”

While that may be technically correct, it did not stop NED’s “Journal for Democracy” from publishing this anti-Orbán piece , nor did it prevent it from praising AFD’s actions in its “Democracy Digest.”

Orbán is a polarizing figure himself, with his supporters saying he is trying to do what is best for Hungary – Hungary First, if you will – while his detractors accuse him of shifting the country from democracy to autocracy.

California’s Lt. Governor, Eleni Kounalakis, was the Ambassador to Hungary under President Obama and is listed as a member of AFD’s advisory council.

The concept of a former Ambassador to a country openly supporting an effort to unseat that same country’s president raises significant ethical issues – the Lieutenant Governor’s office did not respond to multiple calls and emails asking for comment.

The intermingling ties do not end there. Journalist Anne Applebaum of Atlantic magazine – which is currently owned by the widow of Steve Jobs – is a current member of the NED board (and served with Bass) and is listed as a member of the AFD’s advisory council.  She was also listed as a GDI advisor, but recently told Reason magazine that she is not and only interacted with the group a few years ago just as they were starting out.

Speaking of disinformation, it is true that Applebaum has in the past caustically attacked people that were not necessarily automatically buying the pandemic “truth” as put forward by the CDC, et.al.  In fact, when, in 2020,  Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton merely raised the possibility that COVID originated in a Chinese lab, she compared him to a Soviet propogandist “trying to convince the world the CIA invented AIDS.”

Applebaum, a loud proponent of “Russiagate,” seems to go out of her way to protect the DC insider/status quo machine, saying that while covering the actions of Donald Trump Jr. was appropriate, the Hunter Biden laptop scandal was “irrelevant” and that she didn’t find it “interesting.”

Applebaum said this at a disinformation conference last year.

It should be noted that attempts to contact Applebaum through Atlantic magazine were sadly unsuccessful, as it may have shed light on the ethical mystery that is why a reporter would be directly and intimately involved in such government and media organizations.

Applebaum was named by Prospect magazine as one of the top 50 thinkers in the age of COVID.  

Considering the recent releases of studies showing that masks didn’t work and that it is more than quite possible the virus did in fact originate in a lab in Wuhan, Prospect may want to take another look at that list.

As to the note above regarding NED commenting for this piece.  They did confirm that Bass was a board member and that she resigned when she became mayor. They did not explain how Bass – or anyone else for that matter – gets on the board in the first place other than to say it is essentially self-selecting.

The Globe did send the following AFD-specific questions to NED for comment and – save for the blanket denial of support – was met, after a short back and forth, with this – “I’m sorry, but we are a very small team and we don’t have the capacity to respond to questions from individuals who aren’t working for accredited media organizations.”

During this back and forth, NED spokesperson Leslie Aun emailed Globe editor Katy Grimes the following:

“Last week, we received an inquiry from a man named Thomas Buckley claiming to be a reporter from the California Globe. When I say “claiming,” I mean that he referenced the Globe in the subject line of his query to us, implying that he was working on something for your publication. I did a quick google search as I often do with reporters I don’t know, and learned he is a former journalist, local politician, and has a substack. But I could find no indication that he currently works for the Globe. I did let him know we are a very small team and are unable to support non-media requests.   Just wanted to reach out to make you aware of this.”

Grimes replied:

 “Thomas Buckley is a regular contributor to the California Globe and has been for several years. A quick Google search did indeed reveal this as the screenshot shows, linking you to his CA Globe Author profile and long list of articles. 

You may not have heard of California Globe but we are credentialed reporters, covering the California State Capitol and politics in California. If there is anything specific you are concerned about, please let me know. “

Aun replied:

“Dear Ms. Grimes

I wasn’t questioning the validity of your publication-on the contrary-was seeking to confirm that this gentleman was representing the Globe with his recent inquiry. Google showed him to be a *former* reporter. Can you confirm he is currently working on an article about NED for your publication?”

Grimes replied: 

“Mr. Buckley did let me know he contacted NED for an article he is writing, and you reported to him that you do not respond to “not accredited media.” Now that you know we are legitimate credentialed media, I hope you feel comfortable responding to Mr. Buckley.”

There was no further information forthcoming from Aun or NED as a whole. – Touched a nerve?

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7 thoughts on “NED, Karen Bass, and the World

  1. This is an interesting article about NED and LA Mayor Karen Bass’ involvement on NED’s board. She’s always been a radical leftist and she’s been a useful puppet for the left because of her race? It sounds like NED is involved in questionable activities that do not promote democracy?
    NED’s current and past leadership have questionable ties. Damon Wilson is NED’s current President and CEO. According to his profile in Wikipedia, he is a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, he previously worked for the State Department, he has an extensive history of meddling in the affairs of other countries, and he lives in Washington, D.C. with his husband. Carl Gershman was NED’s previous President and CEO and he used to be the Executive Director of the Social Democrats, USA.
    NED annually funds the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs which is associated with the Democratic Party. Why haven’t Republican lawmakers scrutinized NED and its activities because of this? Maybe because NED also annually allocates funds to the International Republican Institute which is affiliated with the Republican Party.
    In 2018, President Donald Trump proposed to slash the NED’s funding and cut its links to the Democratic and Republican Institutes.

    1. In May 2021, former NED President/CEO Carl Gershman was the subject of a hoax by Russian comedians Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, who convinced Gershman and other NED officials they were speaking remotely to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader. Gersham told them that NED “supports many, many groups and we have a very, very active program throughout the country”, and that NED had contact with the chief aide to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Gershman retired shortly after that incident in the summer of 2021.
      Damon Wilson, NED’s current President/CEO was also the former Executive VP of the Atlantic Council. Damon’s profile on the Atlantic Council website says the he fostered a new generation of leaders through his commitment to diversity and that his many contributions include “combatting disinformation.” According to his profile listed on the Truman Center, where he’s also is a Board Member, Damon has “defended global LGBT rights, hosting global leaders for Pride and launching several diversity and inclusion programs within the organization.”

      1. Thanks for adding the depth, TJ – I focused on censorship and election meddling because, well, elected officials particularly really shouldn’t be doing that (no one should, but you get the point) and those issues are rather timely.
        NED is the belly button of the deep state and i would encourage everyone to click on the links in the story (that is if you have an hour or two to spend getting sucked into an internet wormhole – click, bookmark, click, bookmark, click, oh my God!, bookmark, click, seriously?, bookmark and rinse and repeat)

  2. I also appreciated this fine investigative report on (L.A. Mayor) Karen Bass.
    I still have questions as to whether she was legitimately elected, given the problematic history of hi-jinks from current L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan against a well-informed and fed-up electorate who would have surely voted for the common-sense, get-it-done practicality and experience of opposing candidate Rick Caruso at a time of deep and multi-pronged crisis in City of L.A.
    That said, whatever political success Karen Bass as had thus far can likely be attributed to her rather cheerful and wholesome demeanor, which has belied her communist roots and affiliations. Marxist/communist-type candidates typically have trouble winning elections in the U.S. because they tend to be negative, grouchy, gravelly, and dour. Karen Bass’ generally sunny temperament makes her a more attractive commie candidate.
    But okay, what’s done is done, and the jury is still out on the possibility of Bass becoming a more effective L.A. Mayor than that feckless reprobate Eric “Yoga Pants” Garcetti. Not hard to do but we’ll see…

  3. It’s curious as to why NED would be so secretive about how board members are selected? Since NED’s current and former management seem to be aligned with the hard left as is Karen Bass, it would seem that would be one of the primary qualifications to be on NED’s board? A NED annual financial report from 2021 indicates that it receives an annual appropriation and other special funding from the U.S. Department of State (DOS). U.S. law generally regulates NGOs by requiring regular public disclosure – through filing of information returns with the government – of an organization’s funding, activities, and leadership. If NED is funded by taxpayers, then NED should provide information about its organizational structure and operations not only to members of the news media like Mr. Buckley from California Globe but also to members of the public?
    Here’s a link to NED’s 2021 annual report: (https://www.ned.org/annual-report/2021-annual-report-2/) and NED’s Annual Financial Report: ( https://www.ned.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/NED-FY21-Financial-Audit_Final-6.10.2022.pdf)

  4. “For example, NED, which has been highly critical of Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, is linked to a group called Action for Democracy (AFD) which, according to the man who ran the opposition to Orbán in last year’s election, provided the opposition with at least $4.4 million, a violation of Hungarian law.”

    Orban has been at odds with George Soros for years. The Hungarian President Orban kicked the Soros University out of Hungary. Here’s The Atlantic’s take on it: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/05/orban-european-union-soros/560480/

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