Cashing In on Harvesting Cash?

July 11, 2007

WASHINGTON (July 11, 2007)—The German Marshall Fund put out a press release on May 3 that proudly proclaimed, “Dan Morgan, former staff writer for the Washington Post, has joined the organization as a Transatlantic Fellow.”1

Morgan was quickly listed on the German Marshall Fund’s website as an ag policy expert2; he started writing a column titled “Analysis from Washington,” for farmpolicy.com, a blog supported by the German Marshall Fund3; he traveled overseas with the organization to explore European agriculture4; and he led a group-sponsored event on “Globalization and Farm Policy Reform.”5

None of this would seem suspicious, except that Morgan continues to simultaneously report for the Washington Post. Since the May 3 press release, his byline has been attached to at least four articles about agriculture and the U.S. farm bill.6

Moreover, while those articles list Morgan as a Washington Post staff writer, none note the fact that Morgan is also a fellow with the German Marshall Fund, a public policy group that is openly critical of existing U.S. farm policies.

The German Marshall Fund has even included some of these Post news articles on its site under the Publications section.7

The most recent article listed on the site, A Slow Demise in the Delta, could be construed as a double dip for the organization. In that article, Morgan quotes another German Marshall Fund fellow, Charles Fluharty, even though Fluharty was not identified as being associated with the German Marshall Fund either.8

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, Morgan’s dual relationship with the newspaper and an advocacy group could arguably be an issue.

That code says that journalists should, “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” “disclose unavoidable conflicts,” and “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatments, and shun secondary employment.”9

Some within the agricultural community have taken exception to Morgan’s Harvesting Cash series, calling it “cynical, misleading, inaccurate, contradictory, misplaced, and the product of ulterior motives.”10

Whether or not Morgan receives compensation or funding—direct or indirect—from the German Marshall Fund is unknown.

1http://www.gmfus.org/press/article.cfm?id=111&parent_type=R
2http://www.gmfus.org/fellowships/fellow.cfm?id=3329
3http://www.farmpolicy.com/?cat=29
4http://www.farmpolicy.com/?cat=29
5http://www.gmfus.org/event/detail.cfm?id=401&parent_type=E
66/20/07, 6/20/07, 6/8/07, 5/4/07
7http://www.gmfus.org/publications/index.cfm
8http://www.gmfus.org/publications/article.cfm?id=322&parent_type=P
9http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
10http://fpf.wpengine.com/rural_headlines.cfm