Who's Behind WorldNetDaily?
WND's board of directors has been mostly comprised of California conservatives -- plus a man on the lam for tax evasion.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily has been notoriously close-lipped about who its backers are. Back in 2002, ConWebWatch asked WND founder and editor Joseph Farah who owns his company and who put up the $4.5 million in startup money for it; he answered the first question (he and the Western Journalism Center he co-founded own a majority of it) but not the second.
In the face of Farah and WND refusing to offer a straight answer, we set off to find one. A ConWebWatch investigation of Delaware corporate records (WND is registered as a Delaware corporation) shows that the members of WND's board of directors -- many of whom have presumably kicked in money for the operation -- are, in contrast to Richard Mellon Scaife's backing of NewsMax, not household names; they are mostly California-based activists who quietly support conservative causes.
Robert Beale's tax problems came to a head in August 2006, when he failed to appear for his trial on federal tax-evasion charges. He hasn't been heard from since.
In addition to his investment in WND, as a Minneapolis Star Tribune article noted, Beale was a Minnesota delegate to the Republican National Convention in the 1980s, and contributed more than $10,000 to Republican candidates in the 1990s. He founded the Minnesota Christian Coalition, which is affiliated with the Christian Coalition of America.
Others who have served on WND's board have kept a much lower profile.
The most notable of these is Richard Botkin, a California stockbroker who has been on WND's board since its spinoff from the Western Journalism Center as a for-profit company in 1999. WND has noted Botkin's membership on its board in a handful of articles he wrote for the website on mostly non-political subjects, such as a Christian ministry to Cambodia and military-related issues (Botkin is a former Marine).
Botkin, along with Farah, was an original member of the advisory board for the 2004 magazine revival of the Sacramento Union, the newspaper where Farah served as editor in the early 1990s, losing circulation as he tried to pull it in a more conservative direction. (Botkin and Farah left the advisory board shortly before Jim Smith -- Farah's publisher friend and Western Journalism Center co-founder, as well as a current WND board member -- lost control of the publication in 2005.) Conservative radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt considers Botkin a "friend."
Wayne C. Johnson has, like Botkin, been on WND's board since its inception. He's a California political consultant working largely on conservative candidates and issues. He is currently president of the American Association of Political Consultants.
(Update: Johnson is also a longtime member of the board of directors of the Chalcedon Foundation, the far-right group founded by R.J. Rushdoony that advocates the idea of Christian reconstructionism -- a philosophy that aims to remake the world from a biblical worldview. ConWebWatch has previously noted that Farah holds reconstructionist views, such as opposition to public education in favor of homeschooling and approval of the death penalty for moral crimes such as adultery.)
Another WND board member, in 1999 and 2000, was Californian Abe Siemens. A search of the Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets political donor database reveals that Siemens has donated to numerous right-wing politicians and causes, including Howard Phillips, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, its successor the Constitution Party, Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, Howard Kaloogian, and the Gary Bauer-led Campaign for Working Families. (Update 7/12/2008: Siemens is also a longtime donor to the Media Research Center, listed as an "associate" in the MRC's 2007 annual report.)
William Creedon, a securities executive, served on the WND board from 1999 to 2001. He has donated to Republican candidates and (like Farah) has been a member of the Council on National Policy, a secretive gathering of conservatives.
As of the 2005 tax year (the most recent year for which Delaware has records), the WND board of directors consists of Farah; Botkin; Smith; Bob Evans, head of the Fiber Internet Center of Palo Alto, Calif., which provides WND with co-location and ISP services (the company's website features a testimonial from WND managing editor David Kupelian); and James A. Clark II of Elk Grove, Calif.
There, that wasn't so hard. For a company in the business of delivering information to its readers, WND certainly had no intention of making information about itself easy to find.