InfluenceWatch Podcast

The podcast where we go beneath the surface to reveal the web of connected influence, money, and motivation driving the news.

About the show

The podcast where we go beneath the surface to reveal the web of connected influence, money, and motivation driving the news, sourced primarily from our website, the Capital Research Center's online encyclopedia of the donors, non-profits, and influencers driving politics.

You can watch the video version of the podcast at:

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  • Episode 240: California's Union Payoff

    October 14th, 2022  |  20 mins 15 secs

    Since the Supreme Court decided the Janus v. AFSCME case and held that forcing government workers to pay union fees was an unconstitutional infringement of their free speech rights, union-aligned governments have come up with some creative approaches to supporting their government worker union allies. California hasn’t even bothered with creativity: The state’s ruling Democrats enacted legislation to simply pay unions directly with $400 million in taxpayer money. Joining me to discuss this latest case of California becoming what I’ve called Big Labor’s Golden State is Rachel Greszler, research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements at the Heritage Foundation.

  • Episode 239: Socializing Broadband

    October 7th, 2022  |  20 mins 32 secs

    Expanding access to high-speed internet: It’s a trendy cause that the COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures made urgent. And when government acts with urgency, bad ideas proliferate; in broadband, the bad idea is municipal government control of the broadband network. Joining me to discuss the drawbacks and problems with this approach are my colleague Parker Thayer and Jarrett Skorup of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

  • Episode 237: A Family Fights the EPA

    September 26th, 2022  |  23 mins 57 secs

    “Who decides? Congress or the executive?” is a key question underlying many prominent legal interpretation disputes. One such dispute, over defining “waters of the United States,” has trapped one family that sought to build a home on their Idaho property in limbo for over a decade—and two trips to the Supreme Court. Joining me to discuss Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency and the other work performed by his firm is Pacific Legal Foundation Vice President for Legal Affairs James S. Burling.

  • Episode 236: The PragerU Action Guide

    September 16th, 2022  |  21 mins 22 secs

    These days, amid debates over critical race theory and radical gender theory in school curriculums as early as elementary school, parents might be wondering what alternative resources might be available to them. Joining me is Jill Simonian, Director of Outreach for PragerU Resources for Educators & Parents and PragerU Kids, to discuss some of PragerU’s resources.

  • Episode 235: The Thesis That Drove American Politics Crazy

    September 9th, 2022  |  32 mins 38 secs

    In 2002, President George W. Bush stood astride the post–September 11 political world and Republicans looked poised to do the unthinkable and strengthen their positions in Congress in a midterm year. Yet liberal scholars John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published a provocative thesis: A new Democratic majority would “emerge” by the end of the decade. Traditional middle-class and working-class Democrats would be joined by growing ethnic minority populations, especially Asians and Hispanics; by working, single, and highly educated women voters; and by a growing share of the professional class, paving the way for a new majority. After President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, the thesis seemed airtight and its guidance likely to live long after the decadal horizon its authors had adopted. Except, just after the majority “emerged,” it started to crack. Then came Donald Trump.

  • Episode 234: Education Exodus

    September 2nd, 2022  |  24 mins 47 secs

    Today’s guest is not the only person to have left California for Florida in the past few years. Kali Fontanilla left her teaching job in Monterey County after her school district pushed critical race theory and aligned ideologies and now runs the Exodus Institute, a homeschooling group based in Florida. She joins us to tell her story and discuss how education got to the present moment.

  • Episode 233: Who is Barre Seid?

    August 26th, 2022  |  26 mins 14 secs

    This week, the New York Times reported that a “little-known donor” — industrialist Barre Seid — had given a $1.6 billion “windfall” to a new conservative group known as Marble Freedom Trust in the network of Leonard Leo, the conservative activist most notable for his involvement in the Federalist Society and support for the judicial selections of former President Donald Trump. The Times made much of the fact that the gift exceeded the combined spending of 15 “politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats” in 2020 while Leo asserted that “It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjorg Wyss, Arabella Advisors, and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals.” So what does this contribution actually portend? Joining me to disscuss that question is Capital Research Center president Scott Walter.

  • Episode 232: Know Your Rights: Labor Unions

    August 19th, 2022  |  20 mins 8 secs

    We’ve discussed government worker unions and their left-wing politics on the podcast before, but what can workers do to protect themselves against union activities they disagree with? Americans for Fair Treatment is helping educate public sector employees about their constitutional rights around union membership. Joining me to discuss some recent government worker union abuses and Americans for Fair Treatment’s work is AFFT’s CEO, David Osborne.

  • Episode 231: Bad Apples: Cultivars of FBI Corruption

    August 12th, 2022  |  33 mins 5 secs

    This week, FBI agents conducted a search at the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump. We’ll leave it to others to speculate on the justifications, causes, and ramifications of the unprecedented law enforcement action, but should the historical record of the FBI itself provide a cause for increased scrutiny or increased trust in the propriety of the search? Joining me to discuss the FBI’s complicated history is my colleague Ken Braun, who recently wrote a history of the “G-Men” for InfluenceWatch and

  • Episode 230: The Dictatorship of Woke Investing: ESG

    August 5th, 2022  |  19 mins 40 secs

    We’ve discussed “woke capital” on the podcast before with author Stephen Soukup and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy. But now we turn to a related topic: Environmental, Social, and Governance — "ESG” – investing. ESG strategies adopted by fund managers—perhaps most notably BlackRock—can place left-of-center social policy goals as equal considerations with investors’ returns in investing decisions. Making matters worse, some state pension funds are following ESG strategies that would leave taxpayers on the hook if trendy liberal activism cost the funds the returns they need to pay their obligations. Other states—most notably West Virginia and Florida—are taking action to prevent their state funds from engaging in ESG investing. Joining me to make sense of it all and to explore what can be done about it is Lee Schalk, Vice President of Policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

  • Episode 229: Agency with Ian Rowe

    July 29th, 2022  |  26 mins 41 secs

    We’ve heard a great deal lately about education in America, from discussions about school choice post-COVID restrictions to whether or not curriculum is being developed that helps children learn to succeed at something more than simply activism. Our guest today has a keen interest in all these issues and has written a book called, “Agency: The Four Point Plan (F.R.E.E.) for All Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover Their Pathway to Power” (Templeton Press, 2022). The book lays out strategies to help children learn more about what they accomplish rather than what holds them back. Please welcome to the Influence Watch podcast Ian V. Rowe, Senior Fellow at AEI and Senor Visiting Fellow at The Woodson Center, as well as founder and CEO of Vertex Partnership Academies, a nonprofit charter school management organization.

  • Episode 228: The National Lawyers Guild

    July 22nd, 2022  |  19 mins 54 secs

    Who are the “Legal Observers” in green caps and vests who appear whenever the Left is engaged in a public demonstration? They are probably members of the National Lawyers Guild, a radical-left association of attorneys, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers. Joining me to discuss the NLG is my colleague Robert Stilson, who recently wrote an in-depth history of the group for InfluenceWatch and

  • Episode 227: Why Does Labor Care About Abortion?

    July 15th, 2022  |  25 mins 21 secs

    Were any liberal organization not to weigh in on a Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that invented a nationwide right to abortion, one might expect organized labor—ostensibly dedicated to improving workers’ wages and working conditions—to be that abstaining faction. If one expected that, one would have been wrong; Big Labor, in keeping with a longstanding practice of “social justice unionism” that sees it advocating not only for abortion access but for a broad left-wing social agenda, condemned the Dobbs ruling, placing it in an incongruous alliance with “woke” corporations now vowing that they will offer access to abortions as employment benefits. Joining me to discuss organized labor’s relationship with woke capitalism and social justice unionism is James Sherk, the director of the Center for American Freedom at the America First Policy Institute.

  • Episode 226: The Omidyar Nexus

    July 8th, 2022  |  17 mins 4 secs

    You know Soros and Steyer, Buffett and Bloomberg, but you may not be familiar with one of the most important left-of-center billionaires of all: Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. Through vehicles such as the Democracy Fund and its affiliated “social welfare” Democracy Fund Voice, Omidyar supports left-of-center and anti-populist causes to the tune of millions of dollars per year that are increasingly in alignment with the Democratic Party. Joining me to discuss Omidyar and his advocacy philanthropy is my Capital Research Center colleague Hayden Ludwig, who has written a five-part series for on Omidyar’s Political Machine.

  • Episode 225: What is the Taft-Hartley Act?

    July 1st, 2022  |  21 mins 55 secs

    Seventy-five years ago last week, the U.S. Congress overrode Harry Truman’s veto and enacted the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, better known as the Taft-Hartley Act. The law corrected imbalances of power among individual employees, employers, and labor unions that had emerged after the passage of the original Wagner Act in 1935 that had culminated in the largest strike wave in American history from 1945 through 1946. The law restricted “secondary” boycotts and strikes targeting “neutral” businesses, authorized the National Labor Relations Board to hold unions accountable for unfair labor practices, and explicitly recognized states’ powers to enact “right to work” laws that prohibit contract provisions requiring payment of union fees as a condition of employment. Joining me to celebrate the legacy of the Taft-Hartley Act and discuss where labor policy might be headed in the future is Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

  • Episode 224: What is Jane's Revenge?

    June 24th, 2022  |  18 mins 10 secs

    Since the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade, a wave of vandalism and arson has hit pro-life advocacy groups and crisis pregnancy centers that promote alternatives to abortion. Claiming responsibility for the attacks is a collective calling itself “Jane’s Revenge.” Joining us to discuss who, or what, Jane’s Revenge might actually be is Kevin Jones, a reporter for Catholic News Agency.