Josh Trevino: A Chat with the Prominent Texan Conservative Voice Outed as Malaysian Agent

Categories: Texas

We chat with Josh Treviño.
After the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989, Western agents began probing the documents long squirreled away in Soviet-satellite archives. Among the documents unearthed following Prime Minister Eric Honecker's democratic decisions was a money trail circling an Australian journalist named Wilfred Burchett.

To those long critical of Burchett, who had died a half-dozen years prior to the Wall's fall, the documents proved what had long been accused. Warm with Hanoi, sympathetic with the communists within his home nation, and over-eager to expose America's purported "germ warfare" within the Korean War, Burchett had earned a special place of ire from Western nationals. To some, the one-sidedness of his reporting pointed in one clear, anti-American direction.

Burchett, however, had long denied any financial incentives for his invectives. He was just reporting. He was just conveying what the West didn't want you to know.

And then, in Berlin, these communist-era documents came to light. "They went through all the files, and it was revealed that Burchett had been in the pay of East Germany," University of Houston communications professor Garth Jowett told Hair Balls. "This is one of the classic examples of being paid [off] by a foreign government, and of this type of propaganda."

Jowett, an expert in propagandism, felt it necessary to convey Burchett's tale -- a prominent, putatively objective voice caught in the coffers of a foreign nation -- not because of an anniversary or upcoming lecture, but because it's the first one that came to mind when he heard Joshua Treviño's name. It's the first thing that popped into Jowett's mind when a story broke late last week here in Texas, blurring lines of both journalism and patriotism in one effective drop.

For those who haven't followed, BuzzFeed reported last week on the financial career of Joshua Treviño , the current vice president of communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. According to reporter Rosie Gray, Treviño had received a steady stream of nearly $400,000 between May 2008 and April 2011 from the Malaysian government. Additionally, he shuttled smaller sums to a series of conservative writers during that time-frame. (The TPPF is one of the more prominent right-wing lobbying organizations within the state, and has yet to offer a statement on Treviño's current status with the organization.)

While these sums, on their face, carry nothing unethical, Treviño 's work during this time-frame casts a questioning light on his actions and stances.

Among his other activities during this time-span, Treviño wrote multiple columns denouncing democratic opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, including a defense of the sodomy charges leveled against Ibrahim by the authoritarian government in Kuala Lumpur. (Certain of these columns, such as the sodomy-charge one that appeared on the Huffington Post, have since been removed due to editorial decision.)

Moreover, the funds funneled through Treviño , the co-founder of, ended up with a cast of conservative writers submitting sympathetic columns and articles in a series of right-leaning outlets across the nation:

The payments to conservative American opinion writers [helped fund] work ... in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState.

The payments came to light through a belatedly filed Foreign Agents Registration Act, in which Treviño filed receipt for $389,724.70. According to Treviño, a "lawyer friend" initially determined that Treviño would not needed a FARA form for his income, leading to a years-long delay in its filing.

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Krugman had a good blog piece that mentions Trevino, and then jumps to make the larger point that the Malaysian gov't was able to look at the US Polit landscape and judge that they could throw some money at the conservative Heritage Foundation, thereby gaining their support, when previously they'd been opposed to the gov't and its abuses.

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