Shorter Taxpayer’s Alliance


2:41 pm - August 4th 2009

by Don Paskini    


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Shorter Taxpayer’s Alliance report on political lobbying:

1. Taxpayer funding of lobbying and political campaigning should be entirely abolished, building on the example set by the Byrd Amendment in the United States.

2. Full transparency of all public spending should be implemented, to reassure taxpayers that none of their money is being diverted by stealth.

3. Lobbying and campaigning groups which claim to represent taxpayers should have to reveal who their funders are.

4. Campaigning by Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association distorts the public policy process in favour of the interests and perspectives of a narrow political elite. Corporate lobbying and PR represents an actual economic interest, employers and employees who will lose out if a decision doesn’t go their way. It may improve decision making by ensuring that political decisions better reflect a balance of economic costs.

Sunny adds: More embarrassing mistakes by the TPA uncovered. Mick Fealty rightly asks:

…how did a pressure group (ie private lobbyists) get to be treated as a respectable, peer reviewed research institute by a whole swathe of the British press corps. Fairly embarrassing when the group did not bother to check the veracity of the information.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


Mick Fealty has already pointed out one mistake in the report. I wonder how many others there are:

I have to say i can’t agree with forcing civil society organisations – however disgusting – to reveal who gives them money.

3. Richard Gadsden

I don’t think money is private; it’s a public institution and shouldn’t be a secret.

If I had a way of publishing my bank statements that didn’t risk revealing information that would allow someone to ID fraud me, then they would be on the web already.

I know we (you) all hate the TPA – possibly because they sometimes have an impact – but why should my money be given to the NEF to tell me that Saudi Arabia and Burma are happier places than the UK?

And why should a private campaigning group be forced to reveal its backers, so long as those backers are themselves private?
(Though it might be better practice to do so.)
Judge them on the arguments – which you feel are weak enough anyway.

@3 – I have no idea what you are talking about.

but why should my money be given to the NEF to tell me that Saudi Arabia and Burma are happier places than the UK?

I find this among the most funniest bits of the TPA report. Firstly – are you saying the govt should not fund any external research at all?

Or that research should only be funded which we can all ideologically agree with?

That nef report measured countries by how much environmental impact they had. So the results aren’t surprising. That is one measurement – no doubt if they were measuring human rights then the results would be different.

To then try and use that as a stick is farcical.

“I find this among the most funniest bits of the TPA report. Firstly – are you saying the govt should not fund any external research at all?”

Nope! It is pretty much all waste: http://oxlib.blogspot.com/2009/05/myth-of-science-as-public-good.html

I think the main problem with the NEF report, was that the index was incredibly disengenuously marketed, to disguise the fact that the best way to improve the planet (according to their model) would be to kill loads of people and prevent those remaining from living free and prosperous lives.

“I don’t think money is private; it’s a public institution and shouldn’t be a secret.”

Thats ridiculous. How are we meant to buy recreational drugs if no transaction is private? Aren’t we meant to be “liberals” here!

4 – “And why should a private campaigning group be forced to reveal its backers, so long as those backers are themselves private?”

In order to enable a more informed public debate. As their own report argues, knowing who funds an organisation informs how people react to their ideas. For example, consider the difference in how people would respond to a report published by:

1. A “Taxpayers’ Alliance” which receives the vast majority of its funding from small donations from taxpayers across the UK.

2. A “Taxpayers’ Alliance” which receives the vast majority of its funding from a small number of large donations from wealthy people who also give large sums to the Conservative Party.

@5
That nef report measured countries by how much environmental impact they had. So the results aren’t surprising. That is one measurement – no doubt if they were measuring human rights then the results would be different.

The “Happy Planet Index” is described thus:
“The index combines environmental impact with human well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which, country by country, people live long and happy lives.”

Note the “human well-being” bit?

Bananas.

@8
I think they would be better off doing so, but it is not necessary in order to either agree with or argue with their facts and conclusions.
Your argument is essentially ad hominem.

10. Chris Baldwin

People pay attention to them because conservatives and “liberals” want to believe that we don’t need to pay taxes. So much nicer if you can convince yourself that Thatcherism (which many liberals believe in too) actually works for society as a whole and isn’t just a way of screwing over the workers for the benefit of the ruling class.

The TPA’s “reports” aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

It’s just a rent-a-quote agency the Daily Mail rings up whenever it wants to add an air of authority to it’s public sector bashing.

People pay attention to them because conservatives and “liberals” want to believe that we don’t need to pay taxes.

FFS who believes that?

The argument is how much the state should command – 30,40,50%?

13. Jim the Lurker

For number 9, It is worth pointing out (and i quote the TPA’s own PR):

The New Economics Foundation, which was paid £601,518 in 2007-08, is responsible for the Happy Planet Index, which places Saudi Arabia and Burma above the United Kingdom and Sweden in terms of “achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources”.

That makes it clear that whilst NEF do do the Happy Planet Index they are not paid to do it by the Government or any other public bodies. They are paid a good amount of cash by Regional Develoment Agencies to concoct other (possibly spurious) pieces of research but that is not one of them. (although the profits may be ploughed into such projects).

If i were being cynical i might suggest that the TPA were driven by ideology to paint NEF as ridiculous.

In my view NEF do do some cack (like most research outfits, consultants and think tanks) but you can’t fault their work on Ghost town Britain and some other bits.

@7

Proving the maxim that Libertarians are simply pothead Tories… 😉

Your argument is essentially ad hominem.

…which there’s nothing inherently wrong with:

If your background suggests strong and unreasoned partisanship for a particular cause, then it’s more reasonable for me to doubt the factual underpinnings of your case (clearly, not the logic of whether your conclusions flow through your premises) than for an impartial observer.

This applies both for the TPA and for the government-funded thinktanks, clearly.

Fair point.
Which is why I think it would be better for the TPA to reveal their backers.

People pay attention to them because conservatives and “liberals” want to believe that we don’t need to pay taxes.

It’s more liberals and lefties who want to bend over backwards to give the impression they’re “balanced”, even if to take thinly veiled lobbying from a privately funded group.

It’s more liberals and lefties who want to bend over backwards to give the impression they’re “balanced”, even if to take thinly veiled lobbying from a privately funded group.

Nail, head, hit!

I’ve done a summation of this ‘research’ here: http://url.ie/267x. Whatever the argument for and against tax payers funding external consultancies, this research is completely shot. Fair play for getting it past the MSM’s dodgy ‘watchdogs’…

Maybe next time some of them will be awake…

20. Charlieman

@4 cjcjc: “And why should a private campaigning group be forced to reveal its backers, so long as those backers are themselves private?”

1. In the UK, we have laws that control expenditure on political campaigning. There are clear limits on constituency expenditure by the local party and less clear limits for associates.

2. We have laws that allegedly prevent non-UK nationals from funding political parties. That’s parties, not lobbying groups.

3. TPA is a partisan organisation. They may criticise Conservative councils occasionally, but their anti-liberal, anti-left agenda is clear.

Given point 2, it is imperative that lobbying groups are as transparent about their funding as political parties. The TPA’s omnipresence is more significant than their partisanship. Is the TPA a mechanism for foreigners to meddle in UK politics? Are there questions to raise with the Electoral Commission about the TPA’s conduct?

Is the moon made of green cheese?

Answers after the break…

@ 6 “Nope! It is pretty much all waste: http://oxlib.blogspot.com/2009/05/myth-of-science-as-public-good.html

Haha. Oxlib. Libertarianism. Yuck.

@ 11: “It’s just a rent-a-quote agency the Daily Mail rings up whenever it wants to add an air of authority to it’s public sector bashing.”

But it’s not just the Daily Mail. *all* the major media outlets go to the TPA for quotes. They claim to get 13 media hits *a day*. They are on the 6 O’Clock news all the time.

This is part of the problem: a pressure group which doesn’t disclose its funding and doesn’t publish full accounts gets treated like a representative body and given repeated national broadcasting opportunities. Visit The Other Taxpayers’ Alliance website for more.

cjcjc @ 12: “People pay attention to them because conservatives and “liberals” want to believe that we don’t need to pay taxes.

FFS who believes that?”

Libertarians. Also known as the cancer of society.

(And the person you quote who equates liberal with libertarian is making a terminology mistake, obviously)

And why should a private campaigning group be forced to reveal its backers

Well, they can’t be “forced”, but it might be helpful if they stopped calling themselves by a name which is manifestly designed to give a false impression of who they are. (A better one would be “a few people most of whom used to be in the Imperial College Conservative Association, or attached to Westminster Conservatives, or both”.)

But giving a false impression is what these people do – they’re not actually producing proper reports designed to make a contribution to discussion, they’re producing instant “report” after instant “report” in order to make ideological hay, to create an impression in the public mind through making the same point over and over again in much the same way that tabloid newspapers do with, say, welfare claimants and immigrants.

But Don’s point is a good and obvious one – they’re in the not uncommon business of demanding loudly and righteously that public bodies adhere to a certain set of standards while insisting that they and other private bodies have no such obligation. When people take it on themselves to aggressively deploy double standards, you’re dealing with people who are manifestly unscrupulous. That’s Matthew Sinclair and his chums. Whoever they may be.

Political campaigning by publicly-funded groups is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spending on lobbying. The budgets of Alcohol Concern or The Campaign for Better Transport (both receive public grants) are dwarfed by the vast amounts spent by the alcohol and car industry on influencing government. That the public currently has no way of knowing how much is spent by private interests to lobby politicians for contracts, grants and changes to public policy is the real scandal. The whole of the influence industry needs exposing

The budgets of Alcohol Concern or The Campaign for Better Transport (both receive public grants) are dwarfed by the vast amounts spent by the alcohol and car industry on influencing government.

A good point made in other circumstances by Morgan Spurlock, as I recall.

I still remain unsure as to why the government should pay lobbying groups – however worthwhile – to lobby them back?

I’m sure the power of private lobbying groups needs attention – although, as Chris Dillow has pointed out, when you have a large and powerful state able to tilt the playing field, vested interests will always spend money to have it tilted in their direction.

27. Matt Munro

“So much nicer if you can convince yourself that Thatcherism (which many liberals believe in too) actually works for society as a whole and isn’t just a way of screwing over the workers for the benefit of the ruling class.”

Er, as opposed to giving the workers money to a load of corrupt bankers and shafting the public finances for a generation in the process ?

Thatcherism was far more liberal (in the true rather than LC sense) than nu labour have ever been.

Yes, I remember Thatcher’s liberalism on gay rights, immigration, drugs policy and so on. Legendary it was.

“cjcjc @ 12: “People pay attention to them because conservatives and “liberals” want to believe that we don’t need to pay taxes.

FFS who believes that?”

Libertarians. Also known as the cancer of society.”

Paul you are incorrect and I suspect you know that. Anarchists believe that there should be no government. Most Libertarians are minarchists therefore they believe that some taxation is necessary, just not the vast amount taken at the moment.

30. Planeshift

Its also worth pointing out that voluntary sector groups recieving money for providing public services (something thatcherites are supposed to support) can’t use that money for political work as it is ring fenced – such lobbying is usually financed through other means.

31. Planeshift

“Er, as opposed to giving the workers money to a load of corrupt bankers and shafting the public finances for a generation in the process ?”

Thatcher and the conservatives would have done exactly the same thing.


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    : Shorter Taxpayer’s Alliance http://bit.ly/LZQKr





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