Study: Right-wing groups least transparent


by Newswire    
12:49 pm - June 21st 2012

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A survey by a new website launching today finds that right-wing think tanks and lobby groups are the least transparent on their funders.

The new project: Who Funds You? – asked 20 leading UK-based think tanks and political campaigns to disclose their major funders and rated them on the depth of their responses.

The website awarded six organisations its top “A” rating (Compass, IPPR, New Economics Foundation, Progress, Resolution Foundation, Social Market Foundation), while three received its lowest “E” rating (Adam Smith Institute, ResPublica, TaxPayers’ Alliance).

The full results are:

A – Compass, IPPR, NEF, Progress, Resolution Foundation, Social Market Foundation
B – Demos, Fabian Society, Policy Network, Reform
C – Centre Forum, Civitas, Smith Institute?
D – Centre for Policy Studies, Centre for Social Justice, Institute of Economic Affairs, Policy Exchange
E – Adam Smith Institute, ResPublica, TaxPayers’ Alliance

Who Funds You? is now inviting other think tanks and political campaigns with a strong public policy or research focus to disclose funders who give £5,000 or more in a single year.

It will give a funding transparency award to those that do, and encourages funders to favour such organisations.

As think tanks increasingly take an important role in formulating government policy, it is important for a strong democracy that they are open about their own agenda and where their funding comes from.

Who Funds You? co-founder Clifford Singer said:

It’s refreshing to see an increasing number of think tanks and campaigns taking funding ?transparency seriously.

Our aim is to encourage think tanks and campaigns to be more open, and we will review methodology and scoring regularly based upon changes they make. We are pleased that one of our trailing organisations, ResPublica, has already pledged to improve transparency, and hope that others will follow suit.

As organisations that exert influence on public life, it is right that we call think tanks to account and ask for this basic level of transparency.

Who Funds You? takes no editorial position beyond that of promoting funding transparency. It has so far received no funding, though may seek funding to expand in the future – which it will naturally disclose.

Details and a breakdown of the methodology is published on their website: http://whofundsyou.org/about/method

From a press release

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Reader comments


Coincidentally, those rankings are very similar to the amount of taxpayer and union money they recieve……

So Clifford Singer, who founded an anti-TPA group, founds a “transparency” organisation to rag on the TPA which releases a “study” which does so. How I guffawed.

“From a press release”

Not half, mate.

@1

Christ, what a lame spinner Tyler is. That’s more lame than a professor of lameness majoring in lame studies at the University of Lame.

But this is along the same lines as the spin applied by Messrs Staines + Cole at the Guido Fawkes blog, so should surprise nobody.

Quit bullshitting everyone about Trade Unions and Government grants and look at the question. All 20 of those groups were asked the same one.

The ones who declined to answer, or gave only partial information, were rated least transparent. They weren’t rated on who stumped up the cash.

So wittering on about whether their funding was from public, or union, or private donations is just another lame attempt to say “look over there”.

Those who want to buy influence, whatever part of the political spectrum they come from, should be accountable. That, Tyler, is the point, and no amount of lame and partisan spinning will stop it so being.

Rant over – as you were.

The most amusing part of #1 and the response of the ASI is that these are the same people who keep going on about public choice theory: http://declineofthelogos.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/public-choice-theory-the-asi-and-transparency/.

Quit bullshitting everyone about Trade Unions and Government grants and look at the question. All 20 of those groups were asked the same one.

The ones who declined to answer, or gave only partial information, were rated least transparent. They weren’t rated on who stumped up the cash.

Well it’s relevant isn’t it? Trade Union and Government money is public information – both bodies are obliged to disclose the grants they make. Private donations aren’t – indeed many private donations are made on the basis of anonymity. So if you have an institution that is largely funded by government grant of one type or another, and trade union money then it will, automatically, be transparent to that extent. By contrast an institution reliant on private donations may well be contractually unable to reveal its funding sources. It’s essentially an illustration of the private/public funding split.

@5

No, I still don’t want to look over there.

Anyone wanting to buy influence should be accountable. That is even more relevant when we don’t even know what country these groups get their funds from, or indeed what line of business the donors are in.

It’s kinda strange to think that the government funds entities who lobby the government. The government pays to lobby itself: your tax dolla hard at work. The self-licking ice-cream cone must be built!

Question is, who’s funding Who Funds You? Oh wait, it’ll just be one sad old man in his basement. No funding required. My bad!

Speaking of sad old men, it’s always amusing to see Fenton lose his extremely limited cool in the face of reality. #sticktothecurry,mate

9. Solomon Hughes

The suggestion that most of the right wing think tanks are funded by individuals, while the left wing ones are funded by unions & the public sector is simply not true: Policy Exchange and Res Publica , for example, are funded by the same big corporations as IPPR – as is completely clear to anyone who goes to their meetings and sees all the logos for G4S, or “Working Links” or whatever other firm is looking for a government contract and thinks paying a think tank for a meeting with a minister will help them. But IPPR are at least a bit more open about how much cash they get. Conversely, IPPR also get funds from one or two rich individuals who want to buy some place in the political process, just like some of the right wing think tanks.

10. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

So if you have an institution that is largely funded by government grant of one type or another,

Hundreds of billions in subsidies qualify as a ‘government grant’ in my book.

@ 3 Tim Fenton

Well done for totally missing the point.

Firstly, when it comes to smears, here you have a case where the reader is led to believe that some of these think-tanks are better or somehow more virtuous – the obvious insinuation that those think tanks on the right, which are privately funded by donations, are somehow doing something wrong or in hock to big business or some other casual lefty smear.

Let’s not forget, as pointed out by someone above, that this new website has been set up by someone with a known grudge against the TPA, and legally none of these organisations are obliged to say who funds them (though they are legally obliged to ensure that this funding is not coming from the proceeds of crime, and are required to file audited accounts).

So ultimately, in terms of the law, all the think tanks listed on that website are doing exactly what they are obliged to, and all are equally accountable….no matter what some clearly biased website might say.

Secondly, why should we taxpayers fund these think tanks? A lot of the think tanks on the left of the chart are either directly funding by taxpayer grants, or indirectly so by unions (who recieve massive taxpayer subsidies) or other bodies who recieve public funding. This was a New Labour construct to make sure there were plenty of suitably aligned pressure groups out there to support, promote or otherwise further their agenda whilst in power and attack the current government when out of power.

It’s also pretty much as anti-deomcratic as it comes – where is he taxpayers choice about who gets funding? It certainly isn’t accountable – quite the opposite. It’s nepotism, with the Labour government liberally throwing money at their allies to further their own objectives. I wonder how many of the people employed by these think tanks actively campaign or work for the Labour party….essentially paid for with public funds.

At least with privately donated funds think tanks like the TPA can campaign for whatever they see fit, which is fair enough, but people who disagree with them don’t end up financing them.

I do rather like that nef lists Network for Social Change as a donor, as part of their transparency, when Network for Social Change is, according to its own website “a group of individuals providing anonymous funding”.

How marvellously transparent!

13. Robin Levett

@Tyler #1 & 11:

I’m struggling to understand what your point is.

The thinktanks are being rated for transparency – on the extent to which they disclose their funding sources.

It is absolutely true that (i) some get their funding from transparent sources, and (ii) none is required by law to disclose its funding. It’s also true that there is no-one accountable for taxpayer funding apart from our elected representatives – so undemocratic.

But so what?

None of that changes the fact that the TPA won’t say who funds it (whether to this study or generally), whereas Compass provided details of all funding to the limits of the research.

To those who sweep accountability under the carpet…

Your not transparent if you have something to hide. If you do nothing wrong you have no need to hide.

Or are you seriously suggesting that ideology trumps reason and evidence? What if the donors to TPA for example are actually billionaires who domicile themselves in tax havens, who want YOU to pay a tenner for a loaf of bread, YOU to pay a tenner a mile on the road, YOU to pay a grand to even see a doctor, YOU to pay fifty grand a year school fees etc, just so they don’t have to pay any tax at all on the wealth YOU work hard to generate…

Why can’t we see who funds lobby groups privately, if those lobby groups want to influence government policies that affect both YOU and ME, come to think of it, ALL of us…

What gives them the right to impose their ideas upon us, when their very anonymity begats mistrust to begin with?

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Robin

“But so what?

None of that changes the fact that the TPA won’t say who funds it (whether to this study or generally), whereas Compass provided details of all funding to the limits of the research.”

Having read this far and thought that Tyler has a point… the effect he describes would skew the data in left-wing favour. If the TPA were required to disclose its funding sources and some lefty groups were not, the TPA would come off as super-transparent even if it would prefer not to be. That would not mean we could hold up the TPA as a paragon of transparency before which those left-wing groups should hang their heads in shame.

Of course, you can still say the TPA should be completely transparent. But I think the OP’s title is making an implicit claim about honesty, which Tyler’s point (if true) would debunk. One could just as easily assume that lefty groups would be just as cagey if they could get away with it.

If I pointed out that there was less street violence in community A than community B, then implied that people in community A must just be naturally peaceful, would you think it irrelevant that community A had 10 times as many CCTV cameras and 20 times as many cops walking the street when the pubs kicked out?

(Note I’m coming from a position of ignorance on the exact laws surrounding funding. If the basic facts behind Tyler’s point are simply wrong, please disregard.)


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Ian

    Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance and ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/b4kaAVVZ

  2. heather smart

    'WHO FUNDS YOU' Adam Smith Institute,TaxPayers'Alliance & ResPublica found 2 be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/JrmuhlG2 #skynews

  3. thats him!!

    'WHO FUNDS YOU' Adam Smith Institute,TaxPayers'Alliance & ResPublica found 2 be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/JrmuhlG2 #skynews

  4. TheCreativeCrip

    Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance and ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/b4kaAVVZ

  5. sean

    Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance and ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/b4kaAVVZ

  6. The Dragon Fairy

    Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance and ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/b4kaAVVZ

  7. Andrew Freeman

    RT @sunny_hundal: Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance & ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/7gf2LANk

  8. Peter Savage

    RT @sunny_hundal: Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance & ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/7gf2LANk

  9. Brian Tomkinson

    Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance and ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/b4kaAVVZ

  10. Harry Corlett

    Adam Smith Institute, TaxPayers' Alliance and ResPublica found to be least transparent lobby groups http://t.co/b4kaAVVZ

  11. Arun Mehta

    Study: Right-wing groups least transparent. http://t.co/jZs9waCj via @libcon





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