News Item Archive - 1998

Sanctions Have an Impact on All of Us

The following comments are excerpted from a speech delivered on Capitol Hill on October 6th by Denis Halliday, former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, shortly after he resigned his post in protest over sanctions’ devastating impact on the Iraqi people.

“The impact of UN sanctions on Iraq takes many forms. We’ve focused on the appalling figures related to malnutrition in general and the death of children in particular, but there are other implications which are of consequence for today in Iraq and tomorrow in the long term, both for that region and possibly for the rest of the world.

Concerned international organizations have correctly focused on the plight of Iraq’s 23 million people, particularly its children. After eight years of sanctions, high levels of malnutrition and child morbidity and mortality continue. These victims are innocent civilians who had no part whatsoever in the decisions which led to the events that brought on United Nations sanctions in the first place.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed to me only ten days ago that the monthly rate of sanctions-related child mortality for children under five years of age is from five to six thousand per month. They believe this is an underestimate, since in rural parts of Iraq children are not registered at birth, and if they die within six weeks of birth, they are never registered.

There are many reasons for these tragic and unnecessary deaths, including the poor health of mothers, the breakdown of health services, the poor nutritional intake of both adults and young children and the high incidence of water-born diseases as a result of the collapse of Iraq’s water and sanitation system–and, of course, the lack of electric power to drive that system, both crippled by war damage following the 1991 Gulf War.

Many people have questioned the propriety of sustaining Security Council sanctions in the full knowledge of their devastating impact on the children of Iraq. Human rights violations in Iraq greatly trouble many of us. We see a tragic incompatibility between sanctions which are harming innocent children and people of Iraq and the United Nations charter, specifically the convention on human rights and the rights of the child. The incompatibility with the spirit and letter of the charter constitutes a tragedy for the United Nations itself, and severely threatens to undermine the UN’s credibility and legitimacy as a benign force for peace and human well-being throughout the world.

The first significant response to the human cost of sustaining the sanctions was the report of the Secretary General of February 1, 1998, in which Kofi Annan proposed increasing gross expenditures to 5.2 billion dollars per six months, which would have allowed us not only to purchase more food, but to enhance the food basket with animal proteins, minerals and vitamins, all of which are currently absent, and, in addition, to mount a multi-sectoral approach to malnutrition, which was heretofore not viable under 986. [We would have been able to invest] in the totality of needs by putting real money into the health sector for preventative care, and making massive investments in water and sanitation systems, enabling the people of Iraq to have access once again to potable water.

This dream of an enhanced program died almost immediately due to the collapse of oil prices. That’s clearly beyond the control of the United Nations, and now we’re left with a program which [only] marginally improves the UNSC Resolution 986 program, but allows the government to put some whole cream milk and cheese into the food basket beginning next month. It’s moving in the right direction–it’s just moving too slowly.

I would like to address the immediate and long-term social consequences of sanctions. It’s not generally reported, but sanctions have had a serious impact on the Iraqi extended family system. We’re seeing an increase in single-parent families, usually mothers struggling alone. There’s an increase in divorce. Many families have had to sell their homes, furniture and other possessions to put food on the table, resulting in homelessness. Many young people are resorting to prostitution.

The social impact of eight years of sanctions have devastated standards of traditional behavior, evidenced by the collapse of Islamic family values. Sanctions have undermined the children and parents’ mutual expectations of each other. Sanctions have forced the Iraqi people to live with humiliation. Again, the children are the hardest hit. Now they are forced to work to bring money into the family. There’s a school drop-out rate of some 20 to 30 percent. Children are now committing street crime, which was previously unheard of in Baghdad. The incidence of begging is now very common. The drop-out rate will lead to higher levels of illiteracy in a country formerly renowned for maintaining a high standard of education.

In general, there’s a sense of hopelessness and depression. I recently met with trade union leaders who asked me why the United Nations does not simply bomb the Iraqi people, and do it efficiently, rather than extending sanctions which kill Iraqis incrementally over a long period.

In summary, sanctions continue to malnourish and kill. Sanctions are undermining the cultural and educational recovery of Iraq, and will not change its system of governance. Sanctions encourage isolation, alienation and fanaticism. Sanctions destroy the family, undermining women’s social and economic advances and encouraging a brain-drain. Sanctions constitute a serious breach of the United Nations charter on human rights and children’s rights. Sanctions are a counter-productive, bankrupt concept that has led to unacceptable human suffering. And sanctions have an impact on all of us–not those only in Iraq, but those of us outside who need to work with and look forward to Iraq’s re-entry into the international community. I thank you very much, Congressmen.”

This will be published, along with accompanying articles in the next issue of Middle East Research, www.merip.org

Brookings: The Establishment’s Think Tank

“I want it implemented…. God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.” So railed President Richard Nixon (Abuse of Power, Stanley Kutler) to his aides about papers regarding the Vietnam War that he thought were at the Brookings Institution.

The documents the White House apparently wanted to get hold of allegedly showed that Johnson curtailed the bombing of Vietnam in 1968 to boost the Democrats’ election prospects. How things have changed: In the strange world of 25 years ago, stopping a bombing boosted a president’s standing, and Brookings could be at serious odds with a Republican administration.

To this day, Brookings is commonly, and inaccurately, dubbed “liberal” (e.g., Baltimore Sun, 8/9/98; Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/30/98; Dallas Morning News, 7/1/98; AP, 5/29/98). CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg even publicly chastised one of his colleagues for not tagging Brookings as “liberal” in his reporting (Wall Street Journal op-ed, 2/13/96). It’s called “centrist” almost as often, but never “conservative,” though that label would be more accurate than “liberal.”

In fact, much of Brookings’ top brass has come from Republican administrations. Its current president, Michael Armacost, was an undersecretary of state for the Reagan administration and ambassador to Japan under Bush. Brookings’ president from 1977 to 1995, Bruce MacLaury, spent most of his career in the Federal Reserve, with a stint in the Nixon Treasury Department.

As for Brookings’ most prominent analysts: Richard Haas, who heads the think tank’s foreign policy department, was a senior director at the National Security Council under Bush. Stephen Hess was a speech writer for Eisenhower, an advisor on urban affairs for Nixon and editor-in-chief of the Republican platform under Ford. Brookings has dubbed itself as the home of “fanatic moderates,” offering the “full spectrum of opinion from K to Q” (Brookings Review, Winter/97)–but, moving right, it’s becoming more like “M to V.”

The liberal tag for Brookings is itself a victory of right-wing think tanks. The conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) used the Brookings as a model–and its dubious “liberal” tag as a rallying cry for fundraising. Robert Roosa, Brookings’ chair from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, and a senior partner at the Wall Street firm Brown Brothers, Harriman and Co., resented AEI’s pitch: “AEI is selling against Brookings. They don’t have to do that–they have a role to fill,” he commented. “We do some things on the conservative side–and more so now.” (The American Establishment, Silk & Silk)

Brookings Vs. Brookings

Brookings, though hardly considered “hot,” is huge. It sometimes dominates media discussions so thoroughly that it can get more than one staffer into the same story. A Knight Ridder story on Clinton’s scandals (Cincinatti Enquirer, 8/30/98), for example, featured the insights of “Washington analyst Stephen Hess, who served three previous presidents” (“He has basically blown his sixth year, in large part because of the scandal”), as well as the analysis of “government scholar Thomas Mann” (who was convinced that “his ability to be influential in Congress is greatly diminished”). Despite the fact that both commentators are Brookings staffers, the think tank itself was never mentioned in the story. (The Richmond Times Dispatch–1/12/97–got the same two Brookings analysts into a story on Gingrich’s ethical troubles.)

Ironically, Hess made his mark at Brookings in the early ’80s by interviewing hundreds of journalists, finding that they were surprisingly conservative or apolitical. In the resulting book, The Washington Reporters, Hess concluded that reporters had a symbiotic relationship with the political establishment that tended to maintain the status quo.

This kind of centrism is so pervasive that it is frequently not recognized as ideology–indeed, it’s not even a word, according to the spellchecker I’m using. So it follows that the Washington Post does not bother identifying its columnist E.J. Dionne as a senior fellow at Brookings, although they ID James Glassman as “a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute,” a conservative think tank. (Of course, no one from any left-of-center think tank has a column at the Post.) Dionne has even quoted a colleague at Brookings without disclosing that they work at the same institute (Washington Post Magazine, 3/15/98).

It’s Your Money

Senior fellow Dionne places himself in the tradition of the turn-of-the-century progressive movement, “involving the careful but active use of government to temper markets and enhance individual opportunities.” Those are basically the roots of the think tank he works at, as well. Robert Brookings, a high school dropout who got his start as a clothespin salesman, came to be a very successful businessman, and promoted progressivism as a form of enlightened self-interest for the business class.

“You see how the government is spending the money it takes from you in taxes. What are you going to do about it?” he asked his fellow moguls (The Brookings Institution, Charles Saunders). “Do you want an intelligent treatment of the matters which lie closest to your personal interest? Or do you want things to go on in the haphazard fashion of the past? Do you want a log-rolling or a scientific tariff? Do you want pork-barrel bills or a budget?”

Robert Brookings helped establish three groups to promote such principles, which merged into the Brookings Institution in 1928. After Brookings’ death in 1932, his namesake veered right, opposing the New Deal. Coming out of World War II, these conservative leanings helped foster Republican support for the Marshall Plan, which the institute helped develop. By the 1960s, Brookings was linked to the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, backing Johnson’s Great Society and Keynesian economics.

The Brookings Institution’s influence on the operations of the federal government has been substantial. In the 1920s, Brookings was largely responsible for the creation of the federal budget. Prior to that, Congress had doled out money as requests came in. In the 1970s, Brookings pushed for the creation of the Congressional Budget Office, and then provided its first head, former senior fellow Alice Rivlin, now at the Fed (National Journal, 10/18/97).

This summer, Brookings teamed up with AEI to form the Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. Robert Hahn, the center’s director, said it aims to be a source of information all sides “can really trust.” Said Hahn, “the real purpose is to keep the regulators–and the legislators who regulate the regulators–on their toes.” (New York Times, 7/30/98) Don’t look for this center/right co-production to call for tighter scrutiny of big business.

“We Need a Strong Private Sector”

Meanwhile, Michael Malbin, a former associate director of the House Republican Conference now at Brookings, is a diehard foe of public campaign financing. He seems to identify with those who give large sums of money to politicians: He is deeply concerned about “unseemly pressures running from officeholders to citizens” (Roll Call, 9/6/97), but he seems less concerned about the pressures funders can exert on officeholders.

Senior fellow Henry Aaron has opposed the advocates of Social Security privatization at Heritage and Cato, while Thomas Mann, Brookings’ director of governmental studies, has steered a centrist course on campaign finance reform, occasionally teaming up with AEI’s Norman Ornstein on the Washington Post op-ed page. The duo recently defended the notion of campaign finance reform from the current ACLU “money equals free speech” position (Washington Post, 7/14/98)–but have called for an increase in the maximum legal political donation (“Reforming Campaign Finance,” paper, 5/7/97).

Mann–like Brookings in general–has an anti-democratic streak. He has bemoaned elections as “blunt instruments of democratic control,” sniffing that “relatively few citizens meet the highest standards of informed participation in the electoral process.” (National Journal, 7/22/95) After several anti-corporate ballot initiatives were defeated in 1996 under an avalanche of big money, Mann remarked (New York Times, 11/7/96) that “the public is less angry and less willing to identify with populism. There’s a certain sobriety out there–a new understanding that we need a strong private sector.”

Brookings has certainly benefited from a strong private sector; the corporate money behind Brookings reads like a who’s who of blue chip companies. A brief sampling of some 138 corporate supporters: Bell Atlantic, Citibank, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, NationsBank, Exxon, Chevron, Microsoft, HP, Toyota, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Dupont, Mobil and Lockheed Martin, and the foundations of companies like American Express, Travelers, AT&T, GM, ADM and McDonnell Douglas. A few media conglomerates, like Time Warner and the Washington Post Co., are among the donors. Corporations accounted for $3.3 million of Brookings $21 million budget in 1997, but this figure is misleadingly low: Brookings is blessed with a sizable endowment that takes care of almost one-third of its budget, and it receives hefty fees for conducting seminars for executives on how to maneuver in Washington.

Brookings also gets sizable contributions from individuals. The Brookings Council was founded in 1983 to spruce up funding; its “members are substantially engaged in the Institution’s research and programs through discussion groups which meet regularly in five chapter cities, one-on-one meetings with Brookings scholars, and research advisory committees.” Executives from Visa, Procter and Gamble, BankAmerica and U.S. Airways thus have multiple opportunities to share their concerns with Brookings’ detached scholars. Among the other luminaries giving money are insiders such as Vernon Jordan and Washington Post owner Katharine Graham.

“Objective and Dispassionate”

One of the biggest donors is Brookings chair James Johnson, who also heads up the Fannie Mae mortgage authority. He has worked for five failed Democratic presidential campaigns, but is still on top of political life in Washington. In addition to his generous bequests to Brookings, he has donated to Democrats and Republicans on the congressional banking committees, which doesn’t hurt the prospects of Fannie Mae’s continued federal subsidies (Washington Post, 3/27/98).

In the 1997 annual report Johnson writes that Brookings provides “objective and dispassionate research by respected scholars who are assured academic freedom and intellectual independence.” William Quandt, a noted scholar formerly at Brookings, told Extra! that “it was a remarkably supportive place, at least for senior scholars,” while he was there in the ’80s and ’90s but that “the new president and the director of foreign policy seem to be interested in a new agenda with the end of the Cold War…. Support for independent scholarship by big foundations has waned, so there’s a stress on narrow, short think pieces.”

Of course, scholars who peruse an overly independent course may simply be ignored by the major media. An in-depth study, “The World Bank: Its First Half Century,” produced jointly by the Bank and Brookings, which The Nation (3/23/98) found to be a “remarkably candid and balanced institutional history,” produced a hardly a whimper in the media earlier this year.

And while MSNBC and other networks might as well have a camera crew following Richard Haass around when things heat up somewhere, be it India or the Middle East, actual experts in those areas at Brookings have been mostly ignored by major media.

Brookings president Michael Armacost wants to cater to the gliterati culture and get someone like Haass, who is more ‘soundbite savvy’ and might be better able to get his face–and the Brookings name–on Nightline and such,” the Washington Post (6/21/96) noted just before Haass came on board. The day after the U.S. bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan, Haass was on Nightline (8/21/98), warning of “grand terrorism”–not a reference to the U.S.’s actions, but to the idea of a small group acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Haass not only took the place of some other guest who might have pointed out the illegality of the U.S. strike, he bemoaned that “we’ve yet to set up the institutions to maintain any semblance of international order,” and urged Americans to “think about our whole concept of civil liberties.”

When Jack Ford of NBC’s Today (8/22/98) show asked, “Richard, what is it that these terrorists want from the United States?” Haass echoed the subtle Islam-bashing (popularized by Bernard Lewis of Princeton) that has permeated official U.S. thinking: “Well, the answer is it’s not anything we’re simply doing. It is who we are, Jack. It’s the fact that we’re the most powerful country in the world. It’s the fact that we’re a secular country…. It is simply who we are and it is our existence that really bothers them, and it is a fact of life now.” (See Extra!, 7-8/95.)

Thinking Global

Brookings’ ultimate philosophy is pragmatic to the point of being amoral, putting out tracts on military spending called How to Be a Cheap Hawk and opposing international sanctions because they might hurt U.S. companies–not because people might starve.

Robert Litan, Brookings’ director of economic studies, doesn’t think the U.S. should take serious action against a country that allows harsh child labor conditions–but should intervene if a country allows unauthorized duplication of Windows 95. His main fear is creeping “globalphobia.” In a recent book by that title, he and several centrist colleagues protest that “protection invites foreign exporters to leap trade barriers by building plants in this country”–as if U.S. corporations, not U.S. workers, are the ones who need protection. “There is some irony in the claim that it is in America’s self-interest to insist that other nations meet tough environmental and labor standards,” Globalphobia argues. “Any harms alleged to flow from lax standards are suffered by foreign residents, not those of the United States.” (Washington Peace Letter, 5/98)

Litan, Haass and others at Brookings, seeing themselves as sort of interdisciplinary philosopher-king technocrats, eye the task of building global structures. Brookings’ leaders seek desperately to be “relevant,” but they are so often parroting the conventional wisdom, fearing that they are outmatched in the media by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, that they are sidetracked from doing the strategic planning for elites that has made Brookings so influential.

James Ridgeway (The Nation, 12/22/97), describing the Heritage public relations machine, wrote: “[PR giant] Hill & Knowlton, not Brookings, provides a more fitting comparison.” But increasingly, Brookings is not even its own model anymore–Heritage is.


Think Tank Monitor is a joint project of FAIR and the Institute for Public Accuracy. Research assistance: Nihar Bhatt, Jenifer Dixon and Omar Nashashibi.

Heritage Clones In The Heartland: Local Think Tanks’ “Research” Often Comes Pre-Digested

Conservative think tanks patterned after the highly successful Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute (1996 revenues: $16.5 million) and Heritage Foundation (1996 revenues: $28.7 million) opened up around the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s almost as quickly as Scholotzky’s Delis. Like Scholotzky’s, they have now reached saturation. Most states have one, some have several. For example, Colorado has the Center for the New West and the Independence Institute; Illinois has the Rockford Institute and the Heartland Institute; and New York has the Manhattan Institute and the Empire Foundation for Policy Research.

Similar think tanks can be found in the South (e.g., Georgia Public Policy Foundation and John Locke Foundation in North Carolina), Northeast (e.g., Yankee Institute for Public Policy Studies in Connecticut and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research in Massachusetts), Northwest (e.g., Seattle’s Washington Institute for Policy Studies and Portland’s Cascade Policy Research Institute), Great Lakes Region (e.g., Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan), and Southwest (e.g., New Mexico Foundation for Economic Research and Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research).

Although there are a few left-of-center think tanks around the United States, these tend to be underfunded and understaffed, just as the few left-of-center Washington, D.C. think tanks are. For example, the D.C.–based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) had revenues of $654,289 in 1996, or 2.3 percent of Heritage’s. (The Heritage Foundation’s president, Edwin J. Feulner, received $406,052 in salary and another $55,788 in benefits that year–70 percent of IPS’s total budget!)

Like Scholotzky’s Delis, the conservative think tanks offer a very limited menu: They publish reports advocating deregulation, privatization, property rights, school choice and a few other topics. And each produces reports that sound the same as others, just as an order at any Scholotzky’s tastes the same.

For example, between 1994 and 1996, the Washington Institute released State Government Privatization, the Mackinaw Center released Privatization Opportunities for States and an annual Michigan Privatization Report, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation released Privatization: Dispelling the Myths, the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives in Pennsylvania released Privatization of Government Services in Pennsylvania, and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute released The Privatization of Milwaukee County’s Airport, Private Tollways for Wisconsin, as well as Privatizing Welfare in Brown County, Wisconsin. Each describes the advantages of replacing government-provided services with private enterprise.

These reports are released and promoted as though they are social scientific research, even though they have about as much in common with real research as Scholotzky’s Delis have in common with real delicatessens–which is very little. Real research is systematic, blind reviewed, and employs a replicable methodology; these think tank “studies” are none of these. In contrast with research, think tank reports are produced to shift public policy and public opinion to the political right.

As the John Locke Foundation reports (Our First Five Years), it “uses a variety of methods to affect public policy debate in North Carolina. First, the Foundation issues comprehensive ‘policy reports’…and their findings are publicized throughout the state in print, broadcast and public appearances…. In addition, the Foundation distributes a weekly op-ed, ‘Carolina Beat,’ to daily and weekly newspapers.” The purpose of local think tanks is to influence policy using city, regional and state media, whereas their D.C.-based colleagues try to influence policy using national media.

The well-funded local think tanks are able to wield influence out of proportion to their significance. The John Locke Foundation spends nearly a half-million a year producing and promoting its policy positions using money donated by Martin Marrietta Corp., RJR Nabisco and other well-heeled patrons. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute received more than $4.4 million from the conservative Bradley Foundation through 1995 (Journal Sentinel, 10/4/95). The money is spent on research reports and a glossy magazine, Wisconsin Interest, that are distributed free to the media and to public libraries.

Despite the admission that they are out to influence policy and public opinion by wagging the dog, media flock to think tank denizens and their policy reports like crows around carrion. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation reports that it “was cited in more than 300 newspaper and magazine articles in 1994” (Georgia Public Policy Foundation 1994 Annual Report). Most of the citations were from Georgia media, such as the Athens Banner Herald, Augusta Chronicle and Macon Telegraph. The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives likewise reports (The Bottom Line, 9/95) that one of its surveys on school choice, welfare reform and affirmative action repeal “brought over 200 media mentions in newspapers and on radio and television stations statewide.”

Wisconsin: A Case Study

Like the Commonwealth Foundation, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute conducts an annual survey of public attitudes, which is conducted using scientifically acceptable survey methods, as are other studies that have few public policy implications or ideological significance, such as a study of the Educational Performance of Hmong Students in Wisconsin (12/97). These studies are conducted by professional research firms and academics, and are designed to generate positive publicity for the Institute. For example, the results of the Institute’s annual “Wisconsin Citizen Survey” are described by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (10/2/95, 9/30/96, 8/5/97) and other Wisconsin newspapers nearly every year upon release. More importantly, these studies provide an aura of legitimacy for the propaganda tracts about government spending, deregulation, school choice and environmental education that the Institute also produces.

The reports with important policy implications are invariably written by ideologues rather than detached analysts. For example, when the Institute conducted a study on the relationship between prison incarceration and crimes, it turned to George A. Mitchell, whom the Institute merely described as a “consultant.” In fact, Mitchell is a neoconservative mover-and-shaker in Milwaukee who ran a management firm that helped build the Milwaukee County Jail (Business Journal: Milwaukee, 4/10/89). Mitchell’s study concluded that “increased incarceration is a major reason” for the decline in the crime rate.

When the Institute’s report, Prison Works (8/95), was released, most newspapers failed to mention Mitchell’s biases or his past financial interests in building jails. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about the report (8/7/95) opened with the sentence: “The 1,200 new prison beds approved in the state budget represent only 20 percent of the expected increase needed by the year 2000, and that shortfall may mark the start of a dangerous trend, according to a report to be released Monday.” The article described the report as having been “done by Milwaukee consultant George A. Mitchell and commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a local non-profit think tank.”

When it came to a study on Light Rail in Milwaukee (3/98), the Institute hired Wendell Cox to do the study. The think tank described Cox as “an internationally known consultant” and former appointee to the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission who “authored numerous studies, including an evaluation of high-speed rail in Florida and an analysis of the light rail proposal in Chicago.”

What the glowing description of Cox failed to mention was that the Chicago “study” was prepared for the Illinois Taxpayer Educational Foundation (Chicago Sun Times, 5/23/95) and the Florida study was prepared for the James Madison Institute for Public Policy Research (Tampa Tribune, 5/7/97), two right-wing, anti-tax think tanks that also produce propaganda packaged as research. Predictably, Cox found that light rail in Chicago would cost $340 million more than budgeted; in Florida, he claimed that a new, regional rail system could cost taxpayers a whopping $39 billion. In news stories about these and other reports he prepared, Cox is usually referred to as head of “Wendell Cox Consultancy, a St. Louis-based public policy consulting firm” (Chicago Tribune, 5/23/95) or as a transportation “consultant” (Tampa Tribune, 5/7/97; Orange County Register, 11/26/97), rather than as a “public transportation foe.”

In contrast with most of the mainstream media, the alternative Denver Westword (1/24/96) more accurately described Cox as a “privatized-transit guru” who is a “leading advocate of transit privatization–the assignment of public transportation routes to private companies.” Cox achieved this moniker because of his authorship of such Heritage Foundation tracts as Transit Pork Has Few Passengers and How to Close Down the Department of Transportation.

Cox’s report about light rail in southeast Wisconsin concluded that it would be a costly boondoggle. Several newspapers, including the Wisconsin State Journal (3/31/98), merely described the reports’ contents and attributed them to “a public policy consultant.”

In an exceptional case, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Larry Sandler (March 31, 1998), who specializes in transportation issues, critically analyzed Cox’s report–a process rarely undertaken by journalists. Sandler also described Cox as “a longtime rail opponent” rather than as “transportation consultant.”

Sandler says that he approached the story the way he did because “it was clear [Cox] had a preconceived view of the issue. He wasn’t some unbiased observer.” Sandler says that he was “familiar with Cox’s position and his background” and was aware of the previous reports that Cox had produced.

As a result of Sandler’s reporting, Cox’s analysis was dismissed as a “screwy light rail report” in a Journal Sentinel editorial (4/5/98)–and quickly forgotten. This is what needs to be done with most of the reports issued by the Heritage-clone think tanks.

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Lawrence Soley is Colnik professor of communications at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He is the author of Free Radio: Electronic Civil Disobedience (Westview) and Leasing the Ivory Tower (South End).
Think Tank Monitor is a joint project of FAIR and the Institute for Public Accuracy.


Corrected Version. As originally published, this article said that Wendell Cox’s report on light rail in southeastern Wisconsin footnoted only two articles on the subject. In fact, it footnoted only two articles on commuter rail, a subsidiary subject of the report.

Foreign Funds Flow To U.S. Think Tank

On Capitol Hill one day in late February 1995, a subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific heard testimony from Edwin J. Feulner Jr., the president of the Heritage Foundation. The witness praised South Korea as a key ally of the United States and urged closer cooperation between Washington and Seoul. And he criticized the Clinton administration for being too conciliatory toward the regime in North Korea.

Feulner’s testimony was unremarkable, except that it did not mention a pertinent fact: His organization was in the midst of receiving large amounts of money from the South Korean government.

From 1993 through 1995, Heritage took in a total of $1 million from the Korea Foundation — “funded by South Korea’s Foreign Ministry” — the Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 10, 1995. The newspaper added that the Korea Foundation “is an affiliate of the South Korean government, according to Yoo Lee, a spokesman for South Korea’s embassy” in Washington.

The nation’s capital, of course, is a place where double standards are routine. But consider this recent feat of ultra-hypocrisy: A few weeks ago, on July 14, the Heritage Foundation issued a report condemning lax compliance with a congressional rule that requires witnesses to disclose funding from the U.S. government.

The “Truth in Testimony” rule — first proposed by Heritage in May 1995 and adopted by the House of Representatives in January 1997 — seems intended to stigmatize grants from the public sector. Heritage hails this as a “significant victory” because the rule “helps expose potential conflicts of interest: witnesses who testify for greater federal spending on programs that provide them with income.”

Eager to tighten the rule, Heritage has even issued report cards that grade enforcement by House committees and single out non-disclosing groups. Among the culprits fingered by the Heritage Foundation are witnesses from such outfits as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (federal grant: $33,611), the Wildlife Society ($25,000), the Passaic River Coalition ($24,000) and the American Dental Association ($3,592,256).

But what happens when an American organization pockets $1 million from a foreign government — and testifies repeatedly in front of Congress about what U.S. policy should be toward that government — without disclosing the financial ties involved? Hey, no problem.

To make the irony more acute, the “Truth in Testimony” rule championed by Heritage requires that witnesses who appear before House committees disclose federal grants received not only during the current fiscal year but also during the previous two fiscal years.

If the words “foreign-government grants” were substituted for “federal grants,” then Heritage would have been in repeated violation of the rule during the past few years.

On March 19, 1996, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, Daryl M. Plunk, testified on “U.S.-North Korean Relations” before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the House International Relations Committee.

Plunk had a lot to say about diplomacy between the United States and North Korea. He fretted aloud that White House policies were doing grave injury to the South Korean government.

From the witness table, Plunk made an impassioned plea for the U.S. government to toughen its stance toward North Korea before proceeding with an “Agreed Framework” between the two countries. “A special envoy should seek regular contacts at the highest levels in Pyongyang to press for resumption of dialogue,” Plunk declared. “He should make clear to the North that the U.S. will no longer tolerate delays and that the fate of the Framework process hinges upon North Korean cooperation.”

The witness from the Heritage Foundation was adamant: “If this message is not hammered home to Pyongyang forcefully and regularly, the North will continue to doubt America’s resolve and misjudge its intentions. The envoy should coordinate closely with Seoul and also meet with Chinese, Japanese and other concerned parties to enlist their support and engagement.” But Plunk never got around to mentioning the Heritage Foundation’s big-money link to the South Korean government.

Larger quantities of cash keep flowing to Heritage from private industrialists in Asia who back Heritage’s Asian Studies Center in Washington. A laudatory new book about the Heritage Foundation, “The Power of Ideas” by Lee Edwards, states that Heritage established its Asian Studies Center in 1982 and raised an endowment for the center of “more than $13 million over the next decade and a half, almost all of it from South Korean, Taiwanese and other Asian foundations and corporations.”

A key media strategist at Heritage, public relations counsel Hugh Newton, told me two years ago that funding from overseas was no cause for concern: “As for Asian money, it comes from corporations with many of the same interests as our American corporate contributors.”

The Heritage Foundation continues to testify on Capitol Hill about Korea-related issues without noting its recent financial ties to the South Korean government. On Feb. 24, Heritage policy analyst John P. Sweeney was a witness at a hearing on the Asian financial crisis. He told the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade: “We can assume that South Korea is going to do the right thing. Certainly they appear to be moving in the right direction.”

Heritage calls itself “the most influential think tank in the most important city in the most powerful nation in the world.” Even allowing for hyperbole, the 25-year-old institution wields enormous influence. Before Newt Gingrich became House speaker, he proclaimed that “Heritage is without question the most far-reaching conservative organization in the country in the war of ideas.”

Since the Republicans became the majority party in Congress at the start of 1995, the Heritage Foundation — by its own account — has been able to do much more than simply testify in front of committees and huddle with individual members. Heritage’s annual report for 1995 included a colloquy between two of the organization’s vice presidents, extolling the think tank’s boosted influence at the Capitol.

“Heritage has been involved in crafting almost every piece of major legislation to move through Congress,” said Stuart Butler. The other vice president was no less glowing in his assessment. “Without exaggeration, I think we’ve in effect become Congress’s unofficial research arm,” said Kim Holmes, who added: “We truly have become an extension of the congressional staff, but on our own terms and according to our own agenda.”


Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a nationwide consortium of policy researchers. The institute’s offices are located in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

What’s In A Label? – Right-Wing Think Tanks Are Often Quoted, Rarely Labeled

For the third year in a row, conservative or right-leaning think tanks in
1997 provided more than half of major media’s think tank citations, according
to FAIR’s third annual survey of major newspaper and broadcast media citations
in the Nexis computer database. Think tanks of the right provided 53 percent
of citations, while progressive or left-leaning think tanks received just
16 percent of total citations.

Half of the ten most-cited think tanks are conservative or right-leaning,
including three of the top four. The centrist Brookings Institution held
the top spot as the most widely cited think tank for the second year in a
row. Three right-wing institutions–the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise
Institute and Cato Institute–maintained their respective positions as the
second, third and fourth most cited. The top four think tanks were each cited
more than a thousand times, and provided 46 percent of all think tank citations.*

Missing Labels

To see how the top four think tanks were identified, a random 10 percent
of their citations were examined. Surprisingly, all four institutions were
not identified at all in a majority of their respective citations.

The most mentioned think tank, the Brookings Institution, was given no
identification in 78 percent of the 229 citations examined. In another 17
percent, it was identified as being located in Washington, D.C. Twice it
was referred to as “liberal,” twice as “non-partisan” and once as “centrist.”

The “liberal” label is inaccurate; Brookings has long had a centrist or
center-right orientation. As far back as the mid-1980s, Fortune magazine
(7/23/84) was approvingly noting that “Brookings Tilts Right.” Current president
Michael Armacost was undersecretary of state in the Reagan administration
and President Bush’s ambassador to Japan. Brookings’ two most prominent analysts
served in Republican administrations. Their most visible foreign policy expert,
Richard Haass, is formerly of George Bush’s National Security Council. Domestic
political analyst Stephen Hess helped edit the Republican platform in 1976,
and served in the U.S. delegation to the U.N. under Gerald Ford.

The Heritage Foundation was not identified in 68 percent of 182 cases; in
a further 8 percent, only its location in Washington was noted. Its political
orientation was noted 24 percent of the time: Forty of these 44 mentions
used the word “conservative,” while four used “right-wing” or “on the right.”
Twice, while labeled as “conservative,” the institute’s support from right-wing
funder Richard Mellon Scaife was mentioned.

Seventy-two percent of the time, the American Enterprise Institute appeared
with no qualifying label. In only 14 percent of the 132 stories sampled was
it identified as conservative. The Cato Institute was similarly not labeled
in 68 percent of the 130 stories sampled. It was identified as “libertarian”
13 percent of the time, “conservative” 6 percent of the time, and twice was
referred to as both “libertarian” and “conservative.” One reference called
the institution “free-market oriented.”

For comparison purposes, we sampled the labeling of the survey’s top progressive
think tank, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). As with the top four think
tanks, EPI received no label more than half the time (52 percent). However,
EPI received an ideological label more often than any of the top four, in
29 percent of the 58 cases sampled. Almost half of the ideological labeling
was “progressive,” “liberal” or “left-leaning,” but slightly more than half
(9 out of 17) referred to EPI as having ties to or receiving funds from labor
unions.

In sharp contrast, none of the top four think tanks were referred to as
“corporate-backed” or any similar label. A call to EPI confirmed that they
received a quarter of their funding from labor sources; however, Brookings
acknowledged that nearly one-third of their funding comes from corporate
sources. AEI’s webpage discloses that 40 percent of its budget comes from
corporate donations.

When a think tank representative is used as an expert on a topic, often that
person’s media-framed credibility may be measured by the ideological label
attached to them. By failing to politically identify representatives of think
tanks, or identify the financial base of think tanks, major media deprive
their audiences of an important context for evaluating the opinions offered,
implying that think tank “experts” are neutral sources without any ideological
predispositions. The fact that EPI was the group most often identified
ideologically-and the only one scrutinized in terms of its funding
sources-suggests that even when progressive think tanks are allowed to take
part in the usually center-right debate, the playing field is still not level.


*The Heritage Foundation’s citations were adjusted to reflect the incidence
of “false positives.” Approximately 15 percent of the time, the words “heritage
foundation” occur together in an article in the Nexis database without referring
to the think tank. One think tank, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
was added to the survey this year.

Michael Dolny is the senior research associate at the Center for Criminal
Justice Research at California State University, San Bernardino, where he
also teaches part-time. He can be reached at
mdolny@wiley.csusb.edu
.


Hudson Instituteconservative481396Joint Center for Political
and Economic Studiescenter-left158228Progress and Freedom Foundationconservative122234Reason Foundationconservative/libertarian92133

Think Tank Media Visibility

Think Tank Political Orientation Number of Media Citations (1997) Number of Media Citations (1996)
Brookings Institution centrist 2,296 2,196
Heritage Foundation conservative 1,813 1,779
American Enterprise Institute conservative 1,323 1,401
Cato Institute conservative/libertarian 1,286 1,136
RAND Corporation center-right 865 826
Council on Foreign Relations centrist 755 727
Center for Strategic and International Studies conservative 668 586
Urban Institute center-left 610 655
Economic Policy Institute progressive 576 452
Freedom Forum centrist 531 625
Institute for International Economics centrist 438 288
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities progressive 425 359
Hoover Institution conservative 355 350
Carnegie Endowment centrist 352 502
Competitive Enterprise Institute conservative 290 205
Manhattan Institute conservative 261 227
Progressive Policy Institute centrist 251 279
International Institute for Strategic Studies conservative 177 145
Institute for Policy Studies progressive 172 110
Worldwatch Institute progressive 168 186
Center for Defense Information progressive 158 187

Source: Nexis database search of major newspapers and radio and TV transcripts.
(Numbers for 1996 differ slightly from those published in Extra!, 7-8/97,
due to changes in the Nexis database.)


Think Tank Spectrum

Think Tank Ideology Media Citations 1997 Media Citations 1996
Conservative or Right-Leaning 7,733 (53%) 7,706 (54%)
Centrist 4,623 (32%) 4,329 (30%)
Progressive or Left-Leaning 2,267 (16%) 2,177 (15%)
TOTAL 14,623 14,212

Note: Percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.

More annual Think Tank Monitor surveys.

The Manhattan Institute: Launch Pad For Conservative Authors

When Abigail Thernstrom became a national media star in late 1997, her prominence as a scholarly foe of affirmative action was yet another triumph for the Manhattan Institute. Once again, its “Book Fellowship Program” had launched an author into the media stratosphere.

A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Thernstrom credits the think tank for its “unwavering commitment” to her book “America in Black and White,” co-written with husband Stephan Thernstrom. In addition, the authors thank five right-wing funders: “The John M. Olin Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Earhart Foundation and the Carthage Foundation have also generously funded our research.”

The Manhattan Institute was founded in 1978 by William Casey, who later became President Reagan’s CIA director. Since then, the Institute’s track record with authors has been notable. Funneling money from very conservative foundations, the Institute has sponsored many books by writers opposed to safety-net social programs and affirmative action. During the 1980s, the Institute’s authors included George Gilder (Wealth and Poverty), Linda Chavez (Out of the Barrio) and Charles Murray (Losing Ground).

Murray’s Losing Ground — a denunciation of social programs for the poor — catapulted him to media stardom in 1984. More than a dozen years later, the Philadelphia Inquirer (10/13/97) recalled that Losing Ground “provided much of the intellectual groundwork for welfare reform.” As Murray wrote in the book’s preface, the decision by Manhattan Institute officials to subsidize the book project was crucial: “Without them, the book would not have been written.”

Murray became a national figure only after joining the Manhattan Institute as a Bradley Fellow. In 1982, the think tank “offered the then-unknown Murray a position as a senior research fellow and the Institute’s full financial backing to complete Losing Ground,” authors Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado recount (in “No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America’s Social Agenda”). “The Institute raised $125,000 to promote Murray’s book and pay him a $35,000 stipend, most coming from Scaife [Foundation], which gave $75,000, and Olin, $25,000. Upon publication, it sent 700 free copies to academics, journalists, and public officials worldwide, sponsored seminars on the book, and funded a nationwide speaking tour for Murray that was made possible by a $15,000 grant from the Liberty Fund.”

The largesse from right-wing funders yielded big results. By early 1985, Murray’s book had become a widely touted brief against spending tax dollars on low-income people. “This year’s budget-cutters’ bible seems to be Losing Ground,” noted a New York Times editorial (2/3/85). Among movers and shakers in the federal executive branch, the newspaper lamented, Losing Ground had quickly become holy writ: “In agency after agency, officials cite the Murray book as a philosophical base” for proposals to slash social expenditures.

Media outlets marveled at the sudden importance of Charles Murray’s work. Losing Ground “has been the subject of dozens of major editorials, columns, and reviews in publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, the Dallas Morning News, and The New Republic< — even the Sunday Times of London,” wrote Chuck Lane in The New Republic (3/25/85). The book’s success “is a case study in how conservative intellectuals have come to dominate the policy debates of recent years.” That domination, Lane concluded, was being enhanced by the think tank behind “Losing Ground”. The Manhattan Institute’s canny innovation is to rely as little as possible on chance — and as much as possible on marketing. Of course, money helps, too.” Nearly a decade later, Losing Ground was still one of the central texts of the “welfare reform” debate. With the Wall Street Journal editorial pages showcasing anti-welfare commentary from Murray (e.g., 10/29/93), the echo effects were swift and loud. George Will’s syndicated column (Washington Post, 11/18/93) cited “what the social scientist Charles Murray calls an inner city culture of `Lord of the Flies writ large.'” Will contended that the nation’s “rising illegitimacy rate…may make America unrecognizable before political institutions recognize the necessity of measures as bold — as boldly traditional — as Murray recommends.” When Murray appeared on ABC’s This Week (11/28/93), host David Brinkley introduced him with lavish praise as “the author of a much-admired, much-discussed book called Losing Ground, which is a study of our social problems.” Minutes later, Murray was explaining his solution: “I want to get rid of the whole welfare system, period, lock, stock and barrel — if you don’t have any more welfare, you enlist a lot more people in the community to help take care of the children that are born. And the final thing that you can do, if all else fails, is orphanages.” By this time, Murray was no longer at the Manhattan Institute. He had left for the American Enterprise Institute in 1990, “when the [Manhattan] Institute refused to support his research on differences in intelligence between blacks and whites,” Stefancic and Delgado report in No Mercy, “taking with him his annual $100,000 foundation grant from the Bradley Foundation for salary, overhead, and other expenses.” But, as Stefancic and Delgado put it, the Manhattan Institute “appears to have forgiven him: Shortly after The Bell Curve was published [in late 1994], the Institute sponsored a luncheon to honor Murray and the book, in which he proposes a genetic explanation for the 15-point difference in IQ between blacks and whites that is the basis for his dismissing affirmative action policies as futile.” During the past 10 years, the Manhattan Institute has raised a great deal of money from right-wing sources for designated book projects, with the Bradley Foundation alone contributing more than $1 million. Abigail Thernstrom has been one of the grateful beneficiaries. “The Thernstroms wrote their book with a $100,000 advance paid by the Institute,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported (10/13/97). “Similar fellowships are given to other authors who espouse views that support the Institute’s agenda.” The resulting book co-written with Stephan Thernstrom, “America and Black in White: One Nation, Indivisible”, has borne gratifying media fruit for its backers. Describing America in Black and White as “a benchmark new work” that “turns the accepted history of racial progress in America upside down,” Time (9/8/97) devoted three pages to the book. “Some of its points are compelling,” the magazine concluded, even though “the Thernstroms often construct tenuous arguments.” Some reviewers gave the book a chilly reception. In the Los Angeles Times (10/12/97), history professor Martin Duberman commented that it “provides an encyclopedic rationale for being all at once optimistic and inactive about racial divisions.” But even when spiced with criticisms, the coverage frequently had the flavor of the review in The New Republic (9/29/97), which claimed that the Thernstroms’ “tough-minded book serves the cause of racial justice.” The big media response, while mixed, had the effect of propelling the Thernstroms to center stage as credible researchers weighing in against affirmative action. Along with ongoing subsidies from a number of large conservative foundations, the Manhattan Institute has gained funding from such corporate sources as the Chase Manhattan Bank, Citicorp, Time Warner, Procter & Gamble and State Farm Insurance, as well as the Lilly Endowment and philanthropic arms of American Express, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CIGNA and Merrill Lynch. Boosted by major firms, the Manhattan Institute budget reached $5 million a year by the early 1990s. Dubbing it an “iconoclastic research group,” a New York Times news article on the last day of 1993 declared: “What distinguishes the Manhattan Institute is its work to translate its ideology into concrete proposals that appeal to a wide spectrum of political beliefs.” The impacts have been national: “Despite its focus on New York, the Manhattan Institute has had its greatest influence in other cities. Mayors in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Jersey City and Phoenix have praised it and adopted some of its advice.” Many newspaper editors have also been extremely receptive. “For its size,” Stefancic and Delgado observe, “the Manhattan Institute publishes more op-ed pieces, including many on affirmative action, than any other think tank.”


For more information, read Stephen Steinberg’s accompanying piece, “Denying the Obvious: The Fallacies of America in Black and White.”

A longer version of this article appeared in the March/April 1998 issue of EXTRA!, the magazine of the media watch group FAIR.

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

The Cato Institute: “Libertarian”In A Corporate Way

In the autumn of 1997, when Rupert Murdoch joined the board of directors at the Cato Institute, the announcement went unreported in major news outlets. Perhaps it seemed routine for one of the world’s most powerful media moguls to take a leadership post at one of the most influential think tanks in Washington.

Murdoch can count on rubbing elbows with a fellow media titan. John C. Malone — president and CEO of Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI), the largest cable operator in the United States — has been on the Cato board since 1995. The two men are already well acquainted, since Murdoch’s News Corp. has long been intertwined with TCI in media deals involving satellite television, cable TV, program distribution and other big telecommunications ventures.

Now the heads of both firms are formally helping to run a think tank which brags that it has “actively promoted the deregulation of the television and telephone industries.” The boast is not idle. In recent years, the Cato Institute has become one of the most cited and quoted think tanks in U.S. news media. (The Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation rank first and second, according to the Nexis data base; Cato follows closely behind third-place American Enterprise Institute.) On Capitol Hill, the Cato Institute is now a key resource for Republican leaders.

Announcing Murdoch’s arrival on its board, Cato praised him as “a strong advocate of the free market” and quoted his stirring words: “I start from a simple principle. In every area of economic activity in which competition is attainable, it is much to be preferred to monopoly.” Meanwhile, in Murdoch’s native Australia, his News Corp. dominates the mass media; in Britain he controls more than a third of daily newspaper circulation along with much of cable and satellite television.

While they’re fond of lauding the “free market,” Murdoch and other U.S. broadcasters are heavily reliant on government aid. Holding frequency licenses worth fortunes, they’re now receiving free slices of a digital spectrum valued at up to $70 billion. Likewise, cable TV conglomerates — with Malone’s TCI in the lead — continue to expand under the protection of federal regulations that place severe limits on the power of municipalities to charge franchise fees for use of public rights-of-way. The contradiction doesn’t seem to bother the Cato Institute at all.

Among the luminaries at Cato is Jose Pinera, co-chair of its Project on Social Security Privatization. Cato’s latest annual report says that Pinera, a former minister of labor and welfare in Chile, “oversaw the privatization of Chile’s pension system in the early 1980s” — but does not mention that at the time the Chilean government was under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Evidently, Cato’s concern about intrusive government does not extend to torture and murder.

In terms of commitment to human rights, Cato has found a kindred spirit in Rupert Murdoch, who is fond of floating lofty rhetoric about his Star TV satellite network. “Satellite broadcasting makes it possible for information-hungry residents of many closed societies to bypass state-controlled television,” said Murdoch, who touts new media technology as a “threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere.” But Murdoch quickly kowtowed to China’s totalitarian regime when Beijing objected to Star TV transmissions of BBC News reports about Chinese human rights abuses. In 1994, Murdoch’s network dropped the BBC from its broadcasts to Asia. “The BBC was driving them nuts,” Murdoch said. “It’s not worth it.”

One of the interests that Murdoch shares with the Cato Institute is tobacco. Murdoch sits on the board of directors of Philip Morris. Murdoch publications such as TV Guide reap enormous profits from cigarette ads. And Murdoch’s Fox Broadcasting is cozy with Philip Morris subsidiary Miller Brewing Co., which has boosted its advertising account with Fox to about $75 million per year for sports and prime-time programs.

Although news reports and media commentaries often include the Cato Institute’s assessments of tobacco-related issues, Cato’s direct ties to tobacco rarely get mentioned. For years, the list of Cato’s large contributors has included Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds.

As it happens, Cato is a fierce tiger when it comes to advocating for oppressed tobacco firms. Early in the summer of 1997, a Cato “Policy Analysis” by senior fellow Robert A. Levy denounced state lawsuits against tobacco companies to recover Medicaid costs for treating people with smoking-related diseases. Levy claimed that anti-tobacco politicians were “willing to deny due process to a single industry selected for its deep pockets and public image rather than its legal culpability.”

A month later (in July 1997), testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Levy sounded a similar theme, calling a proposed tobacco settlement “a shameful document, extorted by public officials who have perverted the rule of law to tap the deep pockets of a feckless and friendless industry.” Levy excoriated newly proposed restrictions on tobacco advertising as “draconian.” And he went ballistic over the idea that tobacco firms should provide funds for the health care of children without insurance: “To hold a single industry financially liable is no more than a bald transfer of wealth from a disfavored to a favored group.”

Such pronouncements from the lips of tobacco company lawyers are likely to be taken with outsized grains of salt by the public. But Levy, whose title is “senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute,” has consistently received respectful media coverage — without reference to the links between the tobacco industry he defends and the think tank that employs him.

Overall, the Cato Institute’s yearly funding has climbed above $8 million, more than twice what it was in 1992. The organization’s annual report for 1996 exulted: “We’ve moved into beautiful new $13.7 million headquarters at 1000 Massachusetts Avenue and have only $1 million in debt remaining on it.” Dozens of huge corporations, eager to roll back government regulatory powers, are among Cato’s largest donors.

Financial firms kicking in big checks to Cato include American Express, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chemical Bank, Citicorp/Citibank, Commonwealth Fund, Prudential Securities and Salomon Brothers. Energy conglomerates: Chevron Companies, Exxon Company, Shell Oil Company and Tenneco Gas, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Foundation and Atlantic Richfield Foundation. Cato’s pharmaceutical donors include Eli Lilly & Company, Merck & Company and Pfizer, Inc.

In their recent book “No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America’s Social Agenda,” legal scholars Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado describe a shift in Cato’s patron base over the years. Cato’s main philanthropic backing had come from the right-wing Koch, Lambe and Sarah Scaife foundations. But today, Cato “receives most of its financial support from entrepreneurs, securities and commodities traders, and corporations such as oil and gas companies, Federal Express, and Philip Morris that abhor government regulation.”

While serving on Cato’s board and making personal donations, TCI’s John Malone is among several media heavies behind Cato. Big donors include Bell Atlantic Network Services, BellSouth Corporation, Microsoft, NYNEX Corporation, Sun Microsystems and Viacom. News releases from the Cato Institute — while often urging privatization of the Internet and other communications systems — do not mention where Cato money is coming from. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, the news media are no more informative about Cato’s sources of funding.


A slightly different version of this article appeared in the January/February 1998 issue of EXTRA!, the magazine of the media watch group FAIR.

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.