Friday, November 04, 2005

Sock Puppet Conspiracy

Our Dear Leader

The venerable Heartland Institute has decided it's wise to hide their list of funders from those seeking to understand the wellspring from which their intelligence flows.

The coin-operated think tank -- widely known for pimping its "expertise" to the highest corporate donors -- has decided that it's in the best interest of all to keep the organization's money chest closed to prying eyes. Why, after all, would we need to know that reports laced with industry-friendly analysis were paid for by those same industries? Why, indeed.

For instance, wouldn't their readers want to know that a Heartland survey, which spreads unsubstantiated myths about municipal broadband services, was paid for by the companies that profit from shutting down these same broadband networks?

According to Heartland CEO and President Joseph Bast (above), it's better for us to be kept in the dark. For our benefit, the company has decided to retreat behind the curtain. To explain, Bast lays forth this pretzel:

After much deliberation and with some regret, we now keep confidential the identities of all our donors. If you do not approve of this policy, your argument is not with us but with those who would abuse a sincere effort at transparency.
So, it's all my fault for impugning their honesty. The wind-up experts at the Heartland Institute are saying, essentially: "If you're asking us to be transparent about our finances, you're against transparency."

The Institute has determined, in their zeal, that information shouldn't enjoy the same freedoms that they strive to achieve for their corporate clients -- that, by drawing attention to conflicts of interest inherent in their "research," we, not they, are at fault for forcing their retreat into secrecy.

Don't expect Bast to reveal anytime soon the extent to which corporate money dicatates the Institute's research. Others will have to pry open that clam. And, if history is prologue, they will find conflicts buried throughout the Heartland's donor pile.

Here's the Institute's list of funders from 2003, and a copy of their 2004 tax form. It's a who's who of Big Tobacco, Big Oil and, of course, Big Media. That these companies chose to lurk behind the flimsy facade erected by this dubious think tank is itself an indictment of their intentions.

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