Thursday, June 21, 2012

On UK Think Tank Funding Transparency

Who Funds You, a project of Political Innovation, asked 20 leading UK think tanks and political campaigns to disclose their major funders.  Click here to see the results.

Here is what Martin Bright of The Spectator has to say about the new website:

Who Funds You has a scoring system based on the following criteria:

1. Does the organisation disclose its income?
2. Are financial details published online?
3. Are individual donors named and the amount of each donation published?
4. Are corporate donors named and the amount of each donation published?

This exercise seems to demonstrate that left-leaning think tanks are more transparent than right-wing ones. The Adam Smith Institute, ResPublica and the Tax Payers’ Alliance don’t appear to publish any information about their funding. This compares unfavourably to Compass, the IPPR, the New Economics Foundation, the Resolution Foundation and Progress, who are all models of transparency.

I would be very interested to know how much of this has to do with which party is in power. Were the left-wing think tanks quite so transparent when the stakes were higher? Perhaps they were. But it strikes me that it is only human to believe that generosity motivates donations in opposition while sinister motives are attributed to those who give to think tanks close to government. It’s just possible that the secrecy is driven by a desire to protect donors from people jumping to conclusions? Of course, it could just be rich people trying to buy influence.
Also, click here, a website called Who's Lobbying, to see which think tanks are lobbying in the UK.