Monday, June 13, 2016

Panama Papers: Think Tankers Working to Safeguard Tax Havens

A group deeply connected to conservative and libertarian think tanks has been working to safeguard tax havens around the world, according to recently obtained "Panama Papers" that the Washington Post has received.  Here is more:
The Center for Freedom and Prosperity promised to persuade Congress, members of the George W. Bush administration and key policymakers to protect the players of the offshore world, where hundreds of thousands of shell companies had been created, often to hide money and evade taxes.
To reach out to American officials and fund its U.S. operations, the center said it needed an infusion of cash for an eight-month campaign: at least $247,000.  “We hope you can support this effort with a donation,” the center wrote in a document sent to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of an international financial scandal known as the Panama Papers.
Led by two U.S. citizens — one an economist, the other a tax expert for a Republican congressman — the center met again and again with government officials and members of the offshore industry around the world, while issuing hundreds of funding pleas and peddling its connections to Washington’s power brokers.
The directors of the center, Mitchell and Andrew F. Quinlan, two longtime anti-tax advocates, declined to reveal the identities of their donors, which they said is a common practice in the nonprofit world.
The man at the helm of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Andrew Quinlan, 53, is a former Republican congressional staffer who worked out of his home in Alexandria and spends much of his time on the road. Dan Mitchell, 57, is a widely known economist who worked for the Bush/Quayle transition team in 1988 and a leading tax expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian Washington think tank. The two met in 1981 while undergrads and fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia.
Quinlan and Mitchell launched the center in October 2000. It is made up of two parts, the center itself, which is set up as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization “created to lobby lawmakers in favor of market liberalization,” according to the group’s marketing materials. The second part is called the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization set up to educate the public, lawmakers and the media on “the benefits of limited government” and “the need for competitive markets.”
Quinlan is listed in the center’s tax filings as president, Mitchell as its chairman. Two other board members are named — economist Veronique de Rugy, a co-founder of the center, and a man who died in 2014, John Blundell. Only Quinlan is listed as drawing a salary. His compensation has ranged from $122,000 to $23,000 in 2014, the last year of publicly available tax filings.

The article goes on to note that the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (CF&P) Foundation  received $119,000 out of funds raised by a financial services company in Virginia.  That firm was founded by Richard W. Rahn, a former Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank where co-founder Daniel Mitchell works as a Senior Fellow.

CF&P Board Member Veronique de Rugy is a Senior Research Fellow at the libertarian Mercatus Center housed within George Mason University.  She used to be a Resident Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  The other Board Member listed in tax documents, the late John Blundell, was Director General and Ralph Harris Fellow at the London-based think tank Institute of Economic Affairs.