Transparency! (For You.)

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

So I just noticed the Media Matters “Transparency” project today after clicking over from another site. It lists the major donors to all sorts of conservative and libertarian organizations, including my current and previous employers, Reason and Cato.

As I’ve noted before, both Reason and Cato already lists their major donors in their annual reports. At Reason, we also publish the names of everyone who has given the Reason Foundation at least $1,000 each year in the magazine.

But here’s what you won’t find on the Media Matters “Transparency” website, or on the main Media Matters site: a list of the names of the major donors to Media Matters. They keep that secret. As do the various “Progress” groups, who also regularly criticize conservative and free market organizations as being secret front groups for major donors and corporations. (That criticism is crap when it comes to Reason and Cato, for reasons I’ve explained numerous times on this site, but won’t get into again here.)

As I’ve also written in the past, I don’t think political or ideological organizations should be required to disclose their donors. The right to anonymity is a critical part of the right to dissent without fear of retaliation from the government.

But that Media Matters’ won’t list its own donors anywhere on its website dedicated to making think tanks and political advocacy groups more transparent is so astonishingly, jaw-droppingly hypocritical, it’s actually kind of comical.

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32 Responses to “Transparency! (For You.)”

  1. #1 |  MacGregory | 

    Getting a bit testy are you, RB? Sounds like a job to be sensationalized by the MSM. ” Libertarians to destroy planet.” In a related story: “libertarians want your children DEAD!” Soon to follow on PBS: ” I hate everyone but me: a libertarian documentary.”

  2. #2 |  Phelps | 

    Nothing listed for George Soros, either. Am I supposed to believe that he’s never given a dime to a conservative or libertarian group? Even by accident?

  3. #3 |  emerson | 

    It’s not obvious to me that disclosure is better than non-disclosure. I understand why MM thinks it is, but it’s not destructive per se. What if I want to donate to a gay rights group but I worry my evangelical Christian employer will find out and fire me? What if I want to donate to a group that opposes sex offender registries but worry about societal repercussions for that unpopular stance?

    MM might respond: “Well, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your beliefs! Stand up and be accounted!” To which I might respond that anonymous political speech has a looong history in this country, that it protects unpopular stances by allowing them to be voiced, and that there isn’t a secret cabal of billionaires behind every organization pulling the strings. So relax.

  4. #4 |  freedomfan | 

    I guess they don’t buy into the old expression that what’s good for the goose is good for the self-righteous hypocrite.

  5. #5 |  Aresen | 

    Can I get a list of the 1000 largest private ‘donors’ to the US government, together with their addresses and phone numbers?

    (Strictly for research purposes, of course.) :)

  6. #6 |  Difster | 

    People absolutely should be able to donate, blog, speak anonymously on any topic.

    There should be no campaign finance rules. I’d be willing to give foreigners the ability to contribute to campaigns in order to see the process become more anonymous.

  7. #7 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Why the shock? If a century of Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive politics has proved ANYTHING, it’s that so far as LIRPs are concerned limitations, regulations, boundaries , and inhibitions are things that happen to OTHER people.

  8. #8 |  BSK | 

    Radley-

    I think this would be a good topic to take a larger stand on. Write a letter to the editor of MM. Post something on Reason. Ask them to account for their hypocrisy. Obviously, there are larger issues. But because of how they purport to carry themselves, you can quickly have them painted into a corner.

  9. #9 |  Tybalt | 

    I like Media Matters and I like the work they do, but this is complete horsecrap.

  10. #10 |  TC | 

    Follow the money…

    http://activistcash.com/

  11. #11 |  qwints | 

    I’ve never understood why progressives see libertarians as enemies rather than as potential allies. The results of ill-fated liberaltarian alliance certainly suggest that groups are much more likely to seek allies to increase governmental power rather than restrain it. I tend to be much more sympathetic to unions (public and private) than Radley or most other commenters on this site. Why let that get in the way of advocating for civil liberties or restraining government? Politics is too important for this opposing team bullshit (preaching to the choir, I know.)

  12. #12 |  CK | 

    Not only is there gambling in this joint; there is hypocrisy. I am shocked, shocked I say. Kill all the usual suspects.

  13. #13 |  Chris M. | 

    To play the devil’s advocate re: campaign finance, how does the average libertarian feel about the concept of “oligarchy”? (Legitimate question, legitimate answer desired)

    “The oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία, oligarkhía[1]) is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, corporate, or military control.” (wikipedia)

    If people with [wealth, in this case] can unduly affect the power structure of a “democracy”, what is the pro-libertarian result of this reality?

    To backpedal, in theory the “free markets and minds” would compensate for public opinion of such actions, but… When public opinion is shaped by the very same oligarchy i.e. mass media… At what point does a natural correction occur?

  14. #14 |  perlhaqr | 

    Chris M.: I would presume the average libertarian to be fairly republican on the subject (small l, small r) and wish to limit the influence of the wealthy on “democracy” by sharply limiting the reach of government. Not to claim that the US Constitution is perfect (although it’s better than what we’ve got now) but it’s a lot less important who gets put in the presidency or legislature by the wealthy cabal if his hands are tied as to what they can actually do.

  15. #15 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    Clearly, this post is just another example of the Koch brothers’ evil and clandestine control over the entire blogosphere.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/03/03/bloggers-kneel-to-koch/

  16. #16 |  lunchstealer | 

    qwints – yeah, the same goes for conservatives. Basically, if you’re in one of the Big Two political philosophies, it comes down to naked power. Anyone who says ‘no’ to anything and doesn’t have the power to give you something you want in return (as a quid-pro-quo, not just a fellow-traveller) is the enemy and can get stuffed.

    So while we’re right with progressives on a number of issues, we don’t get any respect, because we have too little power to give them anything they really want, and we say ‘no’ to them. So in the power equation, they’re strongly prejudiced towards just telling us to go to hell.

  17. #17 |  Episiarch | 

    I’ve never understood why progressives see libertarians as enemies rather than as potential allies.

    I think lunchstealer is somewhat right, but I see it as a more basic thing: they are partisans, just like TEAM RED. Partisans cannot comprehend of other people not being partisans. And for partisans, if you don’t tow the party lion, you’re not on the TEAM. If you’re not on the TEAM, you must, in their simple binary minds, be on the other TEAM. Therefore you are the enemy. That’s it. That’s why they cannot seem to even remotely understand what libertarianism is about; because they can only conceive of someone not being TEAM BLUE as being TEAM RED. So they have to create a distorted concept for libertarians that allows them to sort of jam them into a TEAM RED mold. Hence, for an example, the constant accusations of corporatism (something that they think is a hallmark of TEAM RED, and it is), even though libertarians constantly decry corporate wrongdoing with eminent domain, etc., and no matter how many times you try and explain that libertarians are not corporatist, they keep coming back to it. Because they have to.

    They just cannot grasp the concept of not being on one of the two TEAMs. They can’t do it. It’s pathetic, but that’s the way it is.

  18. #18 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    I can tell you one very good reasons why many progressives see libertarians as enemies; it is because a lot of people who claim to be libertarians, on closer examination, are simply authoritarians who are trying to sound as non-authoritarian as possible. They believe in small government any time the government spends money on stuff they dislike, but they are ok with the government spending money on stuff they like.
    And, just to bring it closer to home, every time I read an article by Radley that contains the stereotypical slogan like “lefties” as part of its first paragraph, I wonder inwardly; does the author really want to increase the reach of libertarianism, or does he just want to piss off some more interested progressives?

  19. #19 |  Mister DNA | 

    And, just to bring it closer to home, every time I read an article by Radley that contains the stereotypical slogan like “lefties” as part of its first paragraph, I wonder inwardly; does the author really want to increase the reach of libertarianism, or does he just want to piss off some more interested progressives?

    In the political lexicon, “lefties” is pretty tame. Glibertarian, Libtard, Rethuglican, Moonbat, Wingnut… those are the go-to words used at partisan sites.

  20. #20 |  SJE | 

    I clicked over the site, and even their BLOG does not permit comments, not even for registered users. Its entirely “we talk, you listen.” The only transparency I see is that they are transparently hypocritical phonies.

  21. #21 |  SJE | 

    More hilarity! They have a pretty big list of who funds what. So, in their mind, they point the finger because Cato and Reason are funded by Exxon Mobil, the Waltons (Walmart), Scaife, etc. Of course, how does this compute when Exxon also donates to Brookings, or is that now part of a vast right wing conspiracy. The Waltons and Scaife also spread their evil right wing tentacles by donating to Harvard or the Urban Institute, known bastions of the right!.

  22. #22 |  demize! | 

    #11 my sentiments exactly. There is knowledge in both Marx and Mises, Kropotkin and Rothbard. If you are genuinely interested in justice and freedom you will have my ear. I’m only doctrinaire when it comes to abuse of power and related transgressions of that sort.

  23. #23 |  Radley Balko | 

    And, just to bring it closer to home, every time I read an article by Radley that contains the stereotypical slogan like “lefties” as part of its first paragraph, I wonder inwardly; does the author really want to increase the reach of libertarianism, or does he just want to piss off some more interested progressives?

    Really? “Left” is a slur now? What’s objectionable about it? It’s where you fall on the linear political spectrum. I don’ t think I’ve ever heard anyone on the right object to being called “a righty” or “on the right.”

    I don’t use “progressive” because it implies that people who disagree (like me) are opposed to progress. It’s a loaded term. It also clashes historically with the last movement to use the word, who shared some goals with the modern left, but held some drastically different views.

    Do we now have to refer to political movements by what they demand to be called? Because if so, I’d like to change the name of my ideology from “libertarian” to “person who is correct about everything, and who also is very handsome”.

  24. #24 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Great defense of anonymous speech, Radley. It’s easy to lose sight of the capacity for retribution by a tyrannical majority.

    The reason “left” and “liberal” have been turned into slurs but “right” hasn’t is that right-wing partisans have turned it into a talking point. I know a lot of liberals who use “right-wing” and “conservative” as slurs, but they don’t have the influence of Rush Limbaugh. Even comparable hot air jets on the left like Al Franken don’t remotely have the influence of Limbaugh and fellow travelers.

  25. #25 |  André Kenji | 

    The most interesting thing is that a PUBLIC UNIVERSITY, George Mason, is listed there. ;-)

  26. #26 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    Really? “Left” is a slur now? What’s objectionable about it? It’s where you fall on the linear political spectrum. I don’ t think I’ve ever heard anyone on the right object to being called “a righty” or “on the right.”

    My objection to “Lefty” is twofold: it is lazy, a slogan substituting for a proper definition of the worldview or the group of people with whose views you disagree in some way. It also plays into the very old left-right continuum of political viewpoint categorization, which I believe to be well past it’s sell-by date. To effectively promulgate libertarianism as a philosophy, you have to be able to convincingly explain to disaffected people why it is neither “Left” nor “Right”, but at the other end of the spectrum from authoritarianism. Continuing with the language of the paradigm that put libertarianism outside looking in seems to me to be counter-productive.
    I have heard people object to being called right-wing in the past, their usual response being some variant on “I’m not right-wing, your’re just a “.

    I don’t use “progressive” because it implies that people who disagree (like me) are opposed to progress. It’s a loaded term. It also clashes historically with the last movement to use the word, who shared some goals with the modern left, but held some drastically different views.

    I like “progressive” because it IS a loaded term. It allows for control of the framing of a debate. I quite like to use the term “regressive” and watch some people attempt to defend what are often regressive views.
    I agree about the clash with the former meaning of the word “progressive”. Very similar to the way that the term “liberal” has been re-framed over the years from the original classical Liberals.

    Do we now have to refer to political movements by what they demand to be called? Because if so, I’d like to change the name of my ideology from “libertarian” to “person who is correct about everything, and who also is very handsome”.

    I don’t recall suggesting that we have to refer to political movements by what they demand to be called…but I do like your tongue-in-cheek modesty…

  27. #27 |  KBCraig | 

    “person who is correct about everything, and who also is very handsome”

    You glistening-pated stud, you!

  28. #28 |  qwints | 

    Correcting my post –

    “I’ve never understood why progressives see persons who are correct about everything, and who also are very handsome as enemies rather than as potential allies.”

    Hope I didn’t cause any offense. lunchstealer raises a very good point regarding the transactional nature of politics.

  29. #29 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    As far as I can tell, a lot of the difficulty of putting together a liberal/progressive and libertarian alliance (aside from the little detail that a lot of libertarians have a conservative streak) is that a great many people on the left believe that business is naturally wicked– it consists of an irresponsible search for profit. They also seem to default to thinking that government is something between naturally good and plausibly controllable by the good guys (themselves).

    It’s a shame since there actually is substantial overlap in goals, but I don’t know if there’s any way to surmount the cultural differences.

  30. #30 |  freedomfan | 

    Just following up on Nancy Lebovitz’ comment, there is also sort of a general worldview-of-government issue that sometimes drives a wedge between folks on the American left and libertarians. The libertarian worldview tends to be a BAD-with-exceptions one, a view sympathetic to the notion that government is generally bad (a source of inefficiency, overreach, and corruption), but there are some exceptions (areas where use of government authority generally fixes some problems). The left’s worldview tends more toward a GOOD-with-exceptions take, a view sympathetic to the idea that government is generally good (an institution that generally fixes problems, including limiting the wickedness of business) but there are some exceptions (areas where government authority leads to inefficiency, overreach, and corruption).

    Now I am the first to admit that the two views differ more in degree than in kind. That is, they cover much of the same ground using different words. But, I think it’s tougher to find common ground when one worldview lends itself to the approach that government in general is going to be a problem, so the goal is to minimize its role so that it can’t do too much harm, and the other worldview lends itself to the approach that government should be making things better by doing lots of stuff, but we have to be vigilant about the exceptions that cause harm.

    BTW, I should be absolutely clear that, despite a fair amount of government-is-bad campaigning, actual Republican office-holders (just like Democrats) typically have very little use for the libertarian view of government. As soon as politicians of either stripe assume office, they start thinking government is good and will remain good if enough people from their team are in charge. To the GOP, the government-is-bad idea has been a rhetorical tool used to get elected and then to be stored away until the next election. We’ll soon see if they really understand ideological shift that sent them packing in 2006 and 2008 and then gave them another chance in 2010. I’m not holding my breath.

  31. #31 |  Deoxy | 

    But that Media Matters’ won’t list its own donors anywhere on its website dedicated to making think tanks and political advocacy groups more transparent is so predicatably hypocritical, it’s actually kind of expected from the left.

    The right would probably do the same if it held a near monopoly on the media for a few decades – maybe we should try that sometime, just to see.

    I jest! Well, mostly. The whole “shoe on the other foot”-schadenfreude thing would be enjoyable, even if the final results would be unhealthy.

  32. #32 |  Media Matters Attempts “Transparency”. Yet…… « Romanticpoet's Weblog | 

    [...] The Agitator notes the silly hypocrisy in the “irrelevant” Media Matters’ new effort at transparency. [...]

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