UPDATE BELOW: Cato responds
The Guardian is reporting that think tanks acting as lobbyists in support of the Tea Party have arrived in London to take their message international at events organized by the controversial British group, TaxPayers' Alliance.
The Taxpayers' Alliance aggressively promotes an anti-tax, anti-state, anti-Europe agenda and many of its leading figures have close links with the Tory party and the rightwing press. Its chief executive, Matthew Elliott, will lead the "no" campaign against the adoption of the alternative vote system in next May's referendum.
Today's conference will be attended by Americans who have lobbied in the US to overturn Barack Obama's healthcare plan and maintain tax breaks for the rich. Several of the groups have close links to the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, prominent tormentors of the Obama administration.
US groups sponsoring the event include the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, which came to prominence in the 1970s as Ronald Reagan's favourite thinktank. The Kochs, whose private company owns oil rigs and pipelines in the US, founded the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and have spent tens of millions of dollars supporting the Cato Institute. They also channel funds into causes through their business empire and one Koch-owned firm, Flint Hills Resources, has donated $1m (£650,000) to the campaign against California's anti-global warning proposition being voted on in November.
The Guardian also lists the lobbying groups that are involved, many of which most Americans would not consider lobbying organization, but nonetheless includes: The Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, Krieble Foundation, Heritage Foundation. Some won't be surprising and others will garner some level of protest.
The Cato Institute has taken exception to the Guardian report. Think Tanked has obtained an email response from Cato Vice President for Communications Khristine Brookes to Guardian journalist, Phillip Inman:
...a couple of corrections on your story. First, we receive less than 5 percent of our annual operating budget from Koch interests, not "tens of millions of dollars." Second, as a non-profit organization, we have provided no financial support to the Tea Party movement. The only "backing" we've given to the Tea Party movement might be the policy papers publicly available on our website advocating limited government. You might also be interested to know that Cato scholars appear more often on the business channel CNBC than they do on the FOX News Channel. We do love to appear on FOX News...it's just not accurate to suggest that FOX is where our scholars do the majority of their arguing. You also refer frequently to Cato has a "right wing" organization. Scholars at the Cato Institute, a libertarian organization, have supported gay marriage, increased immigration, and legalized drugs. In addition, our foreign policy analysts vehemently opposed U.S. military action in Iraq...positions which frequently put us at odds with conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation.
I hope you will keep these things in mind if you write about Cato again. Many thanks.
In addition, a Cato spokesperson told Think Tanked:
- This year, as we have in the past, Cato did provide a small amount of financial support to the European Resource Bank. The event is a trade association conference for think tanks. It traditionally has not had any political implications to speak of, and most of the public would find it exceedingly boring—though I guess somehow this year it managed to get a whiff of the ‘tea party’ label, which gets everyone fired up nowadays.
- Cato does not provide any financial support for the Taxpayers Alliance or any kind of ‘European Tea Party.’ Khris discusses that a little more below. Traditionally the European Resource Bank is hosted by a European think tank. Taxpayers Alliance happens to be this year’s host. *
- No senior Cato people that I know of are present at the European Resource Bank, though I know a few of our staffers were invited to speak.