In the pages of The Guardian today, George Monbiot describes in some detail how two secerative organisations – the Donors’ Trust and the Donors’ Capital Fund – funded by billionaires, and which provide a cover for various vested interests, have financed 102 organisations which either dismiss much of the current thinking on climate change or downplay the need to take action.
These groups, working through the media, mobilising gullible voters and lobbying politicians, helped to derail Obama’s cap and trade bill and the climate talks at Copenhagen.
The large number of recipients, he suggests is deliberate because it “ creates the impression that there are many independent voices challenging climate science”.
By these means the ultra-rich come to dominate the political conversation, without declaring themselves Those they employ are clever and well-trained. They have money their opponents can only dream of. They are skilled at rechannelling the public anger which might otherwise have been directed at their funders: the people who have tanked the economy, who use the living planet as their dustbin, who won’t pay their taxes and who demand that the poor must pay for the mistakes of the rich. Anger, thanks to the work of these hired hands, is instead aimed at the victims or opponents of the billionaires: people on benefits, the trade unions, Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union.
Although most of what he describes is happening in America, there are it would appear organisations in the UK which are similarly funded and which serve a similar purpose.
The Institute of Economic Affairs is a British group that, like all the others, calls itself a free-market thinktank. Scarcely a day goes by when its staff aren’t interviewed in the broadcast media, promoting the dreary old billionaires’ agenda: less tax for the rich, less help for the poor, less spending by the state, less regulation for business. In the first 13 days of February, its people were on the BBC 10 times.
This Institute, it appears, gets some of its funding from an organisation called American Friends of the IEA.
Moribot’s persuasively argues that we need to know what these organisations are and who exactly it is that’s behind them.
The answer, as ever, is transparency. As the so-called thinktanks come to play an ever more important role in politics, we need to know who they are working for. Any group – whether the IEA or Friends of the Earth – that attempts to influence public life should declare all donations greater than £1,000. We’ve had a glimpse of who’s paying. Now we need to see the rest of the story.