The new “Who Funds You?” website, launched today, reveals left-leaning think tanks are more open transparent thank their right-wing counterparts.
It asked 20 leading UK-based think tanks and political campaigns to disclose their major funders and rated them on the depth of their responses – as Figure 1 shows, the contrast between organisations of the left (red points) and right (blue points) is stark.
Figure 1 (yellow points denote groups of the centre):
Who Funds You? awarded six organisations an A rating (for a score of 35 or above), Compass, IPPR, nef, Progress, Resolution Foundation and Social Market Foundation, while three organisations received nul points, Adam Smith Institute, ResPublica and TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Clifford Singer, co-founder of the project, said it was “refreshing” an increasing number of think tanks and campaigns taking funding transparency seriously, and described himself as “really pleased” four of the 20 organisations they rated – nef, Progress, SMF and the Fabians – have placed funding information on their own websites since being approached.
He added of those at the wrong end of the transparency spectrum:
“Seven of the organisations we approached are languishing in our D and E streams. Those who received a D rating revealed nothing beyond the size of their annual income, while those rated E won’t even disclose that…
“At their best, think tanks and public policy campaigns make a valuable contribution to political life, generating new ideas and producing important research. At their worst, they can provide a neutral front while actually working on behalf of vested interests.
“The issue is not whether they should take this money, but that people can make up their own minds about whether this might influence their work. As organisations that exert influence on public life, it is right that we call think tanks to account and ask for a basic level of transparency.
“As think tanks increasingly take an important role in formulating government policy, it is important for a strong democracy that they are open about their own agenda and where their funding comes from.”
• The government’s ‘transparency’ is clear as mud 23 Jan 2012
Who Funds You? is calling for other think tanks and political campaigns with a strong public policy or research focus to disclose funders who give £5,000 or more in a single year, and will give a funding transparency award to those that do. Having rated 20 general political think tanks and campaigns, it will now look at those working in particular policy areas.
The project is independent, non-partisan and run by a small team of volunteers. It has so far received no funding, though may seek funding to expand in the future.
You can find out more about Left Foot Forward’s funders on our About page; let’s hope the opaque, bottom-rated right-wing organs the Adam Smith Institute, Centre for Policy Studies, Centre for Social Justice, Institute of Economic Affairs, Policy Exchange, ResPublica and TaxPayers’ Alliance are shamed into listing some of their donors, sooner rather than later.