January 27, 2005

JONATHAN ADLER:

The Gallagher kerfuffle conceals one of the Beltway’s tidy little secrets: Hundreds, if not thousands, of policy experts and advocates receive federal grants and contracts. Federal funding of experts, advocacy groups, and other nonprofits is so widespread that it scarcely ever warrants attention. The real scandal is not that a federal agency paid Maggie Gallagher for her expertise, but that federal agencies dole out millions in taxpayer dollars each and every year to activist organizations that turn around and call for Congress to grant these agencies even greater power. This is the real “political payola” in Washington, and it is about time it received some attention.

And there’s more here:

In furtherance of Jonathan Adler’s point, if you go to Landmark Legal Foundation’s website you will find thousands of environmental groups that receive government grants. The Washington Post has used scores of these groups in its news stories. Does the Washington Post have a policy of disclosing the groups’ government connections in its news pages? Not that I can discern. When the groups’ representatives are on radio and TV shows, do they disclose that they’ve received money from the government? Not that I can discern.

Hey, I’m starting to like the new rules. Disclosure for all!

UPDATE: Bill Quick notes the people who got Enron money and observes: “Want a journalist? Go buy one. They’re cheap. Really cheap. Oh, and relatively inexpensive, too.”