Capital Research Center

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The Capital Research Center is a conservative think tank whose stated mission is to do "opposition research" exposing the funding sources behind consumer, health and environmental groups.

Mission

The CRC was founded in 1984 by Willa Johnson. Prior to founding CRC Johnson had been Senior Vice President of the Heritage Foundation, then worked as Deputy Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel in the first Reagan administration, and as a legislative aide in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. [1]

In his book American Foundations, Mark Dowie cites Johnson writing in the CRC's 1991 annual report that "a unified, sophisticated and well-funded philanthropic elite is dedicated to imposing on us the doctrine of 'progressive' philanthropy, doctrines that would reorder our political, economic and cultural priorities".

"This movement, driven by a bankrupt ideology, long since disproved by history, would impose its own standards of 'social justice' based on more involvement of government in philanthropy and more involvement of charities in politics. It has lost faith in the traditional American values of individual responsibility and free choice, to say nothing of the diversity in the marketplace of ideas," she wrote.

Testifying before a Congressional committee on resources, CRC Executive Vice-President, Robert Huberty explained the organization's role and concern about foundations. "Capital Research Center studies charity, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. We take a particular interest in the role of public interest organizations and their impact on American politics and society. We do not solicit or accept any government grants or contracts," he said.

"The Congress and the public have good reason to question the funding priorities of large foundations. Private foundations are peculiar creations of public law. Their assets are tax-exempt. Contributions to them are tax-deductible. They are often established in order to avoid estate taxes. The government gives a foundation these privileges with the expectation that its trustees will respect the intentions of the donor who established it, and that those intentions are benevolent and charitable," he stated.

However, Huberty objected to foundations supporting environmental advocacy campaigns for the protection of forests from logging or other extractive uses. "Certainly a foundation may support research and education programs. But when a foundation organizes a lobbying campaign on a highly divisive political issue, when it uses its largess to task one nonprofit organization -- the National Audubon Society -- to coordinate the lobbying of other nonprofits, then Congress should ask whether the spirit of the law is being upheld," he said.

"The Pew Charitable Trusts may respond that they are doing what they have a right to do, that others do it, and that no one has called on them to stop doing it. But by making themselves merely another Washington lobbying group, they undermine the traditions and institutions of philanthropy which are a vital part of our society," he stated. [2]

Key activities

As part of the conservative campaign to 'Defund the left' the Capital Research Center produces a range of publications targeting foundations, unions and activist groups that it views as supporting 'liberal' causes.

Its key monthly publications are:

  • Organization Trends that reports on and analyzes the activities of advocacy organizations;
  • Labor Watch that scrutinises union contributions and activism;
  • Foundation Watch that "examines the grantmaking of private foundations"; and
  • Compassion & Culture which was discontinued in 2009 which highlighted the "work of small, locally based charities that help the needy." [3]

It also publishes Patterns in Corporate Philanthropy, which documents corporate donations to non-profit groups. CRC also host two other projects:

  • Green Watch, which it describes as a project dedicated to "monitoring the leadership, activities and funding of the liberal environmentalist movement"; [4] and
  • Searchlight: "Get the inside scoop: Find information on the philanthropic activities of leading foundations, Fortune 500 companies and non-profits," it claims on its website. [5]

History

In April 1995, House Majority Leader Richard Armey wrote on official letterhead to 82 companies warning them that their contributions to non-profit groups helped "support expansion of the welfare state." The companies were selected on the basis of a classification by CRC which ranked Greenpeace as "radical left" and groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association as "liberal", the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Spokesman for CRC Robert Berkebile explained that the American Cancer Society was classed as 'liberal' because it supported taxes on cigarettes. (It is now known that Philip Morris was funding CRC at the time). The American Lung Association got the same rating because it supported regulations on burning hazardous waste in cement kilns. Monsanto, not known for its support for radical causes, got a "centre-left" tag because it contributed to the Nature Conservancy, amongst others.

Equally interesting is CRC's assessment of who it viewed as the real conservatives. The RAND Corporation was tagged as "center left" while the American Enterprise Institute was designated as in the "center". The true believers, gaining the "conservative" badge of honour were CRC itself, the Center for the Study of American Business, the Chamber Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution and the Hudson Institute.

The director of the Congressional Accountability Project, Gary Ruskin, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the analysis was more than 'defunding the left' "it's defunding the center, too".

In mid-February 2001, CRC President Terrence Scanlon addressed the 28th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) stating "for the first time we have an opportunity to go after these [liberal nonprofit] groups and take away their federal money."

Conservative News Service (CNS) reported that Scanlon named several organizations that are receiving federal funding including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). He told the gathering that the "AARP received $73 million in federal grants in 1999, 73 million of your tax dollars went to the AARP. Most of this money came from the Labor Department for job training programs for seniors." [6]

Scanlon had the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC) in his sights. NCSC, he said, "were well known four years ago during the Hillary Clinton health care debate when they were lobbying for national health care. Their budget is 96 percent federally funded. If it were not for federal dollars there would be no National Council for Senior Citizens." [7]

In February 2002, CRC's President, Terrence Scanlon signed onto a letter initiated by Edward Feulner from the Heritage Foundation arguing that a "stimulus package that reduces tax rates on workers, investors, and business will mean more jobs, higher incomes, and a stronger America". (The letter carried the curious disclaimer 'organizational affiliations are included for identification purposes only'). [8]

Scanlon has also signed on for other lobbying letters too. In August 2002, Scanlon was a co-signatory to a letter from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity which complained that "we are particularly concerned that the tax code is making it very difficult for U.S based companies to compete in global markets. The corporate tax rate in the United States is much too high and we compound the damage by taxing income U.S. taxpayers earn in other countries". [9]

CRC has also lobbied members of Congress against supporting measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In May 2003, on behalf of CRC, Scanlon joined 32 other conservative groups warning against "alarmist statements about climate change and science contained in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's State Department authorization bill". It warned House Committee members against accepting the Senate version of the bill. "The Senate committee findings include exaggerations, misleading statements, out-of-context citations, and reliance on discredited sources," they wrote. [10]

Personnel

According to the Capital Research Center website, accessed June 2011, the board of directors are listed as:

Former board members:

The December edition of CRC's Foundation Watch newsletter stated that Barbara Kenney joined the board in late 2003. However, it did not mention who had left.

Staff

Former Staff:

The membership of the Capital Research Center's National Advisory Board was listed on its website in 2001. However, it does not disclose the current membership of the board. A review of CRC records also provides details of some former staff and board members.

Funding

CRC claims that exposing the funding of these groups is important because "sunshine--the glare of public scrutiny--is 'the best of all disinfectants.'" But CRC doesn't seem to think its own hidden agenda should receive public scrutiny. The CRC website does not give any indicator of where it gets its own funding, and it has not responded to queries from PR Watch staff. The CRC's Form 990 can be referenced here.

Grants from foundations

However, Media Transparency calculated that CRC received 106 grants between 1985 and 2002 from a handful of conservative foundations totalling $6,058,820 (unadjusted for inflation). [11]

A list of specific foundation grants to CRC provides some insight into their work.

Over the last five years that data is publicly available, CRC have built their financial assets from just over $3 million to $7.48 million. While total revenue has slumped from a peak of $2.7 million in 2000 to just over $1.5 million in 2002, there has been little impact on the organization's activities.

Since 1998 the cost of CRC's program services has remained relatively constant around the $1 million per annum mark. For his efforts Scanlon was paid $211,989 in 2002, and $304,180 in 2009[2]. (See also Capital Research Center financial data from its IRS returns between 1998 and 2002.)

Like many on the right, Scanlon is critical of corporations funding advocacy non-government organisations, not because it compromises their independence, but because in his view it doesn't succeed in 'buying them off'. "The corporations 'think they can buy off' the environmental groups, Scanlon told Insight. "When you talk to these corporations, as I have done over the years, generally it's a buy-off; they think they will get rid of these people [through donations], but that's not the case."[3]

Corporate sponsors

While CRC publications identify corporate funding of what they perceive as liberal non-profit groups, they do not disclose their own corporate sponsors. However, voluntary disclosures and documents revealed as a result of court actions provide a small window into how CRC interacts with corporations. In 2002, ExxonMobil donated $25,000 to the CRC for the Green Watch project with another $25,000 in 2003, according to corporate giving reports no longer available on Exxon's website, but still available via ExxonSecrets.org. "Capital Research Center and Greenwatch has received $215,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998," and up to 2006, according to ExxonSecrets. [4] According to Exxon's website, the oil company gave another $50,000 in 2007, for "public information and policy research." [5]

List of corporate sponsors

Found this section, titled "Grants to Capital Research Center", inexplicably over at ACSH in Nov 2010; now moving it here.

Capital Research Center reports grants from:

CRC and coal

CRC has received large donations from pro-fossil fuel groups like Exxon and the Koch Family Foundations through its Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.[6] In November 2010, CRC published a report criticizing the Sierra Club for its work in transitioning the US away from coal plants, portraying it as an attack on "American prosperity."[7]

CRC and the tobacco industry

Documents released as a part of the settlement by tobacco companies with U.S. state governments revealed the close relationship between CRC and Philip Morris. See Capital Research Center and the tobacco industry for more details.

A report by CultureWatch described CRC's leadership "reads like a Who's Who of the establishment right."

Contact information

Capital Research Center
1513 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone:(202) 483-6900
Fax:(202) 483-6902
Email: contact@capitalresearch.org
Web: http://www.capitalresearch.org

Articles and Resources

References

  1. Capital Research Center, 2006 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, April 30, 2007.
  2. GuidestarCRC's 2009 Form 990
  3. John Elvin, "Feeding the Hand That Bites Them", Insight on the News, August 6, 2001.
  4. "Factsheet: Capital Research Center and Greenwatch," ExxonSecrets.org, accessed August 2008.
  5. "Exxon Mobil Corporation: 2007 Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments (pdf)," ExxonMobil.com, accessed August 2008.
  6. "CRC Funders" Media Matters, accessed November 2010.
  7. "The Sierra Club’s War on Coal" CRC, November 2010.

External links

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