Disclaimer over here, boss?

Recently, an opinion piece by the doughty and redoubtable John McClaughry made the rounds. It appeared in some newspaper op-ed pages, and in the Commentary column of VTDigger.

And it involved a significant, undisclosed, conflict of interest.

McClaughry’s missive was a big sloppy wet kiss on the feet of Charles Koch, one of the infamous Koch brothers. McClaughry regurgitated a few nuggets of wisdom from Koch’s recent book, Good Profit. The book is a self-serving explication of why the Koch brothers are fine, principled businessmen with a strong focus on customer service and an aversion to big gummint.

Except when they can profit from it, of course. Curiously, one Kochbit highlighted by McClaughry concerns Koch Industries’ production of ethanol, which is almost entirely a creation of government subsidy. McClaughry writes with evident approval:

… out of principle, Koch opposes the present government mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline as a political scheme that produces “bad profit.”

Which has not prevented Koch Industries from continuing to enrich itself with this alleged “bad profit.” But somehow McClaughry overlooks the evident hypocrisy and praises Koch for a principle he never acts upon.

But I digress. The point isn’t that McClaughry has blessed the world with a few hundred words of free-market rhetoric, but that his own conflict of interest was not disclosed by VTDigger.

McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a free-market ideology factory that dresses itself up in the clothing of flinty Vermont idealism — but is, in actual fact, heavily dependent on out-of-state donations from, well, the far-flung Koch network of foundations and institutes.

Or, to put it plainly, some of McClaughry’s salary comes, indirectly, from the pockets of the Koch brothers and their plutocrat kin.

The Ethan Allen Institute is the Vermont affiliate of the State Policy Network which has funded and fostered a nationwide web of right-wing “think tanks.” According to Sourcewatch.org,

Fueled by robust funding from right-wing funders including the Koch brothers… SPN has grown rapidly in recent years. There were 12 original think tanks when SPN was founded. In 2013, there were 64 SPN member think tanks in all 50 states.

As for EAI’s putative independence, the head of SPN has compared its model “to that of IKEA,” with SPN providing “the raw materials along with the services needed to assemble the products.”

The products, in this case, being EAI’s output of free-market bushwah.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy

SPN and its “think tanks” are also largely funded by right-wing special interest groups and individuals, including the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Coors family (of Coors Brewing Company), the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart), Richard Mellon Scaife, Art Pope, the Roe Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation.

Beyond its membership in the Koch-backed SPN, the Ethan Allen Institute has benefited greatly from direct grants from the dizzying array of organizations traceable to the Kochs and their allies. As I previously reported in this space, EAI received at least $570,000 from out-of-state conservative groups in a 15-year period.

These donations came from a handful of national foundations, all with strong alliances to the Kochs and their nonprofit empire. This network is designed to provide an appearance of independence, but there’s no doubt that the Ethan Allen Institute is in the Kochs’ orbit.

Click the link to read more about EAI’s out-of-state benefactors. For our purposes here, suffice it to say that John McClaughry and his “think tank” are partly dependent on the likes of Charles Koch to keep their mimeograph machine cranking. And when ol’ John writes an essay about the wisdom and beneficence of a Koch brother, then EAI’s relationship to the Kochs ought to be disclosed.

13 thoughts on “Disclaimer over here, boss?

  1. Walter Carpenter

    “McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a free-market ideology factory that dresses itself up in the clothing of flinty Vermont idealism.”

    Love that sentence:) And it is true. Thanks for the post here and reminding readers again of the connection between the EAI and the Koch Brothers.

  2. walter h moses

    What do you have to do to get in on this $570,000 deal? Be a member of the elite neocons? Kiss someone’s butt? No wonder ole John is so bright eyed and bushy tailed! Are all his essays
    edited by some hilltop guru before they are sucked up by the media?

  3. R Roper

    John, The Ethan Allen Institute receives money from neither the Kochs nor SPN. We are a member of the State Policy Network, which involves us paying them $500 a year in dues, so to that extent I suppose the “Kochs” are dependent upon us. EAI is funded almost entirely by in-state donations. Less than 10% of our budget comes from out of state. If you call that “heavily dependent” I challenge you to compare it to VPIRG, the Workers Center or any of the left wing organizations in Vermont. Must be nice being able to just make stuff up. No integrity getting in the way.

  4. chuck gregory

    I’ve always wondered whether McLaughry gets paid by the state’s newspapers for printing his column or whether the EAI pays them. The former seems implausible; the latter, bribery.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Digger and the daily papers are anxious for free content to fill their opinion pages. McClaughty doesn’t get paid by them; but it is part of his job at EAI, for which he does draw a salary.

  5. Robert Haskins

    Conservatism in Vermont needs fresh faces, I’m so bloody tired of the Roper/Mclaughry duo. Seriously, is there anybody less entertaining then these two? Even their pictures which accompany their banal free market spiel, look like Leave It To Beaver throwbacks. As someone who appreciates spirited debate among political parties, the Rob and El Hefe think tank is colorless and mundane. Roper doesn’t even know where their funding sources come from?

    Remarkable anybody pays them, let alone pays attention to either one.

  6. Dave Katz

    It’s a lonely outpost up here on the lie-brul tundra…why, a rugged free marketeer jes’ has to turn to whoring, what with a brand that’s tied with cancer for popularity.

  7. Macy Franklin

    Mclaughry and Roper – the Batman and Robin of Vermont conservative politics, minus any whiff of charisma, super powers, or new critical thought beyond their shaman Reagan. That Roper doesn’t even know who is buttering his bread is just plain pathetic and a telling commentary on the backed-up septic system smell the current VTGOP.

    1. Dave Katz

      There’s a very strange quality in the way both Roper and Maclaughrey repeat their well rehearsed and utter bullshit lines–as if they know we know that, if they really believe what they’re saying they’re fools, and if they don’t, they’re being mendacious liars–and, being men of pride, doubtless, accept the latter premise with a shrug and a grin and just keep on truckin’. As I say, strange.

      1. Dave Katz

        Lying just like Fox News does with virtually every statement made by their vapid on-airs(Watching in the oil-change waiting room now. So you don’t have to.) Coincidence? I think not!

        The clear and present danger of speech uncoupled from meaning or truth value is well upon us–and our political speech is the only means by which democracy can be peacefully conducted. Takeaway? Demolish political speech by separating it from meaning, fact, and the weight of visible truth, reduce it to meaningless quacking, and bingo–peaceful democracy becomes impossible to conduct. Into that howling vacuum the opportunistic Visigoths will pour, as we’re seeing right now.

  8. James Mason

    According to their 2014 IRS filing, the EAI “does not provide tanning services”. Good to know!

    What would also be helpful to know is how much money comes from Donors Capital Fund. Apparently in 2013 it was fully 25% ($50,000) of the EAI revenues for the year – this is not “In-state” money, but wealthy anonymous donors putting in a minimum of 1 million dollars. The DCF also granted over $2 million to SPN in 2013, which in turn granted EAI nearly $25,000. So now we’re up to 38% of 2013 revenues coming from the same out-of-state shadow donors.


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