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.