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Hong Kong beats UK, US on ‘human freedom’ index Fraser Institute

Submitted by admin on Jan 10th 2013, 12:00am News› Hong Kong


Stuart Lau

Hong Kong ranks third-best globally for “human freedom”, topping such well-established democracies as the United States and United Kingdom, according to the research from the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank. The mainland stood at 100th.

The city was the star performer for economic freedom – scoring 9.02 out of 10. But in terms of personal freedom, or civil liberties, it measured 7.8, worse than at least 49 countries.

The Freedom Index [1]

This gave it an overall score on the “human freedom index” of 8.39, below New Zealand and the Netherlands. The US was ranked 7th and the UK 18th.

“No nation that has adopted economic freedom has ever failed to evolve towards civil and political freedoms, with only two possible exceptions: Singapore and Hong Kong,” the report noted. “The great question for the future is whether … market reforms ultimately lead to other freedoms in [mainland] China.”

The mainland was given 5.1 and 6.44 points for personal and economic freedom respectively.

The personal freedom indicator included freedom of speech and religion, legal discrimination against homosexuals and women’s freedom. The economic one focused on property protection and individuals’ engagement in voluntary transactions.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, an international studies scholar at Baptist University, said the low personal freedom ranking “sounds a timely alarm over signs of compromising civil liberties and an increasingly authoritarian government” in Hong Kong.

Dr Benedict Chan Shing-bun, at the Hang Seng Management College, agreed with the index’s methodology. “I believe [mainland officials] are aware of the importance of keeping Hong Kong’s economic edge.”

The index table, involving 123 countries and regions, was drawn from 2008 and was contained in a new book, Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom, co-researched by Germany’s Liberales Institut. ( …. Follow the money …………….

Harry’s view [2]


Human Rights

human freedom index

Hong Kong

United States

United Kingdom

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 11th 2013, 4:26am):


Hong Kong’s economic freedom score of 89.3 keeps it atop the Index rankings for the 19th consecutive year. Its overall score is 0.6 point lower than last year, mainly due to increased government spending relative to GDP and an increase in inflation. Hong Kong is ranked 1st out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region and 1st in the world.

Hong Kong’s highly competitive regulatory regime, coupled with an efficient and transparent legal framework, sustains vibrant engagement in global trade and investment. The highly motivated and skilled workforce is a cornerstone of strength for the dynamic economy. There is little tolerance for corruption. Economic interactions with China have become more intense and sophisticated, and trade and financial linkages with the mainland have grown significantly.

Hong Kong continues to demonstrate a high degree of economic resilience and remains one of the world’s most competitive financial and business centers. Although Hong Kong remains number one in the Index rankings, the uniqueness of its commitment to economic freedom has eroded in recent years, and any further implementation of populist policies that empower the bureaucracy or undermine the principle of limited government could threaten its standing in the future.

Heritage Foundation | Right Wing Watch

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According to Media Transparency, the Heritage Foundation received $61,944,537 in foundation grants from organizations such as: the Lynde and Harry Bradley

ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Heritage Foundation

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Heritage Foundation has received $730,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. $50,000 ExxonMobil Corporate Giving Source: ExxonMobil corporate funding 2011, …

Ah yes, now let’s look at similar ‘justify’ organisations ……………………..Follow the money ………… their ‘reports’ and ‘research’

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In the 1990s, the group worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange

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File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
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by P Basham
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24 Nov 2012 – They consume a lot of money, pay themselves extravagant (and tax-free!) to report on a World Health Organization conference on tobacco.

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Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth (AEEG) was created by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and is led by a VIP list of companies that oppose clean energy and climate legislation. AEEG has organized numerous climate change “dialogues” with state-level Chambers of Commerce, which typically include industry-sponsored economic impact studies which paint doom-and-gloom scenarios of massive job losses and higher energy costs (example here), presentations that raise doubts about the science, and presentations on the difficulty of doing anything about global warming. Even these slanted studies actually show healthy economic growth under federal climate policy, but these results are not presented to the public. For the real story on clean energy jobs check out NRDC economist Laurie Johnson’s blog.

American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) has partnered twice with the National Association of Manufacturers to produce and disseminate distorted economic analyses that overstate the costs of climate legislation and which have been prominently featured at the US Chamber of Commerce-organized “forums” on climate over the past year. The ACCF/NAM studies have been credibly debunked more than once. ACCF has been supported by a number of major corporate interests, including ExxonMobil, Southern Co. and the American Petroleum Institute.

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is the number one group representing Big Coal. Created through the renaming and merger of two former front groups, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) and Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED), ACCCE members and funders include a number of companies directly and indirectly reliant upon coal as a major source of revenue. According to ACCCE’s 2008 tax return, the group brought in $47 million in revenues, nearly 7 times what it reported the previous year. Coal companies and the nation’s biggest railroad association accounted for fifty percent of ACCCE’s budget in 2008.  ACCCE opposed the Waxman-Markey climate bill, and recently Duke Energy left the group because of its entrenched opposition to meaningful climate legislation. The organization’s lobbying expenses in 2009 have been left murky by a revision of their disclosure report which removed more than $10 million from their reported expenditures on federal lobbying (see ACCCE‘s 2nd quarter 2009 reports before and after).

Already infamous for its campaign featuring animated lumps of coal singing Christmas carols revised to tout coal’s virtues, ACCCE‘s most recent embarrassment has blown into a full-fledged scandal: Bonner & Associates, Washington DC’s most famous ‘astroturf’ consulting firms, was forced to admit that it had produced and sent forged letters to members of Congress opposing clean energy and climate legislation, on behalf of ACCCE. The scandal has resulted in Rep. Edward Markey’s House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to investigate ACCCE’s campaign.

American Energy Alliance (AEA) is a 501(c)4 political action group the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute formed to fight the Clinton administration’s BTU tax proposal in 1993, and in recent years funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Now coupled with the 501(c) (3) Institute for Energy Research and run by Thomas Pyle, (former aide to Republican Tom DeLay and former lobbyist for Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association) veteran oil lobbyist. AEA has been active in the climate debate, from running ads repeating false claims about the costs of climate legislation to trashing clean energy at town halls around the US – this time using false claims about the dangers of clean energy jobs.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has a long track record of distorting the science and solutions of climate change. Its arguments tend to de-emphasize the environmental and economic risks of climate change, exaggerate the costs of addressing the problem and question the value of putting a policy in place at all, as this recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by AEI fellow Steven Hayward. In 2007, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that AEI was offering to pay scientists $10,000 to debunk global warming. AEI has received substantial funding from ExxonMobil and has received tobacco funding from Philip Morris.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is one-stop shopping for elected officials interested in perusing the wares of an array of Koch-funded opposition organizations including Institute for Energy Research , American Council for Capital Formation, the Mercatus Center and other sources. ALEC publishes its own materials as well, including a “Climate Change Overview for State Legislators” which downplays the science and risks of global warming and exaggerates the costs of addressing it. The Overview was written by Daniel Simmons, who moved from ALEC to become the American Energy Alliance’s Director of State Affairs. ALEC has received funding from ExxonMobil and has been associated with the tobacco industry.

American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 political organization chaired by Newt Gingrich, has been fighting clean energy for several years. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company and one of the groups biggest backers, has contributed $250,000 in the most recent 2010 election cycle to support American Solutions’ activities. The oil and gas company Devon Energy also contributed $250,000, while Arch Coal, the utility American Electric Power and oil services company Plains Exploration and Production gave $100,000 each. Recently, Media Matters reported the group tried to downplay the impact of the Gulf oil disaster oil by claiming natural oil leaks in the Gulf are greater than the blown oil well in the Gulf. But as the oil spews into the ocean at a rate many times higher than first estimated, no oil-whether man made or natural-is good for the ocean environment. The Gingrich group also has been attacking the American Power Act as a gas tax that would hurt the economy, a specious claim debunked by the recent economic report by the Peterson Institute. In 2009, American Solutions ran a misleading TV advertisement against the American Clean Energy and Security Act shortly before it was passed by the US House in June, organized an email-drive targeting members of Congress and continues to collect signatures and mobilize its followers to oppose clean energy and climate legislation.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a front-group founded and funded by members of the family that owns Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in the world, with $100 billion in sales and 70,000 employees. According to an extensive investigative report by Greenpeace, AFP received more than $5 million from Koch family foundations from 2005-2008. In 2008, Koch Industries executive vp and board member the David H. Koch was listed as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Various members of the Koch family make up of the most consistent sources of funding of opposition to clean energy, including $1,000,000 to AFP in recent years. Beginning in 2008, AFP organized Astroturf “hot air balloon” events to highlight their opposition to clean energy and climate legislation, a tactic they resumed in the summer of 2009. They are continuing to fund anti-climate change events in 2010. This Astroturf campaign has been repeatedly exposed, including this item in the Wall Street Journal’s blog Environmental Capital.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) denies the science of global warming and opposes federal policies to address it. ATR focused on costs and denial in their 2008 “Cost of Government” report. ATR is run by conservative Washington insider Grover Norquist, who once wrote a letter along with the Competitive Enterprise Institute demanding that the Bush Administration withdraw its Climate Action Report 2002 posted on the EPA website because it was based on “junk science.” ATR has received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry.

APCO Asssociates, now APCO Worldwide, was a PR agency that partnered with Philip Morris to develop grassroots and science front groups such as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). It supported tobacco industry views on regulation and other anti-regulatory efforts on topics such as global warming. TASSC was headed by junk science king and climate science denier Steve Milloy, who still is hosted on Fox News shows as a science expert on global warming.

Atlas Economic Research Foundation has cosponsored Heartland  Institute events dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not a crisis and has supported organizations such as the John Locke Foundation,  a group that has attacked efforts by state elected officials working on climate solutions with the Alliance  for Climate Strategies. Atlas has helped spawn dozens of conservative libertarian think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute. Atlas has received money from Philip Morris and Exxon.

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change is run by Sherwood Idso and his sons Craig and Keith, long-time climate science deniers. The Center runs the science denial site CO2 Science. The group has worked with the Greening Earth Society, founded by the Western Fuels Association. It also has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Per its unapologetically Orwellian name, CO2isGreen runs anti-climate/clean energy advertisements reflecting the strident climate science denial sentiments of the oil and coal executives who run it. H. Leighton Steward is chairman of and the related front group Steward has worked at Shell and Burlington Resources. He has chaired the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and the Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association. Steward currently serves on the board of the oil and gas company EOG Resources. In 2001, Steward was awarded the American Petroleum Institute’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. The Washington Post reports: “Steward has joined forces with Corbin J. Robertson Jr., chief executive of and leading shareholder in Natural Resource Partners, a Houston-based owner of coal resources that lets other companies mine in return for royalties.” According to “[Robertson] is the CEO of Natural Resources Partners L.P., which belongs to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. ACCCE is a ‘pro coal group’ that is linked to at least thirteen fraudulent letters mailed to members of Congress purporting to be from seniors, veterans, African American, Latino and Women’s organizations expressing opposition to ACES. In 2008, ACCCE spent at least $45 million on a clean coal advertising campaign, and during the first two quarters of 2009, ACCCE has spent over a million dollars in direct federal lobbying.”

Coalition for Affordable American Energy (CAAE) is a coalition of more than 180 trade associations sponsored by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. CAAE is chiefly responsible for a misleading study projecting job losses and increased energy costs, under an Obama energy plan, and they won praise from President George W. Bush for their support of offshore domestic oil drilling. CAAE was formed in 2008 to push for a pro-oil drilling agenda with industry heavyweights.

Capital Research Center (CRC) runs the website collects information on non-profit environmental advocates, and is heavily biased against climate science. CRC has taken funding from Exxon and Philip Morris.

The Cato Institute tends to focus on disputing the science behind global warming and questioning the rationale for taking action. The organization’s 2009 “Handbook for Policymakers” on global warming begins with the suggestions that Congress should “pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide” and “inform the public about how little climate change would be prevented by proposed legislation.” Robert Bradley, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, is also a founder and the CEO of the Institute for Energy Research. In 2007 the Cato Foundation gave $120,000 to New Hope Environmental Services, a “an advocacy science consulting firm” founded and run by long-time climate science denier Patrick J. Michaels, who uses New Hope to public his World Climate Report, a sort of ongoing journal of denial of climate science. Michaels is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, which paid him $98,000 to write a book “The Satanic Gases” with fellow skeptic Robert Balling. Over the years, Michaels’ work has been financed by a number of coal and polluter interests, including the Western Fuels Association and the Intermountain Rural Electric Association. According to an investigative report by Greenpeace, Cato received family foundation grants from oil services giant Koch Industries worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) is a major critic of climate science and helped organize a conference during the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen to dispute ongoing efforts to combat global warming. CFACT advisors include Patrick Michaels, Michael Fumento and Dennis Avery, major critical voices of climate change science. CFACT has been funded by conservative foundations and Exxon, among others.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is one of the oldest conservative think tanks dating back to the Reagan years of the 1980s. It has also been closely involved in putting out misinformation about global warming, and stated a front group called the Cooler Heads Coalition in 1997, a group of conservative and fossil fuel funded organizations opposed to efforts to implement clean energy regulations and cut global CO2 emissions. CEI has been a major recipient of funding from Exxon and other oil companies. Last year, CEI was behind the specious claim that the government was hiding evidence that fighting global warming would cost more than it was saying publicly. CEI has also jumped on the hackergate bandwagon making outrageous claims that the stolen emails were proof that global warming was a fraud. CEI was also a close ally of Philip Morris and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from Big Tobacco. Read more.

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942 to champion civil rights. Its chairman and CEO is Roy Innis, also on the board of the conservative Hudson Institute which receives funding from Koch Industries. Between 2003 and 2006, ExxonMobil donated more than $275,000 to CORE, including for projects described as “Global Climate Change Environmental Outreach.” CORE has focused on opposing clean energy and climate legislation by claiming it would raise energy prices disproportionately for minorities. CORE’s original founders have criticized the organization for “renting out” its reputation to companies like ExxonMobil.

The Cooler Heads Coalition is a loose association of more than a dozen conservative climate skeptic groups and publishes the website It was hosted and financed by the anti-regulatory group Consumer Alert and is chaired by Myron Ebell, who directs the global warming and energy policy program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Energy Citizens is a “grass roots” campaign against climate and energy legislation which has organized rallies in the Midwest and South during the August Congressional recess. The Energy Citizens coalition includes business and industry groups and conservative advocacy organizations like Freedomworks. Greenpeace USA recently exposed Energy Citizens’ funding ties to the oil industry, including the American Petroleum Institute.

Fraser Institute, a Canadian based anti-regulatory think tank, publishes in-depth critiques of climate science, including a 110-page report attacking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment report. The Institute also offers lesson plans and educational materials designed to encourage children to be skeptical of mainstream climate science. The Fraser Institute has sought funding from the tobacco industry and has received funding from ExxonMobil.

FreedomWorks is an Astroturf campaign organization run by Dick Armey, former Republican House Majority Leader and noted corporate lobbyist. In 2004 FreedomWorks merged with Citizens for a Sound Economy, a major advocacy group founded by oil services giant Koch Industries executive David Koch. Freedomworks has been a driving force behind the anti-healthcare, anti-tax, anti-clean energy opposition groups showing up at town halls and rallies across the states, and it has asked its “grass roots activists” to send a letter to members of Congress. In 2009 Freedomworks joined the Energy Citizens coalition, which is funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute and other organizations. Read More.

Frontiers of Freedom Foundation (FF) was formed in 1996 by former Wyoming Senator Malcolm Wallop as an anti-regulatory think tank. It has hosted some 55 articles on its website focusing on climate science denial and high estimates of the cost of climate policy. Frontiers of Freedom reinforced the Tax Foundation’s characterization of cap-and-trade as a tax on the poor and middle class. FF also smears climate science and spreads climate disinformation. FF has worked closely with and has been funded by the tobacco industry and ExxonMobil.

Foundation for Research on Energy and the Environment (FREE) sponsors controversial seminars for federal judges that promote “free market environmentalism,” events that have been criticized for creating judicial conflicts of interest. FREE states it does not accept direct corporate support for its judicial seminars and only takes money from foundations whose founder is deceased (called dead-men foundations). A Koch report on its FREE funding raised questions about the accuracy of the disclosure.

George C. Marshall Institute produced a “Cocktail Conversation Guide” on with suggestions for denying the dangers of global warming in any “social setting.” The Marshall Institute was originally established in the 1980s to promote President Reagan’s Star wars program but in recent years it has increasingly turned its attention to climate change. It has promoted climate skeptic Patrick Michaels books on its website and has received substantial funding from ExxonMobil. Its former chairman was Frederick Seitz, a climate skeptic and former tobacco consultant.

The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank that strongly criticizes climate science and runs a web site that includes misleading information about the science behind climate change. Heartland has hosted annual conferences to dispute consensus agreements around climate change. It also promoted the faulty Spanish green jobs study that was debunked by experts. Heartland is funded by conservative foundations and fossil fuel companies such as Exxon. It has received funding from and been a frequent ally of the tobacco industry.

The Heritage Foundation is a mainstay of misinformation and exaggeration when it comes to climate and policy issues. In the last couple of years, Heritage has misinterpreted of the impacts of global warming on the US economy, twisted news reports to justify scary claims about ‘climate taxes’, issued bad economic analyses and deceptive presentations, and released exaggerated claims about economic ruin and impacts in the agricultural sector should Congress pass climate legislation. This is only a representative sample. The Heritage Foundation also teamed up with the Institute for Energy Research to promote the widely debunked “Spanish” study. Heritage has been funded by ExxonMobil and tobacco companies. According to an investigative report by Greenpeace, oil services giant Koch Industries and its family foundations gave the Heritage Foundation grants worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008

Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) spread misinformation on climate science and touts the work of climate deniers. IWF is run by Nancy Pfotenhauer (formerly Nancy Mitchell), Koch Industries’ chief in-house lobbyist from 1996 to 2001 when she left Koch to become the director of the IWF. In 2003, IWF affiliated itself with Americans for Prosperity, which replaced Citizens for a Sound Economy. IWF is funded primarily by conservative foundations.

Institute for Energy Research is a partner organization to American Energy Alliance that employs the same staff and supports misinformation trashing clean energy. It supported and promoted the “Spanish” and “Danish” studies critical of clean energy jobs, both of which have been debunked by credible sources. IER also argues that efforts to curb global warming would accomplish little at too great a cost, promotes ACCF/NAM and Heritage Foundation studies that exaggerate the costs of climate policy, and discourages U.S. leadership on the international stage.  Robert Bradley, a former Enron executive, is the CEO of IER and one of its founders. Thomas Pyle, a former Koch and oil-industry lobbyist, is the President of IER and the American Energy Alliance, the 501c4 counterpart to IER. One of IER’s directors, Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute, was exposed in 2007 for attempting to pay IPCC scientists to criticize the IPCC’s findings on climate science.IER has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Koch Industries the giant privately owned oil services company, is a major funder of climate change denial groups, funneling money to organizations opposed to climate change legislation through its foundations, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation; the Charles G. Koch Foundation; and the David H. Koch Foundation. According to a thorough investigative report released by Greenpeace, Koch foundations have doled out more than $48 million to group to promote its pro-oil agenda. These include the Mercatus Center (1997-2008: $9,874,500), Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) ($5,176,500 from 2005-2008), The Heritage Foundation (grants worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008), and the Cato Institute (foundation grants of $5,278,400 between 1997 and 2008).

Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a large conservative think tank in Michigan that spreads climate change denials and smears prominent climate policy consultants. It has received funding from ExxonMobil. (JM and Atlas Economic Research Foundation hence Big Tobacco)

The Manhattan Institute, founded by former CIA Chief William Casey, publishes climate science denials and has hosted Bjorn Lomborg, a favorite of climate deniers, in the last several years. The Manhattan Institute has received funding from ExxonMobil and from tobacco companies.

National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) disseminates climate science denials and exaggerates the economic costs of mitigation. NCPA is an anti-regulatory think tank that has attacked efforts to combat global warming. It was caught up in the web around convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who used the organization as part of a scheme to defraud Indian tribes. The Center also has received tobacco funding from Philip Morris, as well oil companies such as ExxonMobil.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is an anti-regulatory think tank that has attacked efforts to combat global warming. It was caught up in the web around convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who used the organization as part of a scheme to defraud Indian tribes. The Center also has received tobacco funding from Philip Morris, as well oil companies such as Exxon.

Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRIPP), based in San Francisco, supported and funded An Inconvenient Truth…or Convenient Fiction, a film attacking the science of global warming and intended as a rebuttal to former Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary. The film was produced by PRIPP Senior Fellow Steven Hayward and promoted by the Heritage Foundation. PRIPP has received funding from ExxonMobil and from the tobacco industry.

Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) is a private property rights think tank based in Bozeman, MT. It touts the economic benefits to American farmers as a reason not to act against climate change. PERC has been a part of the Cooler Heads Coalition and has taken funding from ExxonMobil.

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and its president Harry C. Alford have vigorously opposed  H.R. 2454, participating in rallies and testifying before Congress. In a recent Senate hearing, Alford recently called Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer a racist for her comments about NAACP’s support of the climate change legislation. NBCC has received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry.

Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) was founded by Fred Singer, a leading climate science skeptic, and was originally associated with the Unification Church. Singer, who also worked with the tobacco industry, worked closely with a variety of climate skeptic groups, including the Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. SEPP received funding from ExxonMobil.

The Reason Foundation, publisher of Reason Magazine, promotes the tenets of “Free Market Environmentalism (FME)” to argue that those who suffer from the effects of global warming have little legal or moral claim for compensation from GHG emitters. The Reason Foundation received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry.

The Tax Foundation opposed ACESA and issued a study on the costs of cap and trade legislation. Wayne Gable, a former Managing Director of Federal Affairs at Koch Industries, served as president of the Tax Foundation from 1989-1991.  He is now on the board of the Institute for Energy Research. The Tax Foundation has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) fellows recently wrote on why reducing global warming pollution won’t work and the devastating impact the American Clean Energy and Security Act would have on all aspects of American life. It has received funding from conservative foundations and Exxon.

The US Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber) wouldn’t ordinarily make a list of front groups since in general it is what it claims: a representative of business interests. However, in the case of the climate debate, The Chamber presents the positions of three of America’s biggest coal producers as representative of the entire body, a misrepresentation that some members have complained about. In fact, nineteen of The Chamber’s board members support federal policy on climate, while only four—including those three coal companies—oppose it. The Chamber’s calls to hold a “Scopes Monkey” trial on global warming science evidence that the body has chosen to present the views of a few coal companies as representing US business in general. This analysis connects the dots between Union Pacific Railroad and its support for UP Director and Chamber President Tom Donohue, dirty coal and The Chamber’s anti-climate legislation stance. The Chamber spent $144 million on lobbying in 2009, a 60% increase from 2008.

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) publishes articles on the business threats posed by regulation of global warming pollution, such as vulnerability to tort claims. WLF is funded by conservative foundations and has received funding from the tobacco industry and has received money from Exxon.

Young America’s Foundation (YAF) publishes climate-denial creeds and promotes prominent climate-denier Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute which has received funding from ExxonMobil. Horner is author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism,” and “A Field Guide to Climate Criminals.” YAF President Ron Robinson is a director of Citizens United and of the American Conservative Union, which have been skeptical of climate change.

In some cases, think tanks are little more than public relations fronts, usually headquartered in state or national seats of government and generating self-serving scholarship that serves the advocacy goals of their industry sponsors. A think tank’s resident experts carry titles such as “senior fellow” or “adjunct scholar,” but this does not necessarily mean that they possess an academic degree in their area of claimed expertise. Outside funding can corrupt the integrity of academic institutions. The same corrupting influences affect think tanks, only more so.

Think tanks are like universities minus the students and minus the systems of peer review and other mechanisms that academia uses to promote diversity of thought. Real academics are expected to conduct their research first and draw their conclusions second, but this process is often reversed at most policy-driven think tanks. As writer Jonathan Rowe has observed, the term “think” tanks is a misnomer. His comment was directed at the conservative Heritage Foundation, but it applies equally well to many other think tanks, regardless of ideology: “They don’t think; they justify.”

“In 1970, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote a fateful memo to the National Chamber of Commerce saying that all of our best students are becoming anti-business because of the Vietnam War, and that we needed to do something about it. Powell’s agenda included getting wealthy conservatives to set up professorships, setting up institutes on and off campus where intellectuals would write books from a conservative business perspective, and setting up think tanks. He outlined the whole thing in 1970. They set up the Heritage Foundation in 1973, and the Manhattan Institute after that. There are many others, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute at Stanford, which date from the 1940s.” —George Lakoff [1]

Think tanks are funded primarily by large businesses and major foundations. They devise and promote policies that shape the lives of everyday Americans: Social Security privatization, tax and investment laws, regulation of everything from oil to the Internet. They supply experts to testify on Capitol Hill, write articles for the op-ed pages of newspapers, and appear as TV commentators. They advise presidential aspirants and lead orientation seminars to train incoming members of Congress.

Think tanks may have a decided political leaning. There are twice as many conservative think tanks as liberal ones, and the conservative ones generally have more money. One of the important functions of think tanks is to provide a way for business interests to promote their ideas or to support economic and sociological research not taking place elsewhere that they feel may turn out in their favor. Conservative think tanks also offer donors an opportunity to support conservative policies outside academia, which during the 1960s and 1970s was accused of having a strong “collectivist” bias.

“Modern think tanks are nonprofit, tax-exempt, political idea factories where donations can be as big as the donor’s checkbook and are seldom publicized,” notes Tom Brazaitis, writing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Technology companies give to think tanks that promote open access to the internet. Wall Street firms donate to think tanks that espouse private investment of retirement funds.” So much money now flows in, that the top 20 conservative think tanks now spend more money than all of the “soft money” contributions to the Republican party.

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