The latest bulletin from the Clearinghouse for Educational Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) features an elegant crique of the National Committee for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a right-wing front group that campaigns for tobacco and Republicans and against the environment.
"You get huge leverage for your dollars," Roger Hertog told fellow wealthy donors at a recent national conference for right-wing think tanks including the Heritage Foundation and the Cato, Manhattan, and American Enterprise institutes. Hertog pointed out that a mere $70 million in donations has helped conservatives reframe the national debate on topics including antitrust law, Social Security privatization, welfare and affirmative action. Robert Kuttner, who attended the event as a "token liberal," was impressed by the right's realization that ideas matter in politics.
Behind the scenes of American politics, the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been quietly pulling the strings of state legislatures. "The organization's reach is impressive: More than one-third of state legislators are ALEC members, and about 100 hold senior leadership positions," writes Nick Penniman.
Republicans are largely sticking to their plan to partially privatize Social Security. "When it comes to style, though, Republicans are running from the term 'privatization' as fast as they can," notes Ben Fritz.
The recent disclosure that President Bush received a general warning before Sept. 11 of possible hijackings prompted a firestorm of spin. Conservative pundits and politicians fought back on cue, showing impressive message-discipline as they argued in unison that criticism of the president amounts to treason in the face of terrorism. Democrats "need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions," said Vice President Dick Cheney (without specifying any "incendiary suggestions" that any Democrats had actually made).
Details of "the great biofraud," as the Washington Times dubbed the affair, emerged just before Christmas of last year. Wildlife scientists in Washington State were accused of "planting" clumps of wild lynx fur in national forests. Supposedly the fraud was planned so the Endangered Species Act could be invoked to close the forest to campers and loggers. In reality, as government employees have insisted ever since the beginning, the whole story is a fabrication.
Conservative and right-leaning think tanks continue to get more mainstream media attention than centerist and progressive groups according to a new report by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. "The overall percentages for the year were consistent with findings for previous years, with conservative or right-leaning think tanks garnering 48 percent of the citations, centrists receiving 36 percent and progressive or left-leaning think tanks receiving 16 percent," FAIR writes.