By Arthur Alpert
Sometimes I just don’t understand. Perhaps you can explain what just happened.
My editor had hardly finished posting my last essay, with its reference to the Albuquerque Journal’s refusal to identify the Koch brothers’ essays it regularly publishes as Koch brothers’ essays, when the daily’s editors did it again! They obfuscated the source of an Op Ed piece.
Well, it wasn’t a perfect rerun. As you will see, this time the essay in question has a more complicated pedigree. But the journalistic issue is the same.
May we start at the beginning?
The article, on the Op Ed page Thursday, July 21 was headlined “Dems’ renewable energy vision is a fantasy”.
The author was one Merrill Matthews and under his name the editors wrote, “The Philadelphia Inquirer”.
It was the tone that roused my suspicions; a nasty quality that often suffuses the work of the aggrieved ruling class, so I Googled Matthews.
His Institute for Policy Innovation was founded in 1987 by then Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, who later led the Koch brothers’ Freedom Works organization. IPI has received money from the Kochs’ Claude R. Lambe Foundation, Scaife Foundations and the Bradley Foundation as well as Exxon Mobil. I learned all that from SourceWatch.org,
Matthews campaigned against Obamacare as director of the “Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), an association of insurance companies.
His IPI is a member of the (Koch-supported) American Legislative Exchange Council. It has worked with ALEC on a variety of issues, including school choice, according to SourceWatch.
In 1995, IPI sent comments in favor of the tobacco industry to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Matthews also is associated with the Heartland Institute, which denies global warming and opposes regulating the sale of tobacco and which has received significant dollars from Exxon Mobil, tobacco companies Phillip Morris, Altria and Reynolds America and pharmaceutical manufacturers like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.
Heartland no longer discloses its funding sources, according to Wikipedia, but has in the recent past received big money from Donors Trust (a Koch conduit) and the Scaife, Olin and Bradley foundations.
I think you get the idea. I sure did and was pondering writing about this when this morning’s Journal arrived – it’s Friday, July 22 as I write – and there at the bottom of A2 was a “For the Record” item.
This was a correction, sort of. It identified Merrill Matthews as “a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation “a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy ‘think tank” based in Irving, Texas,” after which it blamed “the syndicate that distributed the column” for not including “identifying information.”
Questions. First, what inspired the “for the Record” item? Secondly, why put think tank in quotes? Thirdly, what is that syndicate? Does it have a name?
And finally – this is the real puzzler – where’s the real identification?
Telling me the Institute for Policy Innovation is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy “think tank” tells me nothing. Hey, they all say that.
Seriously, if you told me where an author or organization stands politically or who is bankrolling this essay, I’d have a context within which to evaluate the argument.
Providing that kind of information is called journalism and, to borrow one of the Journal’s favorite words, transparency.
But here’s what I still don’t understand.
Somebody in power at the daily was moved to correct the identification of the author of that essay, which resulted in the “for the Record” paragraph. There’s something admirable about that. So how come the same editor didn’t go further and offer a proper, useful identification?
Please, if you know, explain it to me.