Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blankenhorn Concerned About Donor Influence

"It’s also worth remembering that there’s no such thing as a donation without expectations. As long as we have think tanks, we’re going to have donors with motives."  
- David Blankenhorn, in a blog post at the Institute for American Values (IAV) website, entitled, "Think Tanks, Fundraising, and What Money Shouldn't Buy"

Blankenhorn made this statement in the context of discussing what he recognized as an inherent conflict of interest when foreign nations seeking to influence US policy give money to US think tanks.  

Although IAV no longer seems super involved, at least explicitly, in the same-sex marriage debate in the US, I have kept their Family Scholars Blog in my blog reader even though they now call it a "magazine" and no longer allow comments.  I've been curious about what would be next for such an agency, beyond same-sex marriage, and have to admit I'm a bit perplexed by its current focus on "thrift."  

However, overall I do agree with Blankenhorn's overall message in his latest post. More than anything, I was surprised to see him articulate a position acknowledging that money donated often comes with implicit or explicit strings attached to produce certain outcomes or opinions.

The relevant conversations have since been deleted from their site, but when I was a guest blogger at Family Scholars Blog, I remember Blankenhorn defending Mark Regnerus, who was being widely critiqued for (a) his substantively bad study, and (b) not disclosing his funders' possible influence on his infamous study that anti-gay organizations now use as "proof" that same-sex parents are bad (even though the study doesn't actually prove that).

Specifically, back in 2012, Blankenhorn wrote a post hyperbolically entitled, "Corrective Labor Camps, Perhaps?" (post and comments preserved here) taking issue with a journalist filing an open records request to investigate the ties between Regnerus and the conservative-leaning Witherspoon Institute, the funder that many suspected influenced the study to impact public opinion and court cases about same-sex marriage and parenting.

The American Independent eventually provided evidence that the Regnerus study was influenced in part by its funder, and that W. Bradford Wilcox was both a paid consultant on the study and a director at Witherspoon.  Wilcox was also previously a blogger at IAV's Family Scholars Blog.

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