Summary: A citizens-hostile front group turns out to be funded by the Gates Foundation
IN OUR daily links we occasionally include links about ALEC, a controversial AstroTurfing/lobbying group for corporate power. It turns out that Bill Gates is funding them. “Knowingly or not, the Gates Foundation has just stepped on a political landmine,” says this one report. What about the Koch ties that we wrote about some days ago?
Tim Ogden, editor of Philanthropy Action, and Laura Freschi, of New York University’s Development Research Institute, described the extent of Gates’s dominance and how its vast resources can squelch dissent.
While other philanthropies are trying to help get the ball across the goal line on issues they care about, Mr. Ogden said, Gates is “creating the ball, building the team, hiring the referees,” and “funding the instant replay.”
Ms. Freschi said it’s not out of the question that one day a reader might devour an article about a Gates-supported health project, printed on the pages of a newspaper that gets Gates money, reported by a journalist who received media training paid for by Gates, citing research by scientists financed by Gates.
Gates’s focus on relentlessly highlighting the positives of global health and antipoverty work may sometimes come at a cost, she said. (She noted the title of a recent Gates-sponsored conference on malaria: “Optimism and Urgency.”)
While optimism has a place in advocacy, Ms. Freschi said, she questioned how big its role should be in vaccine research. She asked whether there was enough of a “firewall” among data collection, scientific analysis, and advocacy at the Gates fund and whether its money and influence could cause researchers to focus on approaches they didn’t believe in or to portray results in overly rosy ways.
The lobbying power of Gates often relies on proxies, but not always. ALEC is among them. We’ll keep an eye on the impact. █