John Charles want an apology from two Metro councilors

John Charles at CPI is now demanding an apology from Metro councilors Burkholder and Collette, on the grounds that the two , in public testimony, suggested that CPI is receiving funding from the (cue scary music) Koch brothers.

In testimony offered before JPACT last July, Burkholder stated the following:

My understanding is that it was brought up by John Charles of Cascade Policy Institute. And the stories I’ve heard is that they’ve received a significant boost in funding from the Koch brothers, a wealthy set of people who are funding climate denial kind of actions and anti-transit and anti-urban redevelopment issues, and so they have significant numbers of staff people who are out there fanning the flames and providing misinformation…

Charles denies the claim concerning Koch funding, stating that CPI has “received not one penny” from the brothers Koch–although admitting that Cascade has two interns on staff who are so-called “Koch fellows“, being paid by the Institute for Humane Studies, a DC-based libertarian think tank that happens to have one Charles Koch serving as chairman of its board of directors. (The last detail was left out by CPI).

Of course, CPI doesn’t disclose who its donors are, so we’ll have to take it at its word that Koch money isn’t funding its activities–keeping in mind that money is the most fungible commodity out there.

Charles goes further to object to the part about “fanning the flames and providing misinformation”, calling it a “serious charge”. Whether or not the output of CPI constitutes “misinformation” or not I’ll let others decide–but the fact of the matter is that CPI is, essentially, a lobbying organization. Fanning the flames is its raison d’etre; it’s what it does. It’s what it is paid to do, ignoring the question of who happens to providing it funding. People and organizations give Cascade Policy Institute money in order to aid and support its agenda. CPI receives money precisely because its funding sources hope that CPI will have an influence on public policy, and CPI attempts to do so on several fronts, including both public testimony and published articles. And given that CPI has been in operation for a while now, and continues to receive funding, one might suspect that its donors believe that it is successful in these endeavors.

To paraphrase BogartClaude Rains in Casablanca–I’m shocked, shocked to find lobbying going on in this establishment!

Without irony, however, CPI then goes on to complain about Metro’s Opt-In panel as follows:

It is certainly true that Metro suffers from a lack of diversity, but that problem will not be solved by internet polling or offering small bribes to groups to receive “free surveys” of their memberships. The problem will only be solved when the Metro Council recognizes how severe the group-think mentality has become, and includes contrarian voices in meaningful conversations at the decision-making level.

Small bribes? Unless Charles is referring to $50 gift card drawing that Metro used to encourage participation in Opt-In, I have no idea what he is talking about–perhaps it’s Charles who has some ‘splainin’ to do. The suggestion that a public agency is soliciting bribes (even small ones) sounds to me to be a more serious accusation than the suggestion that a lobbyist organization is engaging in (gasp) lobbying. At any rate, Metro has been rather circumspect in its desire for greater diversity in Opt-In.

Here at Portland Transport, we take pride in fanning the flames a bit as well, albeit in the other direction. There’s nothing wrong with having opinions and trying to influence public debate, and I don’t begrudge Charles or CPI for participating in public process. It’s their constitutional right, and I encourage it. We are proud of who we are, and our biases are stated front and center here. However, if CPI is going to engage in this role, it ought to a) own up to it and be proud of it, and abandon the ridiculous pretense that it is neutral; and b) not be surprised (or outraged) when public officials push back.

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