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.

12 responses to “John Charles want an apology from two Metro councilors”

  1. I’m pretty sure he’s just talking about the gift card contest…ridiculous. It’s not a bribe when it’s the public agency paying money to get people to participate. They’re actually being very smart, since most people need a little nudge to get involved in public policy, even if it is just doing some internet surveys.

  2. John is a drama queen. CPI is insignificant, making very little impact on our region. If the Koch brothers are giving them funding, it’s a bad investment.

    Also, if he doesn’t disclose where his funding comes from, it’s not really reasonable for him to demand an apology when someone suggests possible sources. List your sources, or shut up.

  3. Most people here are missing the point. When a public officials accuses me of spreading “misinformation”, I just want him to give me examples, which is what I told Rex in my letter.

    He won’t do it, so apparently he can’t back up his claims. Thus he should just apologize and move on.

    I have no problem the notion of “fanning the flames”. Of course we try to influence public opinion here. If that was the only thing he had said, I would not have cared.

    Koch brothers: I would be thrilled to take their money, or money from Exxon Mobil, but we don’t have any of their checks to cash. Not that it should matter to anyone. Why don’t you just focus on what we publish, and if you have a problem with our analyses or conclusions, just debate those with us?

    But Carlotta Collette said in the same meeting that the Koch brothers got all their money from the oil industry (wrong) and thus it’s clear that “that segment of the opposition” to Metro’s policies is being financed by the fossil fuel industry (also wrong). She refuses to engage me on the merits of my arguments, so instead she has to assert that I must doing the bidding of the oil industry.

    CPI may be “insignificant” to one poster, but if you listen to the entire audio recording of the 7/14 JPACT meeting, you would never know that. Quite a few of the members seemed in a near-panic about how Cascade and other members of the vast right-wing conspiracy are threatening the 2040 plan. If they think we are such a big force, I’m happy to let them keep believing it.

  4. zefwagner Says: CPI is just consistently wrong.
    JK: Care to give us several examples of actual factual errors? (I ask for several because you say they are consistently wrong.)

    Or are you just saying that you disagree? If that is the case, please say so.


  5. The problem with libertarianism, is that people are (still) too crazy for a non-governing system. However, It’s good to get this wide range of ideas out for an airing. I don’t know when we have ever had such a political season with a wide range of ideas being offered.

    “Koch Brothers”

    Boy, those two guys are sure getting blamed for a lot, lately.

  6. Ronn: “Koch Brothers”

    Boy, those two guys are sure getting blamed for a lot, lately.
    JK: Yeah, its amazing how many on the left hates big employers like the Koch Brothers, while embracing socialists like Soros.


  7. The body politic seems to resent billionaires who attempt to buy political influence, whether right-wing or left-wing. But the only remarkable thing about Soros is that he’s one of the few really rich guys who get identified with leftist politics; whereas the right wing has numerous fortunes bankrolling its politics, with the brothers Koch being the current bogeyman. But there’s plenty of others (the Scaife’s, the Coors’, and probably many we’ve never heard of).

    OTOH, George Soros, while certainly a liberal (with a definite social libertarian streak–a good chunk of his political advocacy is for drug legalization), isn’t a socialist.

    The Koch’s are probably especially notorious due to their involvement in the energy industry–it is commonly assumed that they oppose initiatives like mass transit, in part, because they consider it a threat to their business interests.

  8. JK: Yeah, its amazing how many on the left hates big employers like the Koch Brothers, while embracing socialists like Soros.

    Amazing? Amazing that those on the Left would dislike billionaires pouring millions of dollars into creating their libertarian dream world? A dream world that includes the dismantling of years of work done to reduce industrial pollution, I would add.

    It seems pretty logical to me, just as it’s logical that libertarians would be ecstatic with the Kochs and their astroturf movement.

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