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Transparency among Nonprofits

The left’s battle against the Koch brothers is pressing forward, with Demos senior fellow David Callahan calling for the Koch Foundation to be more transparent about its organizational ties in a New York Times column yesterday:

The billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch have drawn sharp criticism for their extensive giving to libertarian causes. Though some of their organizational ties are public, many are unknown, thanks to a provision in the tax code that allows the Koch brothers and other donors, on both the left and the right, to conceal the recipients of their largess, even as they get to write it off on their taxes. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: require all nonprofit organizations that engage in political advocacy to reveal their donors.

There’s nothing especially wrong with this request, except for the fact that many of the groups attacking the Koch brothers aren’t particularly transparent about their donor information either. Callahan argues that this lack of transparency is a problem on both the left and the right–but his column goes after groups like Freedom Works, while ignoring liberal organizations that engage in the same practices.

Take one, for example. The Center for American Progress, which is reportedly among the top agitators behind the anti-Koch campaign, doesn’t disclose all of its donors to the general public. And George Soros, who has contributed to both CAP and Demos, has a well-documented history of not revealing the recipients of his donations.

Callahan’s own organization, Demos, doesn’t disclose its donor list on its website. When I contacted Demos about this, I was told that the development director would “pull together this information” and “be back in touch with [me] by the end of the week.”

The real problem is not the lack of disclosure. For groups to keep this information private is perfectly acceptable. But if Callahan is truly concerned about transparency, it’s only fair for him to take the issue up with some of his organization’s own donors and associates.


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