Center for American Progress’s Beef
Ken Silverstein’s “Think Tanks in the Tank?” [June 10/17] insinuates a lot, but the facts tell a different story. The inference at the heart of his article is that corporate donations shape or drive the content of CAP and CAP Action. That assertion is baseless and false. Silverstein’s argument relies on a junior staffer “flagging” a hard-hitting piece we did on Goldman Sachs. But Silverstein fails to say that CAP’s leadership raised no concerns—indeed it pushed for additional coverage—and the original draft appeared verbatim and remains publicly available, along with more than two dozen other pieces of our reporting that are highly critical of Goldman Sachs. All that was required was a simple search of ThinkProgress.
Silverstein also argues that CAP takes funds from Turkish interests and quotes an anonymous source: “as a result of the Turkish group’s support, CAP was ‘totally in the tank for them.’” Again, the author’s insinuation is refuted by CAP’s body of work. In fact, just days before the Turkish prime minister visited Washington recently, CAP published a piece critical of the Turkish government, “Freedom of the Press and Expression in Turkey.” Silverstein goes even further, insinuating that CAP’s growth over the year is attributable to our creation of our Business Alliance in 2007 and corporate donations. As the Huffington Post wrote in March, philanthropic giving is responsible for our growth. Only 6 percent of our funding in 2012 came from corporate donors, and it has never reached double digits.
These are the facts—facts that undermine Silverstein’s preconceived conclusion. We are fiercely and proudly independent and strongly refute any inference to the contrary. We expect more from The Nation, and we encourage readers to look directly at our work on corporate accountability and financial sector reform, clean energy, campaign finance reform, defense cuts and progressive tax reform to judge for themselves.
ANDREA PURSE, Center for American Progress
New York City
Ken Silverstein, relying on anonymous sources, claims that “staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors, I was told.” I am not a CAP staffer, but I have been a senior fellow there almost since its inception. Beginning in 2003, I have either written or edited every iteration of the weekly “Think Again” media column for the CAP website. At no time during the writing or editing of these roughly 500 columns did I experience anything like what Silverstein describes (or anything else that would likely fall outside the purview of the editorial process at any publication, including The Nation). Indeed, I don’t even know who’s on the development team or who CAP’s contributors are, and, thankfully, so far I have had no reason to care. I would have been happy to inform Silverstein of this had he contacted me.
ERIC ALTERMAN, Nation columnist and senior fellow, Center for American Progress
Gosh, along with not calling the billions of other people in the world who are not CAP staffers, I didn’t call Eric Alterman and called CAP staffers instead. This is just one of the many times in my life when I’ve thought, “If I had it all to do over again, I wish I’d called Eric to see what he thinks.”
CAP was given plenty of time to reply before my article was published; it chose not to. Now it sends a letter that misrepresents what I wrote and shoots down arguments I didn’t make. There is evidence that CAP’s agenda has been influenced by its decision to take corporate money, but that is not the “inference at the heart of the article.” My main point is that CAP takes money from corporate donors without disclosing it, which is not an inference but a fact. Another fact is that in doing so, CAP sometimes acts as an undisclosed lobbyist for its donors. As I described, First Solar gave money to CAP, and CAP’s staff advocated for First Solar before Congress and in articles on CAP’s website without disclosing that pertinent piece of information.
Maybe the 6 percent figure for corporate contributions is true; but we have only CAP’s word for it. It should publish and make available an annual report or otherwise disclose at least some basic financial information, as most major think tanks do. Furthermore, if CAP gets only 6 percent of its budget from corporations, that’s purely a function of its failure to close the deal, not for lack of trying (see the wonderful perks it offers to big corporate donors, as I describe in the article).
It’s good that CAP sometimes criticizes its donors, but I found numerous instances where it praised them. But that’s not the point. Wall Street companies gave a lot of money to President Obama not because they expected his support all the time, but to get more than they would if they gave him no money (I’d say they got a pretty good return on their investment). I expect that’s the same impulse that prompts companies to give CAP money, unless you believe the explanation Boeing gave me that its contributions are purely “educational in nature.” Oh, yeah, and Chris Belisle, whom Purse dismisses as a “junior staffer,” mysteriously had the title “senior manager” of CAP’s Business Alliance.
Gore Vidal Lives!—On e-Book
I thank The Nation for making Gore Vidal’s State of the Union: Nation Essays 1958–2005 available as an e-book. I’ve gotten through Richard Lingeman’s introduction and Victor Navasky’s foreword and am unable to resist sharing an observation. As the son of a mathematician father and journalist mother, my heart belongs to words, but my head to numbers. My mother always said there was never anyone in the newsroom who could do even the most basic arithmetic calculations. Reading these two pieces together, one’s heart is gladdened to see that this tradition is upheld at The Nation, where no one seems to be able to divide 50,000 by 25.
The point remains that the wily and parsimonious Victor S. Navasky was able to get Vidal to write for The Nation for pennies on the dollar of what he was offered (and refused) elsewhere, as readers will see when they read Lingeman’s and Navasky’s versions of the tale. To purchase the Gore Vidal e-book (for pennies on the dollar), visit TheNation.com/ebooks. —The Editors
Art Appreciation and a Correction
Alert readers and art buffs undoubtedly recognized that last issue’s cover illustration was a reproduction of Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, which celebrates the July 1830 revolution in France.
In David Cole’s “The AP’s Privacy, and Ours” [June 10/17], the first two sentences of the paragraph starting at the bottom of the left column on page 5 should have read: “Since the Supreme Court has essentially bowed out, our protections depend on Congress. Current law requires, for example, that the government obtain a court order that evidence is relevant to a criminal investigation in order to obtain real-time phone records of whom one calls and for how long. It imposes a somewhat higher standard, requiring ‘specific and articulable facts,’ for stored e-mail addressing data.”