The right-wing think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs has persuaded the government to ban charities from using taxpayers’ money to influence Parliament – without realising that it receives up to £680,000 per year of taxpayers’ money in the form of Gift Aid.
This is, of course, typical of the Not-Bright Right.
It would be bitterly ironic if this intended restriction of free speech seriously harmed the right-wing organisation that devised it.
Charities are to be banned from using “tax payers’ money” to influence Parliament, Government or Political Parties, the so called “sock puppet” issue.
Unusually for a significant change in legislation, there will be no consultation period, and no opportunity for charities, or anyone else, to comment, suggest unforeseen circumstances, or seek to amend the legislation.
What it won’t stop is the highly effective lobbying of Government by a veritable phalanx of right-wing thinktanks such as the IEA, Policy Exchange, CPS, CSJ, Taxpayers Alliance, Adam Smith Institute and so on and so on. But who funds these outfits? It’s very difficult to say, as their funding is so opaque.
The Government has decided to introduce this change in legislation, as a result of a campaign led by a charity, The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). The IEA proudly boasts that it receives no Government funding, though, as I shall explore below, this is a half truth at best.
Although charities are supposed to be apolitical, the IEA is a right wing – as in corporate-libertarian American Tea-Party style, right-wing, not jack-booted, flag-waving nationalist thug right-wing, “think tank”, beloved of Margaret Thatcher. It has blazed the trail for the neoliberal ideology, where the market is king, Government is bad and regulation is positively evil.
The IEA has previously taken money from big tobacco while challenging regulations to make smoking less attractive and more expensive; and scores very low on the transparency around its own funding – though one step up from the execrable Taxpayers Alliance. Even so, given their own opacity, one might think they were not the best people to decide how other charities raise or spend their money.
But there’s another place which the IEA gets its funding from, much closer to home. And it’s Taxpayers’ money! Because every individual or corporate donation or subscription the IEA receives from an individual taxpayer of a company that has declared a gross profit, is eligible for a tax refund, also known as gift aid.
Given that the IEA receives between £340,000 and £680,000 a year from “tax-payers’ money”, specifically to influence Government Policy, it may just rue the day it decided to create the sock-puppet campaign.
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