August 14, 2006

On funding transparency

Education Sector's website is very open about its funding sources, and occasionally staff members (primarily Andrew Rotherham) tweak public figures in education circles for not being transparent. Fair enough.

Some of the public spats over the Lamont-Lieberman battle royale in Connecticut have pounced on the status of Lieberman as a centrist (or whatever he is) in the Senate, with allegations flying back and forth over national security and whatnot. This isn't DailyKos or RedState, but it got me to thinking: Rotherham used to work at the Progressive Policy Institute, an arm of the Democratic Leadership Council which Lieberman led in a nominal capacity for several years in the 1990s and is thus tied to at least in blogosphere allegations. (For the record, I'll pass on the allegations until I get reputable information. My mother, whose nth birthday was Saturday, will be going to her high school reunion in Hartford later this year and will get the real scoop on the Connecticut situation.)

So, does the DLC or PPI disclose its funding sources? (Rotherham headed PPI's education unit for seven years, and PPI has a prominent link to the Eduwonk blog in its left navigation strip.) Unlike Education Sector, there's no "Our Funders" link anywhere I could find, and there is this popup privacy notice:

The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) do not sell or share any information about anyone in our databases with any third parties, whatsoever, nor do we envision doing so in the future.

That's admirable from a privacy standpoint, not so much from a transparency standpoint. DLC is a Section 504(c)(4) organization, which allows it to do advocacy but restricts official electioneering. I understand that 504(c)(4) organizations do not have to disclose sources of funding, so you just have to wonder... Kudos to Rotherham and colleaues at Education Sector for their transparency, and please direct some of those tweaks at PPI, before their next white paper on education policy.

Full disclosure: I pay for this domain and the ISP.

Addendum: Rotherham sent me a polite e-mail this afternoon about disclosure, so I want to make sure I state a few things clearly. I am not saying that he avoided disclosure when at PPI. I can see acknowledgments of funders here and here, to take two examples of reports when he was directing the 21st Century Schools Project. Or that there's a necessary (or sinister) link between funding and policy positions. But I tend to agree with these arguments about the good of transparency in and of itself.

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Posted in Education policy on August 14, 2006 1:01 PM |