Netroots Panel Launches Effort to ‘Take Down’ Conservative ‘Stink Tanks’

 

featured_NN_logo_13288A panel at the recent Netroots Nation conference called on progressive activists to “take down” a network of conservative non-profit organizations.

At an official session titled “Stink Tanks in Your State,” speakers denounced the State Policy Network, a coalition of “independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks.” The presentation was part of the ninth annual Netroots Nation conference, the country’s “largest progressive gathering,” which was held in Detroit, July 17-20.

> Complete raw audio of the panel discussion is provided below.

Arshad Hasan, Executive Director of ProgressNow, insisted that SPN should not merely be opposed politically but shut down. “The next step for us is to take down this network of institutions that are state-based in each and every one of our states,” the Vermont-based activist said.

According to SPN’s website, their goal is to build a 50-state network of free-market think tanks to “educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges.” SPN doesn’t direct or manage the activities of its 64 member organizations but helps provide resources and support for their independent efforts.

“Even a state as left-leaning as Vermont has to deal with our own Ethan Allen Institute,” Hasan said about his state’s SPN member organization. “We can’t achieve our policy objectives as progressives because they are doing an excellent job.”

With the conference being held in Detroit, Hasan blamed the city’s manifest problems on a Michigan SPN member.

“The Mackinac Institute (sic)… has radically changed this formerly bright blue, formerly very wealthy, formerly Democratic state into this sort of sci-fi dystopia,” Hasan claimed, not noting the 50-plus years of Democratic rule in Detroit.

Panelist Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), criticized SPN for its liberty-friendly policies, political effectiveness, and level of funding.

“Have no doubt that this organization has tremendously powerful effects that are detrimental to ordinary Americans,” Graves said. “This operation is about changing your laws one state at a time.” CMD and ProgressNow even created a website to attack SPN.

Graves recommended complaining to news organizations when they interview experts from SPN-affiliated organizations. “I think we have to call the producers and complain whenever that happens,” she said. “We need to be pushing back.”

While the panelists offered ominous warnings and conspiratorial inferences about SPN, there were no claims of unlawful activity. The primary complaint was that the limited-government network was too successful and therefore should be stopped.

Jane Carter, an economist with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), criticized Franklin Center for training and supporting state-based reporters.

“The Franklin Center trains people how to be press,” Carter said. “Franklin Center is pumping them out as fastly as they possibly can.” She complained about Franklin Center’s Watchdog.org and Watchdog Wire which feature investigatory journalism designed to hold government officials accountable.

The AFSCME official also criticized Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, an SPN member that used a combination of research, policy recommendations and legal action to reform public worker rules and pensions. “They’re hitting us in every way, shape or form they can,” Carter said.

Despite criticizing SPN for promoting right-of-center causes, Carter applauded progressive groups that serve similar purposes. She admitted leaning on pro-union non-profits to promote AFSCME-funded economic studies.

“It’s the union saying that, so that’s why we rely on our allies and our friends and CMD and ProgressNow and other wonderful affiliates in the states to take the research and run with it,” Carter said.

CMD describes itself as a “boutique investigative research and reporting group” and “a national, non-profit watchdog organization.” ProgressNow is attempting to develop a “network of state partner organizations” to influence policy across the country.

Despite the similarities with groups on the right, Hasan claimed that progressive think tanks are different in that they have little to no interest in ideology or political influence.

“Our folks are very straight-forward,” he asserted. “They’re like, ‘we are academics and we’re going to do some rigorous research. Lobbying is just not part of our work and public perception is just not something we’re concerned with. We’re really just concerned about the research.’ That’s cool, that’s great, and that’s a big difference between what they do and what we do.”

“I’m not saying that we need to copy them necessarily,” Hasan said about SPN. “I’m saying that what they’re doing is bad. It needs to stop.”

Complete raw audio of the panel discussion is provided below.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Inactive

    “Stink Tanks”? 

    Apparently the opposition is being run by six year olds.

    • #1
    • July 22, 2014 at 8:57 am
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  2. Member

    So, reading this their basic complaint seems to be this: Their opposition has better arguments than they do. Netroots want the conservative think tanks shut down because it is easier to stop conservative think tanks from speaking than it is to think up better arguments than conservative think tanks.

    Seawriter

    • #2
    • July 22, 2014 at 9:11 am
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  3. Member

    Let’s talk about how “straight-forward” the think tanks in Ohio are; I bet it’s similar in other states.

    On the right we have The Buckeye Institute and Opportunity Ohio, both expressly free-market groups that work to explain the benefits of free-market policies and the problems with big government. Their funding comes from a variety of right-of-center donors.

    On the left we have ProgressOhio, Innovation Ohio, and Policy Matters Ohio, “progressive” groups that exist to push pro-union policies as beneficial to “the middle class.” Their funding comes from national, state, and local NEA, AFSCME, SEIU, and AFT affiliates, many of which have representatives on the lefty groups’ boards of directors.

    So the “stink tanks” that are supported by (or at least ideologically aligned with) SPN claim to support limited government, and do. The groups backed by union bosses claim to support “the middle class,” and support union bosses.

    • #3
    • July 22, 2014 at 9:12 am
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  4. Inactive

    Thugs.

    So much for a free, open, competitive marketplace of ideas. Progressives love to talk this way. There’s not much difference between “take down” and “smash”, the latter being a favorite verb of Marxists.

    • #4
    • July 22, 2014 at 9:51 am
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  5. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    I kept waiting for the panelists to reveal a purported smoking gun proving the eeevil, dastardly intentions of these proudly small-government, free-market groups. Instead, it was just bitter complaints about their success, whining about the Kochs, etc. They are upset that SPN is more effective at their job than their liberal counterparts.

    • #5
    • July 22, 2014 at 11:09 am
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  6. Inactive

    “we are academics and we’re going to do some rigorous research. Lobbying is just not part of our work and public perception is just not something we’re concerned with.”

    Those academics most certainly lobby, manipulate public policy, and are concerned with public perception, just not at the kindergarten level of creating a website called StinkTanks.org. Academics are smart enough to leave that dirty work to union activists and liberal bloggers.

    • #6
    • July 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm
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  7. Podcaster

    Scratch a leftist and what do you find? An authoritarian. As surprising as waking up on New Years Day to discover it’s January.

    • #7
    • July 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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  8. Member

    Envy of the success of others is a powerful force; it makes a runner back in the pack conspire to bring injury to the one in the lead rather than expend effort to run faster or train harder.

    • #8
    • July 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm
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  9. Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    I kept waiting for the panelists to reveal a purported smoking gun proving the eeevil, dastardly intentions of these proudly small-government, free-market groups. Instead, it was just bitter complaints about their success, whining about the Kochs, etc. They are upset that SPN is more effective at their job than their liberal counterparts.

    From their perspective, conservatives are self-evidently wrong/evil and should not be tolerated. Why would you need to prove the obvious? End of story.

    • #9
    • July 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm
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  10. Inactive

    Can we get some SPN folks on the podcasts? That would be awesome.

    • #10
    • July 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm
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  11. Inactive

    What is it with leftists that just want to shut down any opinion that differs from theirs?

    When “occupy wall street” was in Denver, a group of them went down to ‘protest’ and confront a conservative bloggers conference. And they were joined by a group of high school girls from the local catholic high school (St Mary’s Academy) – it was quite a sight to see 17 yr old girls, encouraged by their teacher, yelling, “Stop f***ing up our future” at private citizens who were exercising their free speech rights. It was a shameful episode.

    • #11
    • July 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm
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  12. Inactive

    Leftist/progressives shamelessly do what they can to block conservatives from influencing policy.

    I saw an example once that helped disabuse me of the notion that progressives are the tolerant ones. I was on the student council of the Catholic parish that served the university I was studying at. We were selecting new officers for the council. Some of us were more progressive and some of us were more conservative and orthodox (political conservatism and orthodoxy are not the same, but they tend to come together). A nun (later ex-nun) who was involved in the process pushed for one fellow, who was very conservative, to be the new president of the council. Later I heard her say she just wanted to avoid having him be the new vice president in charge of social action (volunteering at soup kitchens, etc.), presumably because he wasn’t progressive enough. I wasn’t very conservative at the time, but my eyes opened a bit more to how close-minded progressives can be.

    • #12
    • July 22, 2014 at 8:56 pm
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