Lieberman Joins Conservative Belief Tank, AEI. Who’s Paying His Salary? UPDATED

“Former Sen. Joe Lieberman is joining the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. Lieberman — Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate in 2000 and a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 — will co-chair AEI’s American Internationalism Project, an effort to rebuild a bipartisan consensus about big foreign policy questions.” Politico

David Atkins over at Hullabaloo, thinks this is Lieberman’s natural resting place. Personally I thought he would get some job in Israel, like being their Ambassador to the US or the senator from the great state of Israel. Maybe he tried for Pope and was rejected, “But Jesus was Jewish!” But one thing is clear, he no longer has to answer to the people who voted for him (did he ever?). Whose bidding does he do now? How much are they paying him, and why? Of course his known policies will be in line with the desires of the people paying him. My question is, “Shouldn’t we be able to know who those people are?”

Now the media doesn’t care so I guess we shouldn’t care, after all, he’s a private citizen and not working for our government while getting money from a foreign state or anything… But when he starts showing up on the Sunday morning shows, it would be good to know who is funding the AEI and Lieberman.   Just saying he works for the AEI doesn’t tell me enough.

Being the curious sort, I went over to the AEI SourceWatch page made by my amazing  friends at the Center for Media and Democracy  The article covers their history, links to other right wing organizations and where they get their funding from. The most current info they have is from seven years ago:

“In 2006 AEI reported that its income was $28.4 million. Of this it states on its website that “individual contributions of more than $10 million provided the largest share of the revenue base, followed by $6 million in corporate support, and $4.7 million from foundations.”

They also had an interesting comment about the guidelines they have for their scholars and fellows.

“AEI scholars and fellows are required to disclose in their published work any affiliations they may have with organizations with a direct interest in the subject of that work. AEI discloses the source of project-specific donations to research on subjects in which the donors have a material interest.”[24]

Nice, but can you see the loophole? I can already hear the response, “Senator Lieberman never actually published anything, he just talks about issues on TV. And, “The money that pays his salary comes from lots and lots of companies, so no one company is backing his views.”  Way to cover up those big donations from defense manufacturers and oil companies, AEI, very enterprising of you!

I wonder if Politico called up AEI and asked, “So could you tell us who funds you?” Even getting a no or their standard answer would show us something.  If I called I would expect, “We are a private foundation and we don’t have to reveal that information.” Yes, but what are you afraid of AEI? Some other group might poach your donors? People might know who actually pays the bills and what percent they pay? As we all know, “Those who pay the bills something something the piper.” My point is that belief tanks like AEI shouldn’t be afraid of revealing who funds them. Why the secrecy? Are they ashamed of their views?  I thought being a conservative means never having to say you are sorry for your ideas. Don’t they trumpet them and “double down” on them?

Today over at Salon Alex Pareene has a column on the competitive advantage of deficit hacks. In the piece he talks about the debate between Krugman and Joe Scarbrough. Besides discussing the specific encounters between the two he makes the observation about the hacks:

“They do not care if they constantly repeat themselves, even if what they are constantly repeating is wrong”.

It’s an excellent column. Especially this part,

“Also, frequently, people are being paid to repeat the same awful ideas over and over again, and unfortunately usually there’s more money to be made repeating bad ideas than good ones. (Hence: Lanny Davis.)”

One of the things that most people don’t know is that belief tanks like Heritage and AEI don’t just hire and pay right wing ideologues they also have people training them to talk to the media and PR people pitching them to be on the various TV shows. They also are constantly writing and placing Op-Eds for newspapers and speeches for conferences.

So Lieberman, whose number was on producers’ speed dial at the Sunday shows, will now need to talk to the AEI booker. “Yeah, we can get you Joe, no problem. He even has his own IFB and can pop in from our studio. Oh, by the way, I’ve got some other Fellows that you can talk to the next time fraking comes up. Call me.”

This is the way these shows work. Sadly there isn’t really a mirror image organization of the AEI for the left. The left has developed some of this infrastructure during the Bush years, but now that the “progressive” Obama has won, they don’t have the same support since funders think, “we won, we can stop campaigning.”  

As Parenee says:

 “Pete Peterson and a few others have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of their lives making the exact same argument, and setting up organizations that pay others to make the exact same argument, until a majority of Beltway centrists internalized the argument and began making it themselves, over and over again.”

We need to have someone pushing back against the failed ideas of the right wing.  So I guess it will have to be us.  Maybe I should do it. I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.

UPDATE: 3/12/2013. I spoke to someone at AEI today and he said that they don’t reveal their donors. This was what I expected. But then I asked, “Why?” He said that it’s just their policy and suggested I talk to his boss. I wrote her an email and asked her all my questions. I’ll update again if I get a response.

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