A Note on Funding
Since the Marshall Institute was founded in 1984, we have restricted our fund raising to private foundations and individual donors. Given our initial research interest - strategic missile defense - the Institute could easily have received grants from the defense industry, but the Board determined that it would try to avoid the charge of being corporate financed by refusing all donations from industry. When the Institute turned its attention to the science of global warming we could have changed our policy and appealed successfully to industry for financial support. But again, we wanted to keep the debate on the facts of the matter and escape the allegation - a red herring if there ever was one - that the Marshall Institute spoke for big business.
Since 1984, we've left a great deal of money on the table, but we've also left an ample record of what we stand for and what we believe the evidence tells us about missile defense, ozone depletion, global warming, and a host of other issues where science and public policy intersect.
Fifteen years of experience with a policy of refusing grants from industry has taught us that our reasons for adopting this restriction were both right and wrong. We were right about it costing us money. But we were wrong to think the policy would permit us to avoid the charge of being a corporate funded think-tank. No matter what we do to correct the record when we are accused of being funded by big business, no matter how many calls we make, or letters to the editor we write, the lie persists.
Here are some examples.
In short, the activists will use whatever argument they wish to discredit the Institute irrespective of whether the argument happens to be true. Those with an open mind will look at the facts and be less concerned with tangential issues such as funding sources.
Over the summer our Board determined that the limitation we had placed on our sources of funding no longer made sense. Not only was it clear that nothing could be done to shake the lie of corporate sponsorship, but the positions we had taken over the last decade and a-half were so crystal-clear that it would be absurd to claim that the Marshall Institute was tailoring its position to fit the needs of some corporate interest. Of course, the fact that an argument is transparently ludicrous means it will quickly join the storehouse of assertions put forth by the radicals.
From now on the Marshall Institute will accept grants for general program support from corporate foundations and in some cases directly from corporations. The Board has also determined that before we accept a grant it must be clear to us that the corporate foundation or corporation offering us funding must have a prior record of supporting well-known environmental groups, or groups with a record of opposing the deployment of ballistic missile defenses.
This fall, the Institute received its first-ever grant from a corporate foundation-- the Exxon Education Foundation. The Exxon Education Foundation fit our criteria perfectly for it is a well-known supporter of a variety of groups, including environmental organizations. We are very pleased to be one of this foundation's grantees.
We will probably be criticized for associating ourselves with this foundation, despite the fact that it funds worthy environmental and education efforts around the world. And I believe the sources of an organization's funding can be, in certain circumstances, a legitimate line of inquiry. Sometimes it illuminates the foundations of an argument; more often the funding issue is raised to throw dust in your eyes.
I also believe a group's sources of funding should be transparent. In the future our website will include a list of grants received over the last 12 month period. We are proud of our funders. We appreciate the fact that they have chosen to support our work and we have no reason to do anything but pat ourselves on the back for receiving their confidence. We will not, however, list or release the names of our members. People have joined our group to keep informed of issues in science, public policy, and national security, not to have their names used by telemarketers or other think-tanks. Large donations made through our membership organization - something which we strongly encourage - are, of course, treated in accordance with IRS regulations.
The Marshall Institute will continue to be attacked by some as a corporate-leaning think-tank, so in that respect nothing much will change. In another respect nothing will change either. We will still produce high quality research on critical issues and offer a forum for discussion and debate on the impact science has on public policy. The only thing that will change is that we may have the resources to do more good work.