Sunday, 2 October 2011

Transparency and non-corporate vested interests

James Delingpole writes:

Top environmental campaigner George Monbiot has publicly disclosed his laundry list in order to show how transparent he is.

This is a comprehensive list of my sources of income, and any hospitality or gifts I receive (except from family and friends), beginning in September 2011.

I have opened this registry because I believe that journalists should live by the standards they demand of others, among which are accountability and transparency. One of the most important questions in public life, which is asked less often than it should be, is “who pays?”.

All well and good, though we might wonder who his friends are, and how much they have given him.

Monbiot concludes:
I believe that everyone who steps into public life should be obliged to show on whose behalf they are speaking: in other words who is paying them, and how much. I would like to see journalists, like MPs, become subject to a mandatory register of interests. But until that time I hope to encourage other journalists to declare the sources of their income voluntarily – by declaring mine.
A mandatory register for journalists sounds like a very scary idea to me, and we shouldn't be surprised that the likes of Monbiot support it.

But for key decision makers in the public sector, our supposed servants, it does seem appropriate to insist on transparency. Delingpole provides a rather shocking example:

Thanks to FOIA requests from the American Tradition Institute's Chris Horner we are learning more and more about the vast sums of luvverly dosh to be made for those lucky enough to be on the "correct" (ie Establishment) side of the global warming argument. For Jim "coal fired power stations are factories of death" Hansen, AGW has proved a very nice little earner indeed.

The lawsuit claims Hansen privately profited from his public job in violation of federal ethics rules, and NASA allowed him to do it because of his influence in the media and celebrity status among environmental groups, which rewarded him handsomely the last four years.

Gifts, speaking fees, prizes and consulting compensation include:

– A shared $1 million prize from the Dan David Foundation for his "profound contribution to humanity." Hansen's cut ranged from $333,000 to $500,000, Horner said, adding that the precise amount is not known because Hansen's publicly available financial disclosure form only shows the prize was "an amount in excess of $5,000."

– The 2010 Blue Planet prize worth $550,000 from the Asahi Glass Foundation, which recognizes efforts to solve environmental issues.

– The Sophie Prize for his "political activism," worth $100,000. The Sophie Prize is meant to "inspire people working towards a sustainable future."

– Speaking fees totaling $48,164 from a range of mostly environmental organizations.

– A $15,000 participation fee, waived by the W.J. Clinton Foundation for its 2009 Waterkeeper Conference.

– $720,000 in legal advice and media consulting services provided by The George Soros Open Society Institute. Hansen said he did not take "direct" support from Soros but accepted "pro bono legal advice."

Daniel Hannan has also picked up the story:

Oddly ... Monbiot says nothing about the money and influence on the other side. Yes, the oil, tobacco and (above all) pharma lobbies are active in politics – every day I spend as an MEP teaches me quite how active. Even more frenetic, however, are the poverty lobbyists and green NGOs: Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, War on Want, the WWF, Greenpeace and, not least, Christian Aid.

The global corporations and the global NGOs are mirror images of each other. Both distrust the democratic process, preferring to reach understandings with key opinion formers. Both, accordingly, love the EU, immediately intuiting that it was designed to be immune to public opinion. Yet, for some reason, most of those who complain about the anti-democratic tendencies of the multi-nationals have a blind spot when it comes to the eco-lobbies and anti-free-trade campaigns.


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