11.10.2007

Conlict of Interest

I do want to expound a bit on my objection to the Public Broadcasting public/private funding model.

Imagine one day Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke walks into his office and is like “This job is bull crap! I know I have a charter from the federal government to use all the financial tools at my disposal in an impartial way but I make the same amount as that Citibank-guy-who-golfed-all-day’s executive assistant and I can now only invest in T-bills. I’m going to get sponsored!” He then dons a NASCAR suit and peppers his Fed minutes with Excedrin testimonials as the “Chairman of Headache Relief”.

Ridiculously inappropriate right?



Well this is precisely what NPR has been doing since their financial crisis in 1983; using their government supplied pedestal to hawk other wares; albeit in a manner far less gauche. Instead of acetaminophen and caffeine they compliantly push the agendas of primarily leftist advocacy groups.

These agendas may be perfectly valid just as Excedrin may be the best product for relieving headaches but both should have the same barriers to the marketplace as their alternatives.

The only option to resolve this clear conflict of interest is to either move public broadcasting to 100% public funding or defund entirely.

4 comments:

Joe said...

My point is that all nonprofit organizations, news-related or otherwise, are subsidized by the federal government by virtue of their tax-exempt status.

I can see why you would object to your tax dollars mingling with funding from private interests, but just be aware that this is happening in 501C4 organizations all the time. Granted, the relationship does not take the form of a "sponsorship," but any nonprofit would nonetheless be under the same danger of "mission capture" by its funding sources. Whatever your complaints about NPR, they could just as easily be used to argue against tax-exempt status of all nonprofit organizations...a move I certainly wouldn't support.

And the difference between your Fed example and NPR is that no individual person gets sponsored. If, for some strange reason, the Fed needs extra cash to do its mission, I would not object to his Nascar-style fundraising, IF the money went toward the organization.

Andrew said...

Are you really arguing that there isn’t a distinction to be made between simply not having to pay taxes and not having to pay taxes and getting direct funding from the federal government? Because all public broadcasting, including NPR is the latter and it's this I have a problem with.

13% of NPR’s budget came from the CPB this year which is almost entirely funded by tax dollars. The rest is more or less split between individual donors and grants from interest groups.

As for sponsorship, would you object if Morgan Stanley was the Fed's sponsor and just coincidentally the Fed started becoming a rabid advocate for policies that strictly benefited MS's wealthy clientele (lowering cap gains taxes)?

Joe said...

Yeah...tax breaks and subsidies are both real benefits. The distinction is just recipients of federal grants recieve more money. A penny saved is a penny earned.

So, you're making a distinction without a difference.

And you've read enough of my arguments that you don't really have to use cheap rhetorical techniques like saying, "are you really arguing...". You can assume that I probably am.

Andrew said...

That all donations to qualified non-profits are tax deductible confers no advantage to one non-profit over another. The NRLC gets just as much “subsidy” per $ raised as Greenpeace. Furthermore the revenues generated by the NRLC and Greenpeace are received from individuals that chose to fork over their funds.

But when the Federal government allocates funds to a specific organization such as NPR that organization receives an advantage over all the organizations that didn’t receive funds and the funds it received were compulsory not by choice (taxes aren’t charity).

I think non-profits have a definite role in our economy. I’ve never had a problem with their existence. I just want them to have to play on an even playing field.