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One of the most common charges hurled by the opponents of Charles Freeman Jr., who yesterday withdrew as chair of the Obama administration’s National Intelligence Council, was that he “headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington.” I’ve written about the influence of money on think tanks and think it’s a valid point of concern, but let’s put this assertion in perspective.
Freeman headed the Middle East Policy Council. I’m not sure how much Saudi money flows to the think tank, but it can’t be much. I checked the firm’s non-profit disclosure form for 2007 and its total receipts for the year were $731,000, and it had assets of $1.3 million. Freeman was paid $87,000 that year.
Compare that to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a conservative think tank that is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel and whose board includes Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig and Martin Peretz. Its receipts for 2007 came to $11.9 million, and it had $26.5 million in assets. Robert Satloff, the institute’s executive director, was paid $307,000. Dennis Ross, now the Obama administration’s special adviser on Iran, was paid $208,000 for duties as a “Distinguished Fellow.”
Then there’s the equally pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute, from where a number of prominent Bush administration employees came. It had assets of $77 million in 2006 (the last year for which I could find its disclosure form at the Foundation Center), and receipts of $56 million.
None of these groups list funders on their websites, nor are they required to list them on disclosure reports. (AEI says it doesn’t disclose donors; the Washington Institute’s press contact was out today.) The Israeli government doesn’t (as far as I know) back AEI or WINEP, but conservative foundations do and it’s hard to imagine that pro-Israeli organizations and individuals aren’t kicking in large sums as well.
So why is the Middle East Policy Council any more intellectually corrupt than AEI or WINEP? And why is employment at the former a bar to government employment, but a job at the last two is not?
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Average portion of its yearly household expenditures that a South African family will spend on a funeral:
Neuroscientists were hoping to use rat brain waves to find people buried by earthquakes.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature