The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) on the State Policy Network is out with a report this week that deserves the attention of anyone interested in progressive and ethical government.
The idea is simple - Art Pope, the Koch Brothers, the Walmart Walton family and others are illegally using "think tanks", like Pope's Civitas and Pope Foundation, as direct lobbying organizations. Officially classified as non-profit educational groups, it's illegal for these groups to engage in lobbying activities.
Think about it for a minute. How many times have "reports" and "studies" by these groups been taken up as gospel by legislators in NC to justify particular laws? How many legislators have been involved in meetings, retreats or presentations for and by these groups?
The distinction between public education and advocacy and lobbying is quite clear under the law and is there for a reason - lobbying groups have to do reporting on activities and donors to ensure that the public is aware of situations involving conflicts of interest or corruption.
If these groups are engaged in lobbying, why register as an educational non-profit? Is there something to hide here?