New Conservative Think Tank Is Formed, Modeled on Liberal Center for American Progress

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January 5, 2012; Source: Politico | Some observers have said that the power and influence of conservative political activists came from their imitation of their counterparts on the left in the 1960s. Now, it appears that conservatives are interested in mimicking the success of liberals once again. A new conservative think tank called the Center for American Freedom is being formed, with a mission and structure similar to the liberal Center for American Progress, except that CAF will be leaning hard to the right. Although CAF is starting with a 501(c)(4) structure, plans are to add a 501(c)(3) for “less overtly political work.”

The chairman of the new think tank, Weekly Standard writer and Orjon Strategies lobbyist Michael Goldfarb says that the center will have an annual budget of “several million dollars.” That’s a pretty confident statement for the chair of a brand new nonprofit, but perhaps because Goldfarb has lobbied on behalf of such clients as Charles and David Koch, he might be anticipating some future support from the Koch brothers’ conservative financing infrastructure.

The Center for American Freedom will also have an online news outlet, the Washington Free Beacon, and house a “media-monitoring shop that aims to do to MSNBC what Media Matters has done to Fox News.”

Given the longtime power and influence of conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, it’s hard to imagine that anyone thinks the nation is bereft of nonprofit bastions of conservative political analysis and strategy. It seems like Goldfarb is jealous of the Center (and Think Progress), TPM, and the Huffington Post, according to the editor of the Free Beacon and Weekly Standard writer Matthew Continetti. Continetti told Politico, “These outlets have been at the cutting edge of ideological journalism for years, and it is time for the right to emulate their success.” The Center for American Progress and others use the media quite successfully, have extensive presences on the Internet, and do their own journalism in many cases.

Although modeled after CAP, CAF views itself as ideologically exceptionally different, but there is one item around which CAP and CAF agree. Both organizations are committed to keeping the names of their donors secret, as 501(c)(4) and (c)(3) organizations are allowed to do. The Center for American Progress justifies its secret funding by explaining that it doesn’t buy media ads (which many other politically engaged (c)(4)s do). CAF will follow the CAP model to the “t” and commit to no media buys.

We wonder how the Center for American Progress deals with the evidence that it is the role model for a new think tank with diametrically opposed political ideologies.—Rick Cohen