The government has today announced that charities, quangos and pressure groups in receipt of government grants will be prohibited from using these funds to engage in political lobbying. The Institute of Economic Affairs has, for several years, argued that when government funds the lobbying of itself, it is subverting democracy and debasing the concept of charity. It is also an unnecessary and wasteful use of taxpayers’ money.
We are delighted that today the government is making public sector funding conditional on it not being used for lobbying, which is profoundly undemocratic. Charities and NGOs that are dependent on government funding are not independent of government.
Commenting on the announcement, Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics and author of Sock Puppets, said:
“This is very good news for taxpayers who will no longer be forced to pay for the government to lobby itself. At every level - local, national and European - people have been subsidising political campaigns that they may not know about and might disagree with. Campaigning is an important part of a thriving democracy but charities and pressure groups should not be doing it with taxpayers’ money.”
Notes to Editors:
The government announcement can be read here.
Examples of state-funded lobby groups.
Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) which campaigns for a sugar tax (amongst other policies). It is 100% state-funded pressure group called. Its parent group is Food Active, again totally state-funded, which is also focused on changing the law and raising taxes
Balance North East lobbies aggressively for various anti-alcohol policies, such as minimum pricing. It is entirely taxpayer-funded to the tune of £680,000 per annum.
The field of environmentalism is also rife with taxpayer-funded lobby groups. Friends of the Earth, for example, received £55,000 from DfID in 2013/14 as well as a grant from the European Commission.
More case studies can be found in the research below.
In June 2012, the IEA published Sock Puppets, a report which looked at the evidence, and implications, of taxpayer funding for the large and growing element of ‘civil society’ that is politically active.
In February 2013, the IEA published Euro Puppets, which discussed the endemic use of public money to finance political campaign groups in the European Union.
In February 2014, the IEA published The Sock Doctrine: What can be done about state-funded political activism.
The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.
The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.