Industry Think Tank Rejects Common Cause Allegations

Mar 28, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Progress & Freedom Foundation, an industry-backed Washington think tank that promotes free-market policies, on Tuesday took issue with allegations by the watchdog group Common Cause that it is an industry front group, saying it is being upfront about its industry funding and mission.

“Our mission is to educate the public on policies associated with technology based on limited government and free markets,” said Amy Smorodin, communications director for the foundation, which lists its corporate financial backers on its Web site, PFF.org.

In a new report, Common Cause criticizes a variety of groups, including the Progress & Freedom Foundation, for allegedly advancing industry causes without adequately disclosing their industry sponsorship. In the report, titled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” Common Cause notes that the foundation, whose experts sometimes testify before congressional committees, receives funding from a range of telecommunications industry interests, including AT&T and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The report also says foundation experts have recently supported the cable TV industry’s opposition to a la carte cable pricing and network neutrality rules barring broadband service providers from using their power over their networks to discriminate against unaffiliated content providers.

“The companies seem to be getting what they pay for,” the Common Cause report said. But in response, the foundation’s Ms. Smorodin noted that one of the corporate funders disclosed on its Web site is Google, which supports network neutrality regulation.

“If you look at our funders and you look at our issues, you can pretty much find one funder on each side of an issue,” Ms. Smorodin said.

In response, Dawn Holian, Common Cause director of media research and author of the new report, said: “[The foundation is] definitely on the side of their corporate backers in one way or another.”