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Snowdon on fake charities

Chris Snowdon has written an excellent report on state-funded "charities", a subject that has been touched on here a number of times, not least with respect to the Royal Society. Here's what Snowdon has to say about the big 10 green organisations:

The Green 10 can hardly be described as a shadowy organisation. They have their own website where they proudly explain that their role is to lobby for legislation.

‘We work with the EU law-making institutions - the European Commission, the European
Parliament and the Council of Ministers - to ensure that the environment is placed at the heart of policymaking.

While campaigning at EU level, Green 10 NGOs:
• encourage the full implementation of EU environmental laws and policies in the Member
• lobby for new environmental proposals, as appropriate’

Originally, EU funding for these groups was limited to no more than 50 per cent of their annual income, but when members of the Green 10 complained that they were unable to attract enough voluntary donations to match the EU’s grants, the limit was raised to 70 per cent (Boin and Marchesetti, 2010, p. 10). This is rent-seeking of the least ambiguous kind.

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Reader Comments (35)

So the Government use our tax money to pay their mates to lobby themselves to impose the legislation to use more of our money to pay themselves and their mates renewable subsidies and tax us further. Meanwhile public support for the Green NGOs is not sufficient for the NGOs to pay their way requiring them to be propped up with Tax money to survive.
Is it just me or is this just a massive defraud of the Tax paying public who have to foot the rising bills for this and pay the renewable subsidies through rising energy bills.

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJace

We need a law that prevents Goverments from paying NGOs to lobby themselves or it needs to be capped financially (what austerity measures, pffft)

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJace

Two typos in the first sentence Bish. [Fixed, thanks. BH]

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterSJF

Charities are in the news here in Canada so comparison with the UK is in order. I am confused however as to the definition and tax status of UK charities. Can someone enlighten me? In Canada donations to charities are income tax deductible; charities also have tax-free status. Is this similar in the UK? The news item in Canada is that several Green Charities are being audited by the Federal Government to find out whether they have violated their "Charitable status" by spending more than the allowable amount on "Political" i,e., anti-Federal Government activity.

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorley Sutter

Extortion funded "charity" is simply an oxymoron.

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Guido's having a go as well ...

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

I am reminded of something I saw a week back about Canada:

$8 million is going to the Canada Revenue Agency to audit charities (with the understanding that the main targets will be environmental charities--which the government has labelled as money launderers working for foreign interests)

So it seems at least canada's government isn't funneling money to greens to campaign for what the government wants (or are canadian greens using EU money?)
The responses on boingboing were interesting: greens' hearts are so pure, they couldn't possibly be being "useful idiots"

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered Commentermalcolm

When you are presented with the scale of UK & EU funding to these "Green" groups, it is not surprising that they use questionable tactics against anyone who criticises them.

We all remember

"We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few."

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Morley, it does not matter if you get tax relief for charitable donations, if your tax monies are being sent to a charity which you do not wish to donate to then that is a gross miss use of your tax monies.
Governments have few responsibilities but defense is no. one with equitable taxation, law and order, education, health, and enabling commerce and industry to work within an equable environment, to enable maximum employment, are close behind. Everything else is secondary and some grasped responsibilities are a power grab and nothing else.

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

What about WFF's "Big Oil" money?
or Greenpeace's Oil money?

Poor dears - they only manage to scape 30% of their income from the likes of Shell, Rockefeller Foundation (Standard Oil), Exxon Mobil and Philip Morris (Big Tobacco), the rest has to come from the taxpayer.

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

This is a new definition of 'Chugging'.....

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

how can a 70% government funded charity get away with calling itself a "Non Government Organisation"?

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJace

The "establishment", where circular reasoning gets circular funding.

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

For years I was Distressed Gentlefolk with a certain social standing. Now my cheques come from Elizabeth Finn Care. Imagine how I feel.

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Don Keiller
"What about WFF's "Big Oil" money?"

The paying of 'mordida' (bribes, in Spanish) or AKA as 'shakedown monies' ... a whole industry modeled on the 'protection racket' theme, only in this case your knee caps remain intact but your reputation is subject to shredding in the press.

Def. "mordida"- - - - - - -
"Protection racket" - - -
See also "Extortion" - -


Jun 11, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered Commenter_Jim

I've been banging on about this for years.

NGO's (previously and more honestly known as "pressure groups") only exist to thwart the proper processes of democracy - by allowing small, vociferous groups of people with strong opinions to acquire more power than their less manipulative fellow citizens.

It's bad enough when governments allow NGO's to participate in drafting legislation (like Bryony Worthington of FOE and the Climate Change Bill) - but absolutely intolerable when they are actually handed our cash to fund their manipulations.

I served for years on a Parish Council (don't snigger) and every year it was common for the council to receive requests for "charitable donations" from generally worthy organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Scouts. I made myself unpopular by always making an attempt to block charitable donations on the principle that charity is a private endeavour and the state simply has no right to confiscate tax money from people and give it away so capriciously. Needless to say, nobody took any notice - "it's such a goood cause!".

I don't think there is anything in the basis of our nation's unwritten, but fairly well established, constitution which gives governments the right to tax us and then give our money away as proxies for our moral conscience - which is basically what charity is about.

I also noticed in the report that the Department of Health, somewhat bizarrely, funds the Bat Conservation Trust - thereby promoting our only indigenous rabies vector.

I suppose they must be trying to hone the skills of A & E depts!

Jun 11, 2012 at 4:06 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

"unable to attract enough voluntary donations to match the EU’s grants"

Quelle surprise!

Jun 11, 2012 at 4:07 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Greenpeace is on the list too, quite a long way down.

I have mentioned this before and it is worth repeating.

Some years back, the New Zealand government withdrew the charity listing for them, describing Greenpeace as a political organisation. Why can't all governments do the same?

Jun 11, 2012 at 4:18 PM | Registered Commenterpeterwalsh

If these organisations ( fake charities ) cannot raise enough money from voluntary donations to survive then they are obviously not popular enough with the public to be allowed to continue. I think there are about 27000 of them, some no doubt worthy but many campaigning and lobbying to restrict people's freedoms - hardly a charitable activity - and all being subsidised by the taxpayer. Let the public decide which are real charities and worthy enough to survive.

Jun 11, 2012 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDitherywig

I agree that no government money should be directed to any organisation that fancies itself an NGO. I know at least one NGO which refuses any state funding on the grounds that it'll be detrimental to its independence: Amnesty International.

But I believe government largesse isn't only directed at green NGOs. Governments also contribute funds for various other NGOs, including church groups which offer free* food, clothing or petty cash to those who are in need.

*There is no such thing as free lunch. A bowl of soup actually costs a piece of your soul in those Christian kitchens.

Jun 11, 2012 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I note that Rabbit and co are banging on about challenging HI's charity status. If that is fact then I'm looking forward to those guys widening that challenge to include groups like Green Peace and WWF as well.


Jun 11, 2012 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Well said, Foxgoose at 4.06pm. Nothing to snigger at about a parish counsel and you clearly brought an intellectual rigour and honour to the role. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about charities.

Jun 11, 2012 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

So now we know how WWF can afford to support 78 of the IPCC authors and send planeloads of delegates to Copenhagen, Durban and all the rest.

So much for "big oil" . They all have to pay their shareholders.

WWF has all of its billion dollars turnover tax free to spend on lobbying and generally subverting the political process.

Jun 11, 2012 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave

I stopped giving donations to charities, including televised causes, around five years ago after reading of the extortionate amount that the government gives on our behalf.
Anyone that now approaches with the rattle of a tin gets instructed to contact Downing Street who are my charity agents.

It's time for a weaning from the state teat. No tax revenue should be allowed as donation to any charity no matter what the cause.

Jun 11, 2012 at 7:47 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

This is an excellent (and eye-opening!) report. I don't think this particular problem is as pervasive in Canada as in the U.K., because organizations which have acquired Canada Revenue Agency status as a "Registered Charity" (which can issue receipts for tax deductible donations) are prohibited from lobbying - or using more than 10% of their operating budget for such activities (if memory serves correctly and/or rules haven't changed since I moved in such circles!)

Which is not to say that there are not some which get around the rules by setting up so-called "arms length" spin-offs. And as Morley Sutter noted above, there is a concern regarding funding of such groups by US organizations (and in one known instance that Donna documented a few months ago, a U.K. gov't agency) in order to promote "awareness". - particularly within gov't and media.

I think it is also worth noting the significant rise in NGOs which have been granted "consultative status" by the UN's ECOSOC over the last 20 years. As of Nov. 2011, there were 3500+ [see my Introducing ... the UN's jolly green sustainable hockey stick for details and data]

One of these privileged groups is ... Greenpeace International [status acquired in 1998]. Interestingly, one of the criteria for recognition of such groups (at least in theory) is that they not receive gov't funding. But once an organization has received such status, this gives them a seat (albeit at least at this point non-voting) and a voice at almost whatever UN table their little hearts desire.

Add to this Ban Ki-moon's recent exhortation to students to "make some noise" and "“shame … governments into doing more” and it seems to me that it all adds up to a "pressure cooker" recipe for, well, undermining democracy.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

H/t Frank Fisher for coining an elegant term for this racket - carousel propaganda.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuther Bl't

The Charities Commission spent a lot of time trying to tell independent schools or public schools, whatever you want to call them (I went to a grammar school so I'm not defending public schools) what to do. Why don't they investigate the "green" "charities" who are responsible for impoverishing millions of people by pushing up energy bills and taxes?

Alternatively couldn't those "charities" be sued for damages?

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"This is rent-seeking of the least ambiguous kind."

Also known as rampant corruption.

Jun 12, 2012 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

"Rent seeking"? You are too polite, sir. It is compelling the Christmas turkeys to subsidise the poultry farmer.

Jun 12, 2012 at 2:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

This stinks to high heaven. The problem is that many politicians and bureaucrats are neck deep in this sh** so they either don't smell it or are busy doing themselves another favor.

Jun 12, 2012 at 4:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterAntonyIndia

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

44 pages was far too long for me to wade through but the Exec Summary, generally all that the bureaucrat or politician will ever bestir himself to read, makes powerful points. What qualifications, ifs, buts and alsos are there, I wonder, in the main text?

However, I did venture into the first page or two of the main part of the report and was hugely rewarded. It containrd a splendid analysis of the power that bureaucrats have for good and evil. Matching the text with personal experience, I think I can be smug – I do not recall any instance where I pursued personal interest at the expense of the institutions I served, and in addition do not recall meeting any bureaucrat within the organizations who did. However, I did work with (rather than in) government organizations where pursuit of personal advantage without regard for the interests of the organization was the norm and can report that as a result the organizations were inefficient and achieved little. And it is easy to agree that the text’s quote that in such organizations it might be better to have lazy bureaucrats of the sort that pursue their own interests as a priority rather than energetic ones.

Dragging this dissertation back into context, I first report that I was never asked to give institutional funds to any charity. However, I now also confess that I think I would have recommended payment if we had had an appropriate budget with ample funds and the aims of the charity were aligned with the institution’s. In some organizations there might have been audit control that would have prevented the gift, but not so in others.

As a result, I suppose that in the organizations the author of this report had in mind the political leadership has expressly allowed such gifts. This leads to the reflection that the issues involved should lie outside the remit of the bureaucracy. Then, however, I come to fear that the practice of paying politicians makes them part of the system rather than representatives of the people and does little to encourage them to examine and enforce action of any sort on such questions.

But this is no new thought – it’s the same, both the whole world over and in respect of everything.

Churchill was right –democracy is the worst system except all the others!

Jun 12, 2012 at 4:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Already "done" years ago, with more info.....

Jun 12, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnM

Its not rent-seeking. Its gerrymandering.

Jun 12, 2012 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

If NGO's are receiving government money, there is no reason to consider them NGO's. Instead, they are in effect goverment funded lobbying groups. So what the NGO's have actually become is anti-democratic sub rosa arms of government factions seeking to implement into policy regulation and law what they cannot get done by way of open transparent lawful means.
This is an annoying distortion of the purported ideals behind NGO's: They used to be about doing charitable works. Now they are about power and money, and hardly at all about actually doing good in their stated areas of interest.
It would be enlightening to see whata an outside audit would show about the cost structures of NGO's and how their budgest are actually spent.
It is entirely inapprorpiate for governments in democracies to continue funding NGOs of any sort.

Jun 12, 2012 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Some of your readers might be interested to read what my colleague Dr Richard North was writing back in 2008 about Green 10 and the way the EU funds other 'front organisations' to lobby it in desired directions on :
He also commends the paper on Green 10 published by Policy Network in 2010,

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterchristopher booker

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