Is the Center For American Progress the new Third Way? The charge of corporate influence has been leveled against CAP in various outlets from The Nation to the New York Times. And now another piece of the puzzle has come into place as the Center For American Progress (CAP) has disclosed a list of corporate donors for 2013.
The list includes many Too Big To Fail banks such as Goldman Sachs where Hillary Clinton, a longtime friend of CAP President Neera Tanden, recently spoke. Clinton condemned those criticizing those same Too Big To Fail banks/CAP Donors as “foolish.” Other TBTF banks such as Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo also donated to CAP along with private equity firms such as Blackstone.
But what became a focus of a New York Times story was former CAP President John Podesta’s ties to corporations looking to influence the Obama Administration – an administration he is set to join.
Mr. Podesta, named a senior adviser to President Obama, is not currently a lobbyist and therefore does not have to worry about the Obama administration’s self-imposed ban on hiring lobbyists to administration jobs. But he will nonetheless arrive at the White House after having run an organization that has taken millions of dollars in corporate donations in recent years and has its own team of lobbyists who have pushed an agenda that sometimes echoes the interests of these corporate supporters.
These financial ties offer a hint of the blurry lines in Washington between the research organizations like Mr. Podesta’s — which is a virtual external policy arm of the Obama administration — and lobbying shops. The ties could also cause some complications for Mr. Podesta as he heads into the West Wing.
Firstly, the Obama Administration has hired lobbyists. Secondly, the blurry lines have always been the problem with CAP. They claim to be a progressive organization then take money from corporations looking to do everything in their power to fight a progressive agenda.
The investigations started in earnest at The Nation by Ken Silverstein who followed up in a piece for The Baffler:
A review of CAP’s research track record shows that the group’s work is dictated by two simple mainsprings: its obvious and overwhelming fealty to the Democratic Party, and the pursuit of corporate cash…
It’s therefore no surprise that the other plank of the CAP research agenda—the eager acquisition of greater corporate backing—commands an increasing share of the group’s efforts. There’s little functional difference between the Democratic Party and the corporate world when it comes to running campaigns and elections; why should the promotion of policy debate be any different? In 2007, CAP launched the Business Alliance, which is a Membership Rewards–style program for big donors.
Silverstein’s investigations added some names of companies who donated to CAP but where not listed on CAP’s disclosure including Raytheon and the Caryle Group – major defense contractors who benefit from a belligerent foreign policy that CAP advocates.
Silverstein also noted the influence of private intelligence firms like Palantir that have come into CAP’s orbit after initially being caught spying on then Think Progress reporter Lee Fang. Think Progress is a communications arm of CAP. Not soon after the rapprochement with cyberwarfare firms – Palantir joined the “Business Alliance” – CAP would begin promoting a strong cyberwarfare agenda and endorse policies that would help the industry. If you can’t beat them, buy them.
All of which is to say the Center for American Progress has become anything but progressive. It is liberalwashing corporate agendas in exchange for cash and influence that it uses to empower its friends and allies to seek opportunities in the private and public sectors. CAP is not reforming Washington’s corrupt behaviors through progressive action, it is embracing them.
Photo by Department of Justice under public domain.