BP-Funded PennFuture Attacks the Messenger

PennFuture’s Jan Jarrett launches a tirade against the Commonwealth Foundation’s exposé of PennFuture’s lobbying.

For starters, she repeatedly labels it a “smear campaign” (and even includes the Wikipedia definition of “intentional, premeditated effort to undermine an individual’s or group’s reputation, credibility, and character”). How then should one characterize her rant?

No credible, ethical organization would publish such a dishonest screed. …

Paul Chesser is a right-wing hit man. …

[Commonwealth Foundation is] a secretive and paranoid organization. …

being called unethical by these guys is like being called ugly by a toad.

Come on Jan, your defense is nothing more than ad hominem attacks – a smear campaign of itself to attack the messenger.

Jarrett goes on to state,

The report is a concoction of outright lies, unsubstantiated charges, anonymous quotes, and illogical statements.

Yet in her rant, she cannot name a single incorrect fact! She identifies no lies, no unsubstantiated charges, and no illogical statements. We at CF stand by our guarantee of quality scholarship, and if Jan can find a single error in our Policy Brief, we challenge her to point it out.

Jan goes on to then avoid discussing PennFuture’s lobbying by writing about Commonwealth Foundation’s. It is true, we report every dollar we spend under Pennsylvania’s lobbyist disclosure law – the state law is so vague it includes any work which could influence policies in the future. The IRS definition is much more narrow – encourage lawmakers or administrative officials to support certain policies, or urging the public to contact lawmakers in support of legislation (which CF does little of, but PennFuture does a lot of).

The problem is not that CF may report more than required by state law, but that PennFuture is not reporting how much they spend on lobbying. Indeed here is what Jarrett writes,

The Commonwealth Foundation alleged that our lobbying efforts are secret, even though we’ve filed full reports to both the IRS and the Pennsylvania Department of State.

But the problem is that in their IRS filing, they report spending zero dollars in grassroots lobbying for four of the past five years despite, as shown in our Policy Brief, being engaged heavily in lobbying. Filing reports that hide lobbying expenditures make it pretty secret, does it not?

Finally, Jarrett glosses over the only fact revealed in her missive:

The entire basis for these charges is an apparent error made on our IRS form 990 tax return.

So, for the past five years, PennFuture has been making “errors” on their tax returns (we would suggest omissions)! These “errors” are not reporting any lobbying spending, when all they are is a lobbying outfit. And they did not notice these “errors” until the CF exposé pointed it out – yet our report is “lies”.

Fess up Jan, and while you’re at it, pay back the BP Money.