Cronyism: Undermining Economic Freedom
And Prosperity Around The World
August 9, 2010, James Roberts
By The Heritage Foundation
More Green Crony Capitalism
November 9, 2009
The Heritage Foundation
Discover The Networks: NGO’s
Table of NGO Contracts & Spending 2005- Q1 2011
(Submitted by a reader, verified by W.E.
Defining and Avoiding Tyranny
Rage Against The Kakistocracy
Social Justice, Not What You Think It Is
Dec 29, 2009, Michael Novak
Progressives And The Constitution
Video: Hillsdale College
A Picture Worth A Thousand Words:
It's not an exaggeration to say that Matthew Lesko act alikes steadily visit regional council meetings and department heads with grant applications in hand. They haunt policymakers at the Whatcom County courthouse and Bellingham City Hall, too.
NGO's & Public-Private Partnerships:
Lush, lucrative non-profit cronyism has become a serious problem in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
It's existed for years, steadily growing government, but it's getting worse every day. This can only be stopped through exposure and public outcry.
“Public-private partnerships” provide an avenue for special interest groups and politicians to pursue goals that extend well beyond a municipality’s official mandate to provide basic public services.
The policy trap is that through “partnering,” services and projects that do not rise to real, justifiable, public need find their way into department and comprehensive plans. “Work” that requires subsidy is inherently marginal, failing rational cost-benefit analysis without the “partnership.” Frequently, proposals unabashedly state an intent to create public demand, and make unsubstantiated claims about latent demand. There’s a familiar saying at the County courthouse: “Whatcom County doesn’t say no.” That’s beyond unprincipled, it’s unconscionable. And once the money tap is open to non-governmental partners, it typically remains open. This practice is often referred to by economists and political scientists as "rent seeking" (check the definition).
"Partnerships," which have become so popular, have grown the size and scope of local government substantially in the last ten years. Some activity-related partnerships may actually retard the free-market's response to demand, if a market actually exists. WE suggest that "red flags" should fly over proposals that depend on subsidies, incentives, or partnerships.
Non-government organizations (NGO's) are autonomous, voluntary groups that seek to advance a particular cause or set of causes. Public-private partnerships increasingly affect public policy without the knowledge or consent of the governed.
Non-government organizations lobby heavily through “friendly” outreach strategies that can invite a climate of cronyism with potential for corruption. Even well intentioned politicians may find the temptation of making grant and contract awards to friends and associates irresistible if the venture appears to offer public benefit. Citizens justifiably question the vote-seeking motives of career politicians.
As for the "partners," most are non-profit corporations. There are 28 different types of non-profits classified as 501(c)'s by the IRS. Many non-profit corporations have become "service vendors," and some accumulate large sums at the expense of the public. Some may in fact be little better than self-employment schemes that pay directors and staff large salaries and expense budgets. A reader provided a table of NGO awards and contracts (available for your inspection, see link in the left column). Between 2005 and the first quarter of 2011 these total $1,790,298.29 (!).
Many of Whatcom County’s NGO's work hard to appear local when in fact they’re chapters of national or international groups. Some are so intent on imposing ideology that they've offered to underwrite government programs even if the the public rejects their work. Outsiders and zealots are driving far too much local policy; that should come to a halt.
Not all non-profits are charitable. Some are PAC’s (political action committees), unions, and trade promotion lobbies like the Cascadia Green Building Council. These benefit from regulations that call for preferred "green technology" and standards like LEED that are notoriously uber-expensive but often fail to fulfill efficiency promises.
Global organizations such as ICLEI have long-term agendas of their own. High overhead grant-writers and commercial fundraisers may be employed at public expense to create lucrative grant supported programs. Some, along with the officials who support them, take significant pride in their grant landing "skills" without concern for the nation's crushing debt problem.
Many of our elected are known to encourage projects that don't rise to countywide, state, or federal scope -- happy to see that "money's fallen into the community's lap." When glossy campaign cards start stacking up, watch for claims of this sort.