Via some outfit called VoIP News, I’m intrigued to learn that my insidious paymasters at Cato number among the 15 greatest enemies of net neutrality. Scary! Turns out Cato is a “hired voice of reason” which, along with CEI “seems to draw its funding from a smattering of every major corporation ever to fund lobbyists.” Damning stuff! And these guys are Totally Serious Journalists, so they did some kind of due diligence and fact checking, rather than just pulling this stuff out of their asses, right?
Well, hey, no, I mean, I’m sure Cato is totally shady about its funding sources—how could they possibly check this stuff?
What’s that? Annual report? Freely available online, you say? Well, and so we get tons of our budget from… Huh? One percent from corporations? None from telecoms in 2008?
Now, obviously serious reporters wouldn’t just utterly fail grade-school level fact checking. Clearly, some devious ISP must have blocked them from reaching this easily accessible information! Further demonstrating the need for Net Neutrality!
Update: Megan links and several commenters complain that I’m not accounting for individual donors who either work for or hold stock in telecoms. No doubt there are some of those. There are probably also donors who work for or hold stock in large corporations that have lobbied for neutrality. I assume the same is true of any think tank that accepts individual donations, whatever stance they have on net neutrality. I have no idea what the balance is for Cato, but neither do I have any reason to think it’s weighted heavily to one side or the other. To be sure, if anyone ever told me that I really ought to write about issue X, I’d ask whether some donor interest had anything to do with the request—but since that hasn’t happened as yet, I remain blessedly ignorant. If the VoIP guys have some special knowledge of the proportion of our donors with interests on one side or another, they’re welcome to share it. But I’m betting they just figured the claim had to be true and didn’t bother with any kind of research.
Update II: Let me be a little blunter here: Though I’ve been occupied with PATRIOT and surveillance stuff—you know, the issue where I opposed retroactive immunity for telecoms?—I’m one of three Cato people who are likely to write on net neutrality. Mostly for the reasons articulated by my colleague Tim Lee, I think it’s probably not a good idea to move on codifying the principle in regulation at this point, though I have no problem smacking down companies that are deceptive about their management practices—selling 8 Mbps access and then quietly degrading certain sites, which is just fraud. Aside from what’s in that annual report, I have no idea who we get money from who has an interest pro or con in this issue. I have never been told what position I ought to take on it, and as I hope will go without saying for regular readers, would refuse if asked. I assume exactly the same is true of the many extremely smart folks on the other side of the issue who work with tanks that get substantial funding from executives or foundations linked to pro-neutrality firms. Indeed, I’m not at all surprised that Google would want to support the work of brilliant supporters of neutrality regulation like Sascha Meinrath or Tim Wu. But if anyone were to imply that this means their views are “for hire,” I’d consider it an outrageous slander. Is it so hard for people to accept that there’s just sincere disagreement here?