Michael Walker, right, President of the Fraser Institute Foundation and former director of the Fraser Institute, looks at a copy of the Edmonton Sun with a well-known columnist from that newspaper. The great public intellectuals of the Canadian right may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Consistent Fraser Institute donors Charles and David Koch.
In 2011, the market-fundamentalist Fraser Institute continued to accept substantial funding from the U.S.-based Koch Brothers, the far-right New York billionaires who have helped bankroll the extremist American Tea Party.
A U.S. tax filing for a foundation controlled by Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”) and his brother David show the organization, which specializes in funding extreme-right-wing advocacy groups, donated $150,000 to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute in 2011.
The “charitable” Fraser Institute is a Vancouver-based “think tank” that produces a steady stream of shoddy and ideologically motivated “research” designed to advance market fundamentalist political goals.
These “Fraser Facts” – information that is not quite true, but “truthy” enough to persuade a casual reader the group’s market-fundamentalist nostrums might hold water – are frequently uncritically reported by Canadian mainstream media in its familiar role as willing stooges for Fraser propaganda.
A typical Fraser Fact was the report released by the group this month that found Hong Kong, controlled by the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China, to rate higher on its “Index of Human Freedom” than Canada.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by the sound of it, agrees with this assessment – although even the dutifully right-wing National Post seemed to find this particular factoid a trifle farfetched.
The latest donation from the Charles Koch Foundation means the Fraser Institute is now known to have received well over half a million dollars from the extremist U.S. billionaires since 2007.
In addition to Koch family donations, and perhaps more seriously, in its 2011 Canadian tax filings, both the Fraser Institute and its foundation, both of which have been granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency, continued to claim to have engaged in zero political activity throughout the year. (To read this claim, use the CRA’s search tool and look for “Fraser Institute.”)
The Fraser Institute has made the same claim in every Canadian tax filing since 2000, despite CRA rules that state unequivocally “a registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities.”
The CRA defines partisan political activities as anything that “involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for office,” actions it would be fair to say are undertaken continuously by the Fraser Institute.
In addition, the CRA defines political activities very broadly as anything that “explicitly communicates to the public that the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country should be retained (if the retention of the law, policy or decision is being reconsidered by a government), opposed, or changed…” The CRA even defines as political activities as “attempts to sway public opinion on social issues.”
By this definition, as has been argued here before, essentially 100 per cent of the Fraser Institute’s activities meet the CRA’s test for political activity, well in excess of the 12 per cent limit imposed by Canadian tax legislation for such charities.
Perhaps, given the dubious quality and ideological purpose of its research, it should come as no surprise that the Fraser Institute reports year after year that it engages in no political activity when it manifestly does the opposite.
Nevertheless, it should deeply concern law-abiding and tax-paying Canadians regardless of their political views that the CRA turns a blind eye to these misleading claims by this group in official filings to the Government of Canada while launching spurious investigations of other charities because the Harper Government disagrees with their purposes.
Canadians should also note the foreign sources of Fraser Institute funding at a time that various far-right AstroTurf groups and politicians in Mr. Harper’s party assail the same environmental charities now under the CRA’s microscope for accepting donations from abroad.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.