Selling Out The Internet: Heartland Institute Took $285,000 From Telecoms, Opposed Net Neutrality
Earlier this week, bloggers at ThinkProgress and De Smog Blog obtained leaked documents detailing the fundraising plan of the Heartland Institute think tank, which says its “mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” The documents, among other things, lay out complicated plans to court corporate donors and to challenge climate science with disinformation, even in our kids’ classrooms.
Interestingly, the documents show that that the think tank took a whopping $285,000 from the telecom industry in between 2010 and 2011. The donations come from telecommunications giants like AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner. Yet the largest set of donations are provided from the CTIA — the wireless industy’s trade association.
The think tank does not explicitly explain in this document why it took so much money from the industry, but it does talk about doing “concerted outreach” to “businesses with financial interests…in cable and internet tax and regulation issues (with [senior Comcast government liason] Mike Rose).”
There is one internet-related public policy issue that each of the telecom giants that donated to the Heartland Institute agrees upon: opposing net neutrality. Net neutrality guarantees a level playing field with a free and open internet where internet service providers can’t discriminate between different kinds of content. A broad swath of Americans have organized to defend net neutrality, including groups as diverse as MoveOn.org and the Christian Coalition of America.
So where does the Heartland Institute stand on the issue? Squarely with the same telecommunications companies that have donated so heavily to it. When the United States Senate rejected a resolution that would’ve overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules last year, the think tank put out a statement slamming the vote and attacking net neutrality as “strangling one of the last vestiges of economic vibrancy in America.” The statement even praised an court case where its donor Comcast successfully sued the FCC: