The Boston Globe op-ed page today carries a column that criticizes the National Education Association’s endorsement of a union campaign to boycott Wal-Mart. The piece was written by Michael Reitz, whom the Globe identifies as “the director of the Labor Policy Center for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a nonpartisan, public policy research organization based in Olympia, Wash.”
Among other things, Reitz charges, “The NEA even criticizes the Walton family, the founders of Wal-Mart, for contributing to ‘anti-public education efforts like private school voucher initiatives and anti-public educations PACs.'”
Unfortunately, you will not be surprised to learn that the Globe – and not for the first time – has failed to perform due diligence with respect to an outside op-ed contributor. In five minutes of Googling, I was able to learn that the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) is anything but “a nonpartisan, public policy research organization.” And it turns out to be no surprise that the foundation is particularly exercised about Wal-Mart.
Here is a 2002 article posted on the website Media Transparency, which tracks “the money behind conservative media.” Although I wish the data were a little more up to date, I think it’s sufficient to prove EFF’s hyperpartisan nature. Here are three major donors to the EFF that should help to establish Reitz’s bona fides:
1. The Walton Family Foundation, which is the charitable arm of – yes – the Wal-Mart fortune left behind by the late founder, Sam Walton. According to Media Transparency, the foundation gave Evergreen $300,000 between 1998 and 2000, and has also given millions to other groups that support EFF’s conservative education agenda, such as tuition vouchers. No wonder Reitz expressed such shock and horror that the NEA “even criticizes the Walton family.”
2. The Sarah Scaife Foundation, controlled by the notorious right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife. The Scaife Foundation, Media Transparency discovered, gave Evergreen $150,000 from 1998 to 2000.
3. Boston business figure William Edgerly. In light of Tom Palmer’s eye-opening piece about the Pioneer Institute’s woes – published in the Globe Ideas section this past Sunday – the following excerpt from Media Transparency’s report is pretty interesting:
MEDIA TRANSPARENCY: Foundation for Partnerships Trust, funded and run by William Edgerly, CEO emeritus of State Street Bank and Trust of Boston. The foundation gave Evergreen a total of $70,000 in 1998 and 1999; at the time of the grant, Edgerly was chairman of Advantage Schools, a for-profit school operator run by former Pioneer Institute executive director Steve Wilson that clashed with the Massachusetts Education Association over operation of schools in the state. Edgerly is on the board of the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts member of the State Policy Network.
Weitz’s success in placing his anti-NEA screed in the Globe was something of a coup for Evergreen: it currently leads the “What’s New” page on the organization’s website. And so the Globe has provided Evergreen with some undeserved credibility.
From time to time, the Globe’s policy of accepting paid advocacy ads for the op-ed page comes under fire, even though such distinguished papers as its corporate big brother, the New York Times, do the same thing. On July 21, for instance, the Boston Herald tweaked the Globe for its efforts to market that valuable real estate.
But at least with an ad, you know what you’re getting. Running Reitz’s Evergreen piece was far more insidious, because the reader was given no warning about the agenda behind the op-ed. Needless to say, full disclosure should have been provided. But I suspect that the Globe editors would rather have killed the piece than admit it was funded with money from the likes of Wal-Mart and Scaife.