The Beacon Hill Institute is a staple of the Massachusetts political scene. Sure, they’re off in the conservative ghetto, not quite as mainstream as Jim Stergios’ Pioneer Institute, but BHI’s Executive Director and Suffolk University econ professor David Tuerck still gets quoted respectfully by media outlets, especially (unsurprisingly) the Boston Herald.
BHI is funded, also unsurprisingly, by the Koch brothers, and spends a good deal of time railing against climate action like RGGI. In case there was any doubt about the “independence” of their research, or whether the results and recommendations were predetermined, an recent report has laid that utterly to rest:
The Beacon Hill Institute, a “think tank” based out of Suffolk University (and a Koch-funded member of SPN) submitted a controversial grant request to the Searle Freedom Trust, a prominent conservative foundation, in they expressly stated: “Success will take the form of media recognition, dissemination to stakeholders, and legislative activity that will pare back or repeal [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI)].” In other words, the Beacon Hill Institute proposed to pursue biased economic research to support the express goal to “pare back or repeal” a regional climate change accord — all before the institute performed any research determining the economic effect of the law.
… Despite positioning themselves as ideologically-focused on smaller government, dozens of these organizations aggressively denounce policy investments in clean energy as market-distorting and unnecessary, while remaining silent on the far-larger, decades-old stream of taxpayer dollars and policies supporting oil, gas, and coal interests.via How Fossil Fuel Interests Attack Renewable Energy.
Suffolk University may well realize its reputation is at stake here, since it pushed back against the grant proposal when it found out. But why is BHI still there? Is Suffolk a genuine institute of higher education, or is it a laundering-house for the rawest form of pay-to-play propaganda? Is learning how to sell “research” to the highest bidder part of Suffolk University’s educational mission? (Oh, and please spare me any defense of “academic freedom”. The university has the absolute freedom to besmirch — or defend — its own reputation by its associations with groups like BHI. Freedom is a two way street.)
Fortunately I think Massachusetts’ political culture is smart and resilient enough to ignore BHI for the most part. Sadly, their reach goes beyond our borders, with Suffolk’s apparent blessing.
I’m relatively optimistic that most places will reject BHI’s and the Koch’s pressures, simply because it’s not in their own interests on a very granular, dollars-and-cents level. Even South Carolina is getting into solar; GOP Governor John Kasich is feeling pushback against an attempt to weaken Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. As renewables become more mainstream and plainly beneficial to the bottom line, folks know that the Kochs aren’t their pals.