A Classic Story of Government Watch-Dogs Turned Corporate-Foundation Lap-Dogs
I am not a big fan of ‘one size fits all.’ I do not subscribe to ‘everything is either black or white.’ I usually refrain from hasty labeling and categorization based on too few facts. With that said, and with no hesitation, I am about to tell you a classic story applicable to most, if not all, multi-million dollar profitable nonprofit watchdog organizations with mega corporate-foundation sugar daddies. It is a sad story, but more importantly, it is a highly troubling pattern successfully disguised by the corporate media and corporate-foundation backed quasi alternative media. Because without seeing this pattern, without looking at the entire picture with all the pieces in place, people tend to chase their own tails or run around like headless chickens thinking they are engaged in some kind of active citizenry. Some groups exhaust themselves by futilely targeting elected officials, whether White House or Congress. Other groups burn out chasing after corporate-run media. Other people stumble upon each other protesting and screaming about mini scandals as they pop up at a bewildering rate. It is as if the ‘real culprits’ have put out these mock targets for people to waste their time chasing, targeting, and attempting to shoot.
The real culprits, the megas, hand pick political candidates and finance their election campaigns. They own the media. They fund and control any grassroots or watchdog NGOs that exhibit the tiniest sign of success, visibility and or viability. They foresee we the people’s easily foreseeable reaction and possible restlessness or dissent, and make sure it is properly misinformed, misguided, channeled, and diverted. Thus, the small minority of active citizens continues to become exhausted, burned out, and never gets anywhere. Then, the cycle repeats itself; again, again, and again.
Okay, back to the classic story of government watch-dogs turned into lap-dogs.
Once upon a time there was a passionate and visionary person. This person came across a major government corruption or fraud case. He took it upon himself to research and investigate the case; most likely after his daytime work was finished, after his children’s bedtime, while sitting behind his computer in the basement of his home. He was driven by his strong sense of justice and honesty, and his feverish passion to expose and hopefully put an end to the injustice and corruption he had discovered. Along the way he found a couple of comrades who shared his vision, and they too kept working, researching and investigating. They found sources within the target agency, aka whistleblowers, who provided them with inside information and leads, and they made sure they protected the sources anonymity.
And then, bam! The passionate and visionary group realized they had piled up enough data and smoking guns to fire, and they fired. They published their report, worked hard to disseminate it, and gained attention with their uncovering of a certain government agency’s waste and fraud. They earned deserved applause from the general public, even various media publications. It became one of those admired David v. Goliath stories. A ‘real’ one. A ‘genuine’ one.
Then came the second chapter in this story: The earning of the attention and wrath of the affected bosses, and their bosses- the megas.
The intermediate bosses, the executive bureaucrats and appointees, were filled with contempt and rage over the exposure of their fraudulent and corrupt practices. They, known to be reactionaries, wanted to exterminate this newly formed idealistic and driven coalition; they wanted to shut them up-shut them down. If they had their way, they would have collected dirt on this group, or even better, they would have made up dirt. They knew various ways to use the media to marginalize dogs like this. They knew channels that could get them persecuted or prosecuted. But …
The intermediate bosses’ bosses, the megas, known for their shrewd, calculated, and long-term planning capabilities reined them in. Short term solutions could have short and long term negative consequences. Short term solutions, even if good, would have short-lived benefits. This was not the first time they were facing a tiny little adversary group of dogs with surprisingly well developed testicles, thus, a fairly loud bark, and a pretty good set of sharp teeth. They had nearly a century of experience with little dogs like that, coming along once in a blue moon. The megas and their long term tentacles in key government agencies had developed a good solution, a well-devised mechanism, to deal with ‘dogs’ like this. The key component of their long-proven successful method was to emasculate the watch-dogs and turn them into loyal lap-dogs: Reduce the watch-dogs’ testicles size and functionality by attaching strings to them weighted down by anchors, and afterwards file down the watch-dogs’ teeth, one-by-one.
Back to the newly formed coalition, high on success, eyes bright with resolve, and ready to take on the intermediate rulers’ fraud, abuse, and corruption.
The group, emboldened by their recent success and strengthened by their newly-found public notice and support, was transformed from a loosely formed coalition with a common cause to a Watch-Dog Group. There were so many cases to tackle, so many corrupt practices to investigate, and way too many abusers to chase after; truly overwhelming. Granted, now they had some visibility that provided more clout, a certain level of public backing, and some experience – making future projects less daunting. But still. They needed more resources; more time and more manpower. So they scrambled and raised a humble amount of money from their public supporters and true believers. They turned their income-earning full-time jobs into part-time work, and spent more time on this noble cause. It was all good. It was all for the good.
And again, they had another successful round, bringing them more recognition and further public cheering and support, and with it raised expectations-both from themselves and the public in general. If only they could afford an office and more and better computers. If only they could hire a few researchers to conduct the nitty-gritty research and footwork, leaving them free for the major aspects of the tasks at hand. If only they could afford to travel and meet with some of their out of town sources and whistleblowers. If only they were able to afford legal advice to maneuver the treacherous channels…If only. This ‘if only’ would become the major determinant in whether the story would stop right here, or, enter the next chapter, chapter three: when the corporate-foundations guardian angels started arriving.
The megas who had been closely watching the newly formed government Watch-Dog Group (I say closely because the megas have their ways and channels to keep close tab on their enemies, even those perceived as tiny little enemies). For them now was the right time to slowly make their entry into the Watch-Dog circle and make their way toward getting at these dogs’ testicles and teeth, and begin the emasculation process.
As the Watch-Dogs pondered ways to expand and strengthen their base and reach, angelic sounding and wisdom-reeking people with excellent connections and sound-sounding ideas began approaching them. Here are some examples of the dialogue between the Watch-Dogs (WD) and the angelic-sounding advisors (ASA):
ASA: “You certainly need some savvy PR people and legal advisors, and a few experienced researchers.”
WD: “Sigh. You think we don’t know. The problem is; how do we get the badly-needed funds to accomplish all that?…”
ASA: “Surely you can. Of course, you must organize and set yourself up better, before you can even begin to raise those needed funds…I know a few people and noble foundations who would love to help you out, but you are not ready yet…that is, organizationally speaking.”
WD: “And how is that?”
ASA: “ Well, I would start with a solid Board of Directors, and after that, a distinguished Board of Advisors for your organization.”
WD: “That sounds so bureaucratic. Wouldn’t that restrict our decision-making process? With all those people on board, wouldn’t it be harder and much slower making decisions and getting things done?”
ASA: “ Not at all. The alternative is what? You end up working yourself to exhaustion, and achieve very little if anything. Add to that the size of the enemies-the targets you are after, and you know…Of course, it is your decision.”
WD: “ And what do these foundations and generous people want in return? We pride ourselves on being independent and nonpartisan…”
ASA: “Oh, don’t be silly. Just look around you. How many successful and powerful Watch-Dogs do you see out there without big foundation and large donor funding? The ones who didn’t make it, the ones you don’t see, were the ones that didn’t know how to go about getting foundation support and raising funds.”
So the wise and angelic sounding new friends, the megas’ messengers and small-level players, made their way into the Watch-Dog group and started planting the seeds of ‘Grand NGOs via Grand Grants via Grand Foundations.’
The Watch-Dogs didn’t see any harm in putting together a Board of Directors. Of course, the wise and angelic sounding advisors were always there to show them the way:
WD: “Okay, so the three of us and two of our recently retired whistleblowers-sources will be on our board of directors…”
ASA: “That is so cute. It is simply adorable. BUT, it doesn’t work that way. You want a distinguished and experienced group of people. I would say, at least 10-12 distinguished people who are connected to and familiar with the foundations that will be providing you with grants. Maybe a few scholarly academic people who already work with-for these foundations and wealthy individual donors…”
WD: “Hell. How are we going to find and persuade these people to come and sit on our board?!”
ASA: “Oh, don’t be so pessimistic. They would be honored. We’ll give you a list. In fact, we would be more than happy to be the conduit…”
And slowly but surely the Watch-Dogs began implementing their wise and angelic sounding advisors’ to-do list. They established a large and distinguished-sounding Board of Directors. They put together a lengthy list of impressive-looking advisors. They began frequenting cocktail parties. They made their way into the circle of corporations and foundations which form the corporate-foundations, and of course wealthy individuals and philanthropists. They had very little time left for their ‘real’ objectives; the watch-dog-ing, but they considered it a temporary thing. Once they had the needed funds and resources, once they had the dollar guarantees, then, well then they could get busy and do tons of watch-dog-ing.
Months went by, and then years. The Watch-Dog Group, now Watch-Dog Organization, expanded; that is, in budget size, staff size, and office size. Per their Board of Directors and Board of Advisors instructions, aka advice, they replaced the director, their original founder, with a savvier, aka shrewder, person who knew how to handle and please the entire Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, and of course, the corporate-foundations and individual wealthy donors. They spent a lot of time in cocktail party circles, at wealthy foundations-grantees retreats, and on legal calculations, tax calculations, public relations…Of course, they did some Watch-Dog-ing work, or more like Watch-Dog-ish mini projects, and they learned how to make their mini Watch-Dog-ish projects sound like grand Watch-Dog projects. It was an art, and their board members were all masters of this particular art.
As for the megas, by this time they considered their emasculation project completed and yet another long-term success:
The megas’ men and women had penetrated the group as members of the board. They now watched the watch-dogs very closely; every move and every plan. They now ruled the watch-dogs. They reported back on all the anonymous sources within the government agencies that were naively providing information to the watch-dogs, and helped the megas and intermediate government bosses keep tabs on all these insiders-whistleblowers.
The Dogs were placed on a very tight leash. They had built new lives based on highly addictive handsome salaries and benefits: They had bought seven figure houses, enrolled their kids in prep schools, and had grown dependent on high dollars and perks. Their staff’s livelihoods were also dependent upon the same high dollars. The maintenance of their luxury-filled lives and their dozens of staff had become the number one objective, their first priority.
The Watch-Dogs’ testicles were pulled down and dragged on the ground by the attached multi-strings and weighty anchors – the money from their corporate-foundations’ sugar daddies.
With the testicles almost gone, the Watch-Dogs’ barks became high-pitched and far less audible; more like a wimpy yelp than an actual watch-dog bark. And they whimpered and yelped only once in a while.
As for the teeth, slowly but surely they were filed and ground down; every one of them; one-after-another.
Basically, in the end, there was not much left of the original Watch-Dogs. Without testicles, with their teeth gone, with an embarrassing yelp rather than a bark, and of course, with their newly acquired lap-dance skills to obtain the highly-addictive foundation grants, they now were officially considered Lap-Dogs- Lap-Dogs of the Corporate-Foundation Sugar Daddies.
NGOs and Foundation Funding: Who watches the “watchdogs”?
corbettreport on Jul 6, 2011
TRANSCRIPT AND SOURCES:
What influence do corporate foundation donors have over the organizations they are propping up?