Center for American Progress releases donor list

December 13, 2013

The Center for American Progress released a list of its corporate donors on Friday, a move intended to boost transparency at the liberal think tank as its chairman and founder,  John Podesta, moves to a top White House job.

The list of 58 donors includes a broad sampling of corporate interests, from tech firms and automakers to health-care companies, big banks, retailers and trade associations. Northrop Grumman, the defense and aerospace giant, is a donor, as are Apple, Citigroup,  GE and Wal-Mart. Each of those listed has given the group more than $10,000 in 2013, though the Center did not disclose the amount of particular contributions.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the group said it receives more than 90 percent of its $42 million annual budget from individuals and foundations. Donations from corporations make up less than 6 percent of the think tank's funding, and less than 3 percent of funding for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, its advocacy wing, it said. Donors to the Action Fund included Google, Blue Shield of California and the Motion Picture Association of America.

"The Center for American Progress has always been fiercely independent -- our views are shaped by what we think the best solutions are to improve the lives of all Americans," Neera Tanden, CAP's president, said in a statement. "Donations, be they from individuals or corporations, do not guide or determine our work. Period. Indeed, we have advocated numerous policies that would impinge on corporate interests -- from tax policy to government subsidies; our interests are simply to provide ideas to solve the country's problems."

Think thanks and their financing have recently drawn growing scrutiny. Last week, after Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, was sharply critical of her economic policies, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on the country's six biggest financial institutions to voluntarily disclose their contributions to think tanks.

"Just as there is transparency around your direct efforts to influence policymaking through lobbying, the same transparency should exist for any indirect efforts you make to influence policymaking through financial contributions to think tanks," Warren wrote.

Podesta, a seasoned Democratic operative and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, led Obama's presidential transition after the 2008 election. In his new role, set to begin in January, he will advise White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on climate, energy, the environment and other issues.

He is expected to stay for a just a year, freeing him to join the campaign of former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2016.

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Ed O'Keefe · December 13, 2013