Altruism looks like eyewash - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Altruism looks like eyewash

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Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2003 10:10 pm | Updated: 2:20 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

What's this? Could it be that certain reform-minded advocacy groups in Washington are themselves guilty of what they endlessly accuse others of being guilty of? Could it be that the donations they get from interested parties keep them from pursuing their causes impartially, but instead influence them to be unfair?

The accusation, reported in the Washington Post, comes from Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee. He has noted that the very rich, very liberal George Soros has given scads of money to these groups that have set themselves up as watchdogs that will inevitably bark when something's awry with campaign finance contributions. But, he says, these groups haven't done much if any barking about Soros' huge contributions to organizations working for the election of Democrats.

The quoted reply of the head of one of these advocacy groups actually lends credence to the Gillespie charge. Mostly, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 took shots at the Republicans, a tactic more evasive than exculpatory.

The dispute, while not all that important in and of itself, points to some truths that are indeed important in assessing issues in the nation's capital.

One of these truths is that do-gooder groups do not necessarily do good. They are in the hands of human beings just as fallible as the rest of us, and human beings whose very employment by the organizations makes them less susceptible than others might be to reevaluating the organizations' assumptions in light of fresh evidence or persuasive argument.

Another truth is that, contrary to what they tell you, these groups often show political or ideological bias, sometimes extreme bias. By and large, their assertions deserve no more prima facie respect than the assertions of politicians or moneyed interests. When they spout off, the need is to look at the facts and logic that they marshal on behalf of the points they make, not at the shining names they give themselves.

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