Transparify is launching In the News, a new feature where we will rate the financial disclosure of a think tank that has recently generated media headlines. By responding to the media discussion of a think tank or its scholars, we hope to be able to further increase financial transparency in the policy research community and encourage financial disclosure by those who have substantial influence on public debates.
Today, we take a look at the Middle East Institute (MEI), a U.S. think tank focusing on foreign policy and the Middle East that recently made headlines at The Intercept. Transparify decided to follow up by formally assessing MEI’s financial transparency. The rating followed Transparify’s established methodology. On September 11-12, two Transparify raters independently rated MEI’s financial transparency. They found that MEI did not provide systematic information on its website about funding sources, the purposes of donations, or the amounts donated.
Transparify then approached MEI to seek clarification on its disclosure policies. A representative of MEI responded that after looking at Transparify’s rating criteria, they have prepared a five star disclosure that will be reviewed at their next board meeting before posting to their website.
MEI shared its list of 2016 donors, with specific amounts of funding as well as the purpose of that funding. Once MEI has made that list publicly available through its website, it is likely to meet Transparify’s highest criteria for transparency.
Transparify strongly welcomes MEI’s stated commitment to transparency, and will re-rate the institution as soon as it has placed the additional funding information online. We will publish the result of that rating on this blog.
In addition to the new In the News feature, Transparify will continue to periodically publish national, sectoral and global transparency ratings of policy relevant nonprofits. We are currently finalizing a Canadian national think tank rating and will soon launch a rating of U.S. nonprofit media organizations. In addition, we have revisited websites of think tanks that lead with transparency, and will publish on this in the coming weeks.