Transparency, Lobbying and Fake News in Brexit Britain: UK Think Tanks 2017

Which think tanks are transparent about who funds them? Which take money from hidden hands behind closed doors?

Seven highly opaque and deceptive think tanks between them spend over £22 million to distort democratic debates and influence decision-making in Britain, Transparify’s new report released today shows. The track record of these opaque outfits includes lobbying for hidden paymasters’ vested interests, pushing flawed evidence into the public realm, and generating fake news.

Key findings:

  • Most British think tanks disclose who funds them. Out of 27 think tanks we assessed, 17 are transparent; only 7 are highly opaque or deceptive about their funding sources.
  • The British think tank sector now employs over a thousand people and spends over 100 million pounds per year.
  • The seven opaque players between them employ over 200 staff and spend over 22 million pounds per year.
  • At least two secretive think tanks based in London appear to receive substantial funding from foreign sources.

Transparify’s report rates think tanks' funding transparency and presents new data on their annual expenditure and staffing levels, providing a unique snapshot of Britain’s policy research and advocacy scene.

A special section investigates how deceptive and highly opaque think tanks distort democratic debates and decision-making in the UK. It provides data on these rogue players’ known funding sources, including from donors in the United States and Bahrain. In addition, Transparify documents numerous incidences in which opaque think tanks have concealed the origin of their funding, advocated policies that favoured their hidden paymasters’ commercial interests, presented flawed evidence, and generated fake news.

Previous Transparify reports have been covered widely in the media. Numerous think tanks and transparency organisations have welcomed our work. Background information on think tanks, transparency and lobbying, including many cases involving UK institutions, can be found in our four annotated bibliographies.

Click here to read the full report and press release.

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