How Conservative Think Tanks Work

When the news came out yesterday about David Frum leaving the American Enterprise Institute there was some ambiguity as to whether he was fired, as most believed, due to his recent criticism of recent Republican tactics. Mike Allen’s account of a discussion with Frum is consistent with this view:

David Frum told us last night that he believes his axing from his $100,000-a-year “resident scholar” gig at the conservative American Enterprise Institute was related to DONOR PRESSURE following his viral blog post arguing Republicans had suffered a devastating, generational “Waterloo” in their loss to President Obama on health reform. “There’s a lot about the story I don’t really understand,” Frum said from his iPhone. “But the core of the story is the kind of economic pressure that intellectual conservatives are under. AEI represents the best of the conservative world. [AEI President] Arthur Brooks is a brilliant man, and his books are fantastic. But the elite isn’t leading anymore. It’s trapped. Partly because of the desperate economic situation in the country, what were once the leading institutions of conservatism are constrained. I think Arthur took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed. I think he would have avoided it if he possibly could, but he couldn’t.”

Allen also  provides insight into how the right wing noise machine works, why they have been so effective, and why they all parrot the same line:

Ask other AEI scholars how they felt about David’s mail and packages piling up outside his office. Frum, who will be 50 in June, had been on the payroll since leaving the Bush White House in 2003. He acknowledges he was very seldom at the office. But he maintains he developed and spread conservative ideas — AEI’s stated goal — with the 300,000 words a year that he writes for his blog,; his weekly columns for, The Week, and the National Post of Canada; his biweekly offerings for TIME and American Public Media’s “Marketplace”; and his three TV and three radio appearances in a typical week. He also landed Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty for an AEI retreat last month that included donors. Frum tells us that regardless of his dismay with the party, he’ll stay registered GOP.

In other words, Frum didn’t really work at AEI. He was paid a salary to free him up spend his time  spreading conservative views. Conservative propagandists who are in favor with their those providing the money can make a nice living spreading their views. After all, many large corporations see it as a tremendous benefit to have people spreading the philosophy that they should be allowed to do whatever they choose without regulation. However, should they stray from the party line as Frum has, their money is cut off.


  1. 1
    Ron Chusid says:

    The Frum firing shows how conservative "think tanks" work to make sure conservatives spread views to help donors. #2

  2. 2
    Matthew Lloyd says:

    » How Conservative Think Tanks Work Liberal Values

  3. 3
    Kim Knight says:

    » How Conservative Think Tanks Work Liberal Values: In other words, Frum didn't really work at AEI. He was paid a …

  4. 4
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