You are hereHuffington Post: James O'Keefe's Newest Target Appears To Be A Small, Progressive Economic Think Tank
Huffington Post: James O'Keefe's Newest Target Appears To Be A Small, Progressive Economic Think Tank
-by Sam Stein
October 17, 2011- Among members of Washington D.C.'s think tank community, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is known as a den for unbending liberals. The group works to stake out a progressive pole in the national debate. But in the age of President Obama, its influence has been limited. Despite having had an alum in the administration -- Vice President Biden's former chief economist Jared Bernstein -- it has found itself, more often than not, disillusioned with the president's embrace of austerity measures and his willingness to support moderate policies.
So when EPI's President Lawrence Mishel was targeted last week in what appeared to be a conservative media sting operation, led by infamous saboteur James O'Keefe, it was a point of pride. The 25-year-old non-profit think tank officially has enough gravitas to be vilified.
"I'm honored to be the subject of their attention," Mishel told The Huffington Post. "When we get attacked by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, I tell my people, 'Be proud.' I never got listed by Glenn Beck. I felt left out because I feel like I'm an important person on the left."
While it remains uncertain whether or not EPI has become the subject of one of O'Keefe's undercover investigations -- the list of past subjects includes ACORN, CNN, National Public Radio, Occupy Wall Street, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) -- several signs suggest that he targeted the think tank.
Last week, both Mishel and Amy Hanauer, the founding executive director of the group Policy Matters Ohio, received cryptic phone calls from a person identifying himself as Luke Fowler. Fowler explained that he worked as a researcher for a hedge fund manager named Peter Harman who was interested in funding a study showing that cuts to education and collective bargaining rights would hurt students. Harman, Fowler added, was associated with the Ohio Education Association, a union that represents some 130,000 teachers and faculty members.
The implication was clear. If Mishel could produce the data, he would get the money. "He wanted me to do something to show that spending cuts were going to hurt children in schools," Mishel said. "I told him, you know, you can't buy results."
Hanauer's call came later and was nearly identical. "They were fishing for us to say we would release it if it had a pro-union point of view or kill it if it didn't," she recalled. "He asked me some fishy questions. I think he was simply trying to make me feel tempted to tell me what he wanted."
Ryan Girdusky, a spokesman for Project Veritas, the 501(c)3 organization O'Keefe started, declined to confirm whether EPI was the subject of an ongoing investigation, arguing that it would undermine the remainder of the group's work.