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Searchlight

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Searchlight is a project of the Capital Research Center (CRC), a conservative Washington D.C. think tank.

According to CRC the "Searchlight database" is a "comprehensive online resource on corporate giving to non-profit organizations." [1] The database contains profiles on an impressive sounding 2891 organizations and appears prominently on web pages on the Competitive Enterprise Institute website.

However, the entry on the CRC itself reveals the serious flaws in its own database. The CRC profile includes outdated information on office bearers, out-of-date information on compensation to senior staff, outdated budget data, 'analysis' fields lacking analysis and the omission of donations made directly from corporations as distinct from any non-profit foundations established by companies.

The profile:

  • lists revenue, expenses and net assets for 1998 when the most recent Internal Revenue Service 990 return lodged is for 2002;
  • the profile lists Mr Paul Taiwo as one of the office bearers and executives. In fact Taiwo, who was Chief Financial Officer, was last listed as working with the organisation in 1998. Nor are two other office bearers - Mr William E. Simon and Ms Barbara Van Andel-Gaby - still involved with the organisation.
  • the profile also lists the salary of Terrence Scanlon as being $193,190 when in fact it is now $211,989;
  • while the profile lists grants it has received from various foundations going back to 1994 it omits any mention of contributions directly from corporations. Internal documents reveal that as recently as 1998 CRC was receiving funds from the worlds' largest private tobacco company, Philip Morris. [2] Yet this is omitted from their database.

Corporate contributions to CRC are likely to be significant in its total 2002 revenue of just over $1.5 million. The CRC database states that in 2002 the organisation received only $100,000 in grants from foundations while the IRS return reveals that publications earned a meagre $14,236. Excluding dividends and interests on the significant investments CRC holds, it disclosed to the IRS that it received just over $1.3 million from contributions, gifts and grants as "direct public support". The source of the bulk of the $1.3 million is unclear.

The Searchlight database also contains a filed that lists an 'ideological rating" between 1 and 8, with 1 being "radical left" and 8 "market right".

According to the CRC, groups such as Environmental Working Group [3] the Natural Resources Defense Council [4] and even the Nature Conservancy deserve a 1. [5]

Even the corporate friendly World Wildlife Fund scores a 2. [6] There is no ranking listed for CRC nor any explanation at how such ratings are determined.

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