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Stop dark money think tanks breaching charity law

Street sign for Tufton Street, Westminster SW1, London, England. Alamy
To: The Charity Commission

Charities should be run for public benefit and must abide by charity law. We call on you to carry out your duties and launch an investigation into the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Institute of Economic Affairs for their apparent breaches in charity law.

For years, radical rightwing think-tanks, who refuse to disclose their donors, have had a malign influence over politics in the UK. And many of them have wielded this power whilst enjoying the status and tax advantages of being registered charities.

The Charity Commission, which regulates charities, makes clear that an organisation is “not charitable if its purposes are political”. Yet the registered charity the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is fundamentally political in nature, engaging almost exclusively with Tories while arguing for a radical rightwing programme of reducing corporate regulation and cutting taxes. According to the political commentator Tim Montgomerie, the Liz Truss’ September 2022 mini budget was built on policies the IEA has “been advocating for years”.

The climate-sceptic charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) also appears to flout charity rules, particularly around the requirement to provide balanced and neutral outputs, but GWPF spends hundreds of thousands of pounds on one-sided and politically-motivated research that criticises efforts to tackle climate change. In a complaint to the Charity Commission about GWPF, the Green party MP Caroline Lucas urged that public money “must not fund the blatant denial of overwhelming global scientific evidence that we are in a climate emergency”. 

Multiple complaints have been filed with the Charity Commission over the last decade about these groups but they seemingly continue to defy charity regulations and the Commission has failed to step in. 

It’s time for the regulator to fulfill its duties and investigate these groups once and for all. Dark money lobbyists have no place in the charity sector. 

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