(Victor Joecks/NPRI) – In last Friday’s Las Vegas Sun, liberal pundit Jon Ralston attacked NPRI in his column and accused us of bias and partisanship. To respond to his numerous false claims, NPRI submitted the following letter to the editor to the Sun.
In his recent column (“Has think tank removed non-partisan pretense?” July 29, 2011), liberal pundit Jon Ralston attempted to disparage the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) using innuendo, a false narrative of bias dependent on cherry-picking articles and ignoring others, and a patronizing attitude that he alone knows what our organization should focus on. His attempts to twist our organization’s mission, purpose and actions are not accurate or supported by readily available facts.
For the last 20 years, NPRI has promoted limited, accountable government, individual liberty and free enterprise. To accomplish these goals NPRI produces high-quality research and conducts investigative journalism focused mainly on government corruption.
As a non-partisan organization, we investigate stories and leads regardless of how powerful are the individuals we’re investigating or which political party those individuals belong to. To kill a story, as Ralston suggests, just because one political side isn’t going to like its implications would actually make us guilty of the very partisanship Ralston later accuses us of.
Ralston’s criticism is no more than a shoot-the-messenger attack. If Assembly Speaker John Oceguera didn’t want to be criticized for double-dipping and trying to cover it up — don’t double-dip and try to cover it up. If Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford didn’t want to be criticized for leading a potentially illegal taking of $4.2 million for the College Savings Plan — either don’t take an action that could leave Nevada liable for millions in damages from a lawsuit, or return NPRI’s repeated phone calls to get an explanation.
Is it partisan that these stories involved the highest ranking Democrats in the Legislature? Only if it’s also partisan that NPRI has praised both Oceguera and Horsford for their stances, respectively, on transparency and opposition to a corporate income tax. Only if it’s partisan that NPRI has both praised and criticized Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval for his stances on various issues. Only if it’s partisan that even the highest ranking lawmaker in NPRI’s Legislative Report Card scored lower than 90 percent.
Looking at NPRI’s work through a partisan lens is inevitably going to lead to this kind of confusion. That’s because NPRI is concerned with ideas, not individuals or political parties. If an elected official supports good tax, budget or education policy, we’ll applaud him — regardless of party. If he doesn’t, we’ll point that out as well — regardless of political aspirations.
The same is true in our news stories. If there’s a newsworthy story of corruption, a cover-up or serious legislative negligence and we come across it, we’re going to write about it.
In the last year, NPRI has produced more than 500 commentaries, policy studies, news stories, press releases and blog posts and has appeared in state and national media outlets hundreds of times. If, as Ralston did, you consider only a handful of articles, you could support a variety of false narratives about us — many in direct contradiction to the one he crafted. If you consider the entirety of our work, however, our focus on our mission is clear.
Further, Ralston’s suggestion that NPRI drop its investigative reporting efforts and focus only on policy research would be like someone suggesting that he drop his column and focus only on his “Face to Face” television show, because the liberal views he promotes in his column interfere with the generally neutral moderator role he has on “Face to Face.”
Our organization is able to focus on more than one issue at once and, if he weren’t so insistent on cherry-picking reports, Ralston might have noticed that NPRI has written repeatedly on two areas he criticized us for not addressing — the constitutional problems of the IFC and public employees serving in the Legislature, including a five-part series on the latter subject earlier this year.
He might also have noticed that in between writing news stories involving Oceguera and Horsford, NPRI has produced numerous commentaries and blog posts and even released 2010 public employee salary data on TransparentNevada.com. But those facts don’t fit his false narrative.
Regardless of the distortions we face, or who they come from, NPRI will continue to stand up for sound policy ideas and expose government corruption — even if some would prefer Nevada’s citizens remain in the dark.
Communications Director, Nevada Policy Research Institute
Many thanks also to Chuck Muth for penning a stellar piece defending NPRI and pointing out that It’s Not “Partisan” to Expose Abuses of Power. Chuck’s piece was so good, I’m going to steal his last two paragraphs.
I’m sure our friends over at the conservative think tank aren’t happy with being targeted by a hit piece authored by the state’s leading and highly-respected political commentator this morning, but they should consider these thoughtful words widely attributed to a truly non-partisan man of peace, Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Sounds like victory may be right around the corner! [Emphasis added]