As the favoured talking head for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, Chloe Westley finds herself routinely challenged as to the organisation’s funding, and indeed the complete lack of transparency on the subject. This had proved a difficult one to answer - for obvious reasons - but she has now hit on a suitable formula for rebuttal.
So when Labour MP Chris Bryant put that question once again recently - “Who funds you?” - there was Ms Westley with the carefully prepared put-down “Thousands of people who are tired of politicians like you wasting their money”. That Bryant is elected, and his expenses put on-line for all to see, manages to get missed.
And in any case, that rebuttal isn’t quite true. The TPA is totally opaque regarding its funding, and the idea that it comes from “thousands of people” is bunk. Moreover, the inference in Ms Westley’s claim - that those donations must by default come from the UK - is provably untrue, as disclosure rules in the USA have shown.
Take a 2009 Guardian investigation, which “established that a large part of its funds come from wealthy donors, many of whom are prominent supporters of the Conservative party. Sixty per cent of donations come from individuals or groups giving more than £5,000. The Midlands Industrial Council, which has donated £1.5m to the Conservatives since 2003, said it has given around £80,000 on behalf of 32 owners of private companies”.
“Thousands of people”? Not really. There was more. “A spokesman for Sir Anthony Bamford, the JCB tycoon, whose family and company have donated more than £1m to the Conservatives, said he has helped fund the TPA, as has the construction magnate Malcolm McAlpine … David Alberto, co-owner of serviced office company Avanta, has donated [Matthew] Elliott and his 14 staff a suite in Westminster worth £100,000 a year”.
And now, information from the USA shows that a significant amount of the TPA’s money comes from there. The American Friends Of The Taxpayers Alliance Inc., a 501(c) designated organisation, has been set up to channel money to the TPA. Indeed, the description of its mission is “The corporation is organized to support the international and domestic work of the United Kingdom’s Taxpayers’ Alliance”.
How much does it contribute? As Facts Central has shown, “FTR, the ‘American friends of UK TPA’ donated $186,648 from 2013 to 2016 - as ‘Grants and other assistance to foreign organisations, govts & individuals’”. But like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, the identity of who pays the money is “restricted” information.
And look who the “principal officer” of this outfit was, until 2015: Matthew Elliott. The 2013 US tax return even shows his address as 55 Tufton Street, London. “Thousands of people”? No, Ms Westley, a rather smaller number in the UK, plus a select band channelling more of that Stateside dark money into the TPA.
Who is behind the remainder of the TPA’s funding? Chloe Westley won’t be telling us that any time soon. So someone else will. I’ll just leave that one there.
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