Millions of dollars has been raised from anonymous US donors to support British rightwing thinktanks that are among the most prominent in the Brexit debate.
American donors are giving money to US fundraising bodies that pass the donations to four thinktanks in Britain. A Guardian analysis has established that $5.6m (£4.3m) has been donated to these US entities since 2008.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute, Policy Exchange and the Legatum Institute have all received financial support from US backers via this route.
The disclosure leaves the thinktanks facing questions as to whether wealthy Americans have undue influence in British politics, particularly over the form Brexit takes.
It would be difficult for there to be all that much influence. To give an example, I’m a Senior Fellow at the ASI. I also do a lot of writing for them. And I’ve no idea who funds – nor how much- the Institute. Not through any lassitude, it’s simply something that isn’t revealed to anyone.
And if I don’t know who funds – and I don’t get given instructions on what to think or write about, which I’m not – then whatever that funding is cannot influence, can it?
The UK thinktanks are some of strongest proponents of radical free trade deals with reduced regulation – positions likely to benefit big American businesses, which have opposed Europe’s tighter regulations since the 2008 financial crash.
Given that I’ve argued for unilateral free trade since whenever that would be a considerable watering down of my views rather than a strengthening of them.
They have a policy of not disclosing their donors, arguing they respect their backers’ right to privacy unless the backers wish otherwise. Critics say the lack of transparency allows unseen donors to influence political debate.
But if I, at the coal face, don’t know, how can it influence?