Tim Graham is a conservative writer for the conservative Media Research Center who has done lots of conservative research showing that mainstream journalists tend to use labels like "conservative" too much. Which is all well and good. What he has long found interesting, however, is that this tense era is literally crawling with "conservatives" who are in mortal political combat -- especially on religious and moral issues -- with people who are very rarely labeled at all and, certainly, are rarely called "liberals."
Graham -- a conservative, by the way -- has a post up right now taking a few shots at a long, page one Washington Post report by Thomas B. Edsall that ran with the headline "Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues: Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million."
GetReligion readers will be stunned to know that people who back a conservative approach to faith-based ministries are doing well when it comes to landing grants from a new, conservative-sponsored program that is set up to promote faith-based ministries. Edsall writes:
For years, conservatives have complained about what they saw as the liberal tilt of federal grant money. Taxpayer funds went to abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood to promote birth control, and groups closely aligned with the AFL-CIO got Labor Department grants to run worker-training programs.
In the Bush administration, conservatives are discovering that turnabout is fair play: Millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bush's agenda on abortion and other social issues. Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies, according to federal grant documents and interviews.
Note the "what they saw as the liberal tilt" language, as if there were no objective facts available for discussion in a major newspaper.
For example, Edsall notes that crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion groups have received more than $60 million in grants. This, for me, raises a pretty obvious question -- especially after the previous "liberal tilt" language. How much does, let's say, Planned Parenthood get in taxpayer money?
Well, a conservative, anti-abortion site -- drat, there's that word again -- that stores public reports on this kind of thing says (follow the URL for documentation) that Planned Parenthood received $265.2 million in 2003-04 (hat tip to Dawn "friend of this blog" Eden). It would also be interesting to compare the numbers on grants to groups that take a conservative, evangelistic approach to salvation issues, as opposed to the groups -- liberal? -- that take a hands-off, many-roads-to-the-same-God stance.
But here is the Edsall paragraph that irked that conservative guy named Graham.
The Education Department awarded a $750,000 discretionary grant to the GEO Foundation, run by Kevin Teasley, a former staffer at the libertarian Reason Foundation and conservative Heritage Foundation, and conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, to "provide outreach and information" on public-school choice. The department also awarded $1.5 million over three years to the conservative Black Alliance for Educational Options, which was created in 2000 with support from such funders on the right as the Bradley, John M. Olin and Walton Family foundations, to provide information about the No Child Left Behind Act.
This one paragraph contains a few of the dozen or so "conservative" flags in this one story. Who are the critics of these new faith-based programs? Was any of the information used in this story actually gathered by groups that might be called "left of center" or something like that?
Thus, Graham ends with this conservative conclusion:
Is it biased to write a story like this? No. It is biased to write this story -- but not display an interest in writing a similar story on subsidizing liberal and libertine groups years ago, when the Clinton administration was handing out money to NOW and its social-issues allies.
By the way, I think I used the word "conservative" fewer times than the Post story did.