Geoff Pullum and Justin Busch (both linguists) debate about whether right-wing think tanks are always described as “well-funded.” (Thanks to Neal for the pointer.) I think Busch gets the better of the debate. While it’s not literally true that right-wing think tanks are “always” described as well-funded, it’s certainly true that they draw that particular description substantially more often than left-wing think tanks.
This seems like a good opportunity to reiterate a point I’ve made before: that it’s fallacious to conclude, from the fact that A funds B, that the funding of A leads to the positions of B. The causation may well run in the other direction: B holds certain positions already, and then seeks out funding from sources like A who are likely to agree with B’s position. The distinction is important, since the former explanation characterizes B as a gun-for-hire while the latter characterizes B as an honest advocate.
In reality, the explanation needs to draw on both supply and demand explanations. Causality probably runs in both directions, but the relative impact of each is less clear. A think tank that is highly committed to its ideological agenda, and which is free to seek other sources of support, need not depend on the contributions of any one supporter. In such a case, we would expect causality to run primarily from positions to funding. On the other hand, if there’s a think tank with less commitment to its agenda and fewer funding options, we would expect causality to run mainly from funding to positions (as the accusers of right-wing think tanks claim).
Aside from the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, the veiled gun-for-hire accusation also implicitly commits the ad hominem fallacy: it asks us to dismiss arguments, policy positions, etc., based on the interests of those who state them. Certainly, the existence of vested interests ought to make us a skeptical, but skepticism cannot substitute for careful analysis and argument.