The Scientific Activist

As the presidential primaries for 2008 slowly approach, we’re seeing the expected heavy swing to the right by several on the Republican side. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, though, seems to have taken things a step further by attempting to buy the support of right-wing organizations:

In the months before announcing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts contributed tens of thousands of dollars of his personal fortune to several conservative groups in a position to influence his image on the right.

Last December, a foundation controlled by Mr. Romney made contributions of $10,000 to $15,000 to each of three Massachusetts organizations associated with major national conservative groups: the antiabortion Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Massachusetts Citizens for Lower Taxation and the Christian conservative Massachusetts Family Institute.

Mr. Romney and a group of his supporters also contributed a total of about $10,000 to a nonprofit group affiliated with National Review. Over the past two years, he contributed $35,000 to the Federalist Society, an influential network of conservative lawyers. And in December 2005, he contributed $25,000 to the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative research organization.

The recipients of Mr. Romney’s donations said the money had no influence on them. But some of the groups, notably Citizens for Life and the Family Institute, have turned supportive of Mr. Romney after criticizing him in the past.

Romney has a bit of an uphill battle here, as he was once regarded as a moderate Republican and not a particularly close ally of the Religious Right. While this at first enabled him to be elected governor of a generally blue state, he found himself increasingly out of step with his electorate, and he has since renounced almost any remotely moderate stance he had previously taken (even fighting against funding embryonic stem cell research in the later years of his governorship). The opening of the 2008 race has seen him and other “moderates” pander heavily to the religious right in hopes of gaining the conservative extremist support that has become prerequisite for winning a Republican primary.

Although the primaries are still far away and the general election even further, when the Republican and Democratic nominees finally go head to head in 2008 let us not forget the extreme positions taken and fringe organizations courted by the Republican nominee, especially in regards to how these may adversely affect his support for scientific progress if president.


  1. #1 Nathan W.
    March 10, 2007

    Wow, Mitt Romney’s Political Action Committee must be the only PAC to contribute money for political gain! Impressive footwork here guys. Maybe next you can show us how lobbiests influence politicans with money, I think that’s never been brought up either.

    Your article is wrong in regards to inferring that Mitt Romney changed his position on embryonic stem cell research, since he never had a previous political position on it until he studied it out and met with Harvard Scientists on the matter. That meeting influenced not only his stem cell position, but his abortion stance too.

    Call it was it is, but at least get the facts straight.

  2. #2 Nick Anthis
    March 10, 2007

    Um, if you read the post this time, you might notice that I never say (or infer) that Romney changed his stance on stem cell research. Instead, his opposition to it was part of a (well-timed) swing to the right for his policies in general. And, in fact, I’ve written previously about the absurdity that he formulated his new views on abortion based on his misguided stance on embryonic stem cell research.

  3. #3 Cameron Rich
    March 11, 2007

    Weak, weak article. Trying to single out one candidate for something that has been the norm for over a century is weak. Your webpage has just lost its credibility.

  4. #4 Nick Anthis
    March 11, 2007

    I’m seeing a surprising amount of support for Romney around here, all else considered. Instead of making ad hominem attacks, though, possibly someone could articulate why he thinks I’m being too hard on the guy.

  5. #5 SC Conservative
    March 11, 2007

    This just in!

    “Romney donates 10% of his vast income to Mormon Church in an attempt to pick up the Mormon vote”.

    While Romney’s donations to the organizations you cite in your article might get their donations–it will be his stance on the issues that gets their votes.

    I really don’t think you are attacking Romney here, you are really trying to paint conservative organizations as being subject to bribery. Either way, the shoe doesn’t fit.

  6. #6 Nick Anthis
    March 11, 2007

    No, I’m not trying to say that conservative organizations are accepting bribes, and I have no idea how effective Romney’s donations are going to be (although they’ve already been somewhat effective). The real issue is that when it comes to the general election, voters should not forget how closely Romney associated himself with the more extreme factions of the Republican Party.

  7. #7 Jason Thelin
    March 11, 2007

    I don’t even know what ‘hominem’ means…

    Your title suggests one person (Romney) is ‘buying’ his national support. The author’s credibility was completely lost at that point. I could understand if the article was about Republicans donating to political organizations, because all do. Buy your article clearly has a slant that singles out one candidate which lacks fairness.

  8. #8 Nick Anthis
    March 11, 2007

    I think there was a little Freudian slip there. But, seriously, please, someone explain to me why I shouldn’t be so hard on Romney. I still haven’t seen any compelling reasons.

  9. #9 Bob Hill
    March 11, 2007

    What do you mean he donates 10% of his money to his church to pick up their vote. All LDS members believe in paying a full tithe which is 10% of their income. His church donation has nothing to do with buying votes, its part of his believe in his church doctrine. He has paid it all of his life long before running for office.

  10. #10 Jason Thelin
    March 11, 2007

    You can actually be as ‘hard on Romney’ as you want.

    I just wanted to point out the obvious Yellow Journalism. Your sensationalism and jingoism is obvious, but you have a right to state you opinion. You’re no different than many other partisan blogs that exist, which unfortunately lack credibility. A journalist who was fair and balanced (tic) would point out that most other candidates, on both sides of the ticket, donate to these types of organizations. Hilary Clinton’s family charity donates millions. I wonder if the $225,000 to her Little Rock Baptist church was an attempt to try and buy the Christen vote. 🙂

  11. #11 Nick Anthis
    March 12, 2007

    Jingoism? (“Extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy”)

    That’s absurd.

    Partisan or not, this is a scientific blog, so expect that I’m going to be hard on those who have proven themselves antithetical to scientific progress.

  12. #12 Jason Thelin
    March 12, 2007

    I was unaware that Yellow Journalism (Journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers) qualified you to be a scientific activist. Again, I totally support your ability to spread your bias/chauvinism. You are a strong supporter of the Democrat Party (president of the Texas Aggie Democrats) and have a right to in the same way the ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’ have a right to manipulate facts for their own benefit.

    All posters have asked you one question and you have cowardly failed to respond. Do other candidates, in both political parties, give money to right and left-wing organizations?

  13. #13 PJ
    March 14, 2007

    “The real issue is that when it comes to the general election, voters should not forget how closely Romney associated himself with the more extreme factions of the Republican Party.”

    Nick, you don’t think the Soros-funded 527s and Hillary/Obama-funded attack ads won’t take care of that angle?

    This is the third political article I’ve read of yours, and the third in which you call conservative groups “extreme”, in all three cases as a meaningless attack adjective. It seems that to you, opposing affirmative acion racial preferences is ‘extreme’ (majority of Americans on that side of the issue). To oppose funding embryo-destruction in stem cell research (and btw all prolife groups support all kinds of stem cell research that does *not* destroy human life), you call such groups “extreme positions taken and fringe organizations”, etc. Yet consider that since human life begins at conception, there is a moral worth and moral issue in the meddling and destruction of such life is not anti-science, its ‘bioethics’ – scientific progress should serve our values, not undermine them – so why is it ‘extreme’ and ‘fringe’ to care about human life?!? Never mind that the ‘fringe positions’ of cosnervative Republicans include such radical ideas like – support traditional marriage ; support lower taxes; support the war on terror; oppose abortion-on-demand, etc. Agree/disagree/dont-care, but ‘extreme’?

    It seems that the conservative 50% side of the American electorate and their leaders and interest groups are ‘extreme’ to you. Very much a subjective view that most Americans would depart from. Too much time drinking the dKos koolaid? Your excessive name-calling says more about where you are placed than where they are placed.

  14. #14 PJ
    March 14, 2007

    “Partisan or not, this is a scientific blog, so expect that I’m going to be hard on those who have proven themselves antithetical to scientific progress.”

    Since Romney has done no such thing, but has been advocate and supporter of progress in science and technology, it is surprising you felt the need to single him out. Consider Romney’s science and technology initiatives as Governor:

  15. #15 Nick Anthis
    March 15, 2007

    I’m sorry, but when a politician picks and chooses science based, eschewing any that conflict with his most extreme conservative views, I’m not impressed.

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