Harvard Study: Bullying Political Contributors?

Exploiting the “public” requirement for political donations, the Left has seized with zeal on the opportunity to destroy those who donate money to support conservative politicians and causes. 

In July, a media firestorm erupted over the publication of political donations by Chik-Fil-A to traditional marriage advocacy groups, followed a few weeks later by an angry “gay rights” activist targeting one of those groups and shooting up the Family Research Institute headquarters in D.C., with a bloodbath averted only by the heroic actions of the wounded security guard. 

In 2008, leftwing groups launched an attack campaign against donors to Prop 8, the traditional marriage initiative passed by California voters, publicizing their names, home addresses and employers, and subjecting those donors to personal attacks, harassment, and for many the loss of their jobs and livelihoods.

Last April, the Wall Street Journal exposed the White House’s own “enemies list” vilifying political donors to Romney.  More recent revelations show attacks and even DOJ “investigations” of high-profile Romney donors such as Sheldon Adelson.

But under the radar - until now - is a controversial, ongoing “research study” through Harvard University that deliberately – and without consent - outs individual donors for the claimed goal of assessing whether such unsolicited publicity affects their future donation behavior. The timing and personalities behind this “study” raise even more red flags.

In May, just weeks after the WSJ revelations of an Obama “enemies list”, a friend received an unsolicited letter from anonymous researchers at Harvard University identifying his recent personal political contributions and prominently stating that such contributions might be disclosed to his neighbors without his consent.  The study’s website candidly expresses the desire to manipulate the perceived privacy of unwilling test subjects so as to measure the impact on future donation behavior.  Put another way, the study measures whether and how individual citizens exercise their First Amendment right to make political contributions.  

Is this a Harvard-sanctioned How-To-Bully-Donors study?   The study coincides in time and ideology with efforts by Democrats, liberal activists and the Media that specifically target this correlation between political contributions and persecuting big donors like the Koch brothers by “outing” them publically for those contributions.  

Equally provocative as the content of this study are the personalities connected with it.  The researchers listed on the website, Argentine nationals Ricardo Perez-Trugli and Dr. Guillermo Cruces, previously teamed on a study on redistributive tax policy essentially explaining how to use class warfare to promote socialism -  tell people who believe they are middle class that they in fact poor and they will change their vote in favor of higher taxes on the so-called rich.

Also connected with the study is Belynda Bady, originally listed on the website as the thesis project supervisor contact.  It turns out Bady is a politically liberal, well connected widow of a black power activist, a former regional director of the Clinton Foundation, with apparently no more than a high school degree, who nonetheless holds the prestigious position as Director of Administration of the Harvard Economics Department.   Naturally, this raises the question why the Harvard Economics Department conducts research on highly volatile political issues, and lists as the contact for such a study a faculty member with a long pedigree of liberal activism.  Strangely, over the summer, the study’s website scrubbed the name of Belynda Bady and now lists Harvard Professor Nadarajan “Raj” Chetty as the “primary thesis advisor”.

Another name deleted from the original website is Jane Calhoun, the listed contact for the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research which approved the study.  Ironically, Harvard’s guidelines prohibit any research “that exposes human subjects to the unreasonable risk of harm.”  In light of the criminal violence, threats and harassment connected with the outing of political donors, this raises the profound question whether a study precisely intending to out political donors does in fact “expose” the “human subjects to the unreasonable risk of harm” from leftwing zealots bent on violence and harassment against conservative donors.

Did complaints from unwillingly outed study victims about Ms. Bady’s background or Ms. Calhoun’s risk-assessment prompt Harvard to shield their personal privacy?  No small irony given the nature of the study.  

Questions about this disturbing study, its true supervisors, the researchers, their methods, motives and conclusions, its legal ramifications, and most importantly, and its impact on campaign contributions will remain unanswered until 2013, as the study intends to monitor donations through the November election.  Ms. Bady, Ms. Calhoun, the researchers themselves and the Harvard News Office have all ignored or deflected repeated requests for information.


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