Wednesday, January 14, 2004

If you're non-partisan, you should sound non-partisan

Charles Kuffner yesterday mentioned a relatively new government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). I'm all for responsibility and ethics, and CREW seems to be doing important work, tracking various political scandals. Part of their mission statement makes me uncomfortable, though:
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-partisan legal watchdog group working to force our government officials to behave responsibly and ethically. CREW's mission is to use the legal system to expose government officials who betray the public interest by serving special interests. CREW aims to counterbalance the conservative legal watchdog groups that made such a strong impact over the past decade. These groups focused their attention on their left-wing adversaries, leaving the right relatively free from scrutiny. CREW focuses equal attention on misconduct by all, including the right. (emphasis added)
If the organization does actually focus equally on the Left and the Right, then it's not really counterbalancing groups that focus primarily on the left. Maybe the word "counterbalance" in the mission statement is just a misstatement by someone who wasn't thinking clearly, or doesn't have a thorough command of the concept of counterbalancing. Or maybe it's the kind of slip that gives us a glimpse of what the organization's goals really are. If it's the latter, they need to be upfront about it -- there's certainly value to a group watching out for ethics and responsibility in the Right, but not to one that does that while pretending to do something else. And if it's the former, they need to change the word "counterbalance."

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