The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has withdrawn a recent report touting liberal tax policy ideas as “nonpartisan” in the wake an investigation by The Daily Caller into its author’s Democratic Party donations.
The report concluded that tax cuts for upper-income earners in America don’t spur economic growth. The report’s author is a frequent donor to the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama.
Thomas Hungerford authored “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945″ for CRS. The report, published Sept. 14, supported the Obama’s administration’s tax policy.
Hungerford’s LinkedIn profile shows he has worked at CRS since 2005. In 2008, political donation records published by the Center for Responsive Politics show Hungerford donated $3,500 to Obama’s campaign. He gave the president another $500 in August 2012.
Since 2009, Hungerford has also donated $2,450 to Democratic Party organizations such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
In October 2000, when he worked as an economist for the Social Security Administration, Hungerford donated $500 to Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore.
When TheDC first reported Hungerford’s record of political donations on Sept. 25, the supposedly nonpartisan fact arbiter CRS stood by the pro-liberal report. Spokeswoman Janine D’Addario touted the agency’s claims of apolitical research then said the report went through a lengthy review process.
“He [Hungerford] does the analysis, and then the analysis is reviewed by multiple levels before the document is issued,” D’Addario said at the time.
“The work that CRS does for Congress is objective and nonpartisan,” D’Addario added. “To help insure that, all of the work that comes out of the organization goes through peer-review, section-review, division-review and then departmental-review. There is a multilayer review process to help ensure objectivity and nonpartisanship. This paper followed that process.”
She said the people who review Hungerford’s work “would be peer review, his immediate supervisor, his immediate supervisor’s supervisor — the manager of the division he’s in — and then CRS has a departmental review panel that reads through every piece that goes out.”
When asked who the reviewers were, D’Addario wouldn’t agree to publicly release a list of everyone involved in preparing and reviewing the report. “That could be compiled, but it’s not something I would share,” D’Addario said.
After TheDC’s report, though, congressional Republicans and conservative groups pushed for answers on how Hungerford’s conclusions could be passed off as fact so easily. A spokeswoman for Senate Finance Committee ranking GOP member Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters last week that GOP staff “shared a litany of concerns with CRS over the methodology, the analysis and the conclusions.”
“After we shared our concerns over the methodology of this report, CRS took it down, on its own volition,” Hatch spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier said in an emailed statement.
Tax Foundation senior fellow Stephen Entin said, too, that the report’s “methods were so seriously flawed that the study could not possibly pick up any relationship between taxes and growth, making its results, or lack of them, meaningless.”
While CRS no longer stands by the report, Hungerford himself still does. He joins some in the media who believe CRS’s removal of the report is some kind of suppression or censorship.
Hungerford blames Republicans on Capitol Hill for the CRS decision to take down the report, claiming they pressured CRS into it. “Basically, the decision to take it down, I think The New York Times article basically got it right, that it was pressure from the Senate minority to take it down,” Hungerford told the liberal Huffington Post, referencing a New York Times article that bashed the GOP for the removal of the report.
“The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical,” the Times wrote.
Hungerford added that “CRS reports go through many layers of review before they’re issued and as far as the tone and the conclusions go, people who specifically look at the writing and the tone said it was okay. So it’s not going to be that and as I can tell you outright, I stand by the report and the analysis in the report.”
Though some in the media and the report’s author blame Republicans for the report’s retraction, Hatch’s spokeswoman brushes those accusations off as conspiracy theories.
“If Republicans were interested in pressuring the CRS for political reasons, this surely wouldn’t be the first piece we chose to single out,” Ferrier said. “This piece, however, took such liberties with economic analysis and CRS’s independent reputation, that a constructive discussion was necessary given its deep, irreparable flaws.”