Right-wing Think Tank under investigation over 'cash for access'

The Adam Smith Institute, a prominent free-market think-tank has removed passages from their website which promise donors meetings with politicians and government ministers.

In a now deleted section of the Institute's website, 'supporters' who give £1,000 a year are given "Opportunities to attend Power Lunches and Patrons Dinners with influential figures, including politicians, ministers, journalists and academics.", while those who give upwards of £5,000 a year are allowed to "choose the Power Lunches and Patrons dinners you wish to attend" from a " private events list".

This would seem to contravene rules governing the involvement of charities in political activities, which the Charity Commission has said it will investigate.

Under current UK rules "a charity cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions".

Due to the byzantine structure of the Institute, which covers a UK-based company, charity and US non-profit, different legislation applies to different sections of the group. However, in the late 1990s the charity began loaning ASI Research thousands of pounds, potentially skirting the ban on political activities.

Although more up to date accounts are not publicly accessible, the 2017 Financial Statement of the ASI Research Trust states that "Under the terms of a Deed of Covenant dated 1 May 1990 A.S.I (Research) Limited contracted to pay over to the Adam Smith Research Trust, the whole of it's distributable income."

A spokesperson for the Commission said: “All trustees of all charities must ensure they preserve their charity’s independence and make decisions that are solely in furtherance of their charity’s purposes."

“The public rightly expect trustees of charities to take these responsibilities seriously, and demonstrate accountability to the public for the way in which their charity is governed, and the work their charity undertakes."

“An important factor in demonstrating transparency is ensuring financial accounts are compliant with the accounting framework. We can confirm that we are examining the Adam Smith Research Trust’s financial accounts to examine potential areas of non-compliance with that framework.”

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