September 7, 1997
INPIRG: The Liberal Pick PocketsBy Martin Madden
On the Bloomington campus of Indiana University, we have many concerned souls who would like to save you from yourself. They tend to believe that your individual choices are wrong and you are too stupid to know it. While it is within our First Amendment rights for groups to behave and associate along those lines, there is one particular organization of which you should be wary--InPIRG.
InPIRG is "Indiana Public Interest Research Group" and pretends to be a friend of unsuspecting students by protecting them from among other things: evil corporations, pollution, and conservative ideas. For this protection, a student surrenders $5 every semester to this group through a deceptive funding scheme, which lies at the heart of the College Republican's opposition to InPIRG. Furthermore, the checkered history of InPIRG and of PIRGs in other states will shock any student confronted by these busy-bodies.
The founding of PIRGs goes back to the era of bell-bottoms, love-ins, bad hair styles, and rampant liberalism. Ralph Nader enjoyed immense popularity as the poster boy for consumer activists and noticed that he could get a lot of money from captive students, even if they didn't think his ideas were groovy and far-out. He envisioned a plan where little armies of Naderites would spring up on college campuses bringing liberalism packaged as "non-partisan" issues such as saving the environment, the Equal Rights Amendment, nuclear freezes, and corporate boycotts.
Because money is the mother's milk of politics and liberal do-gooding, Ralph concocted a scam whereby all students on a campus would have a PIRG fee automatically added to their tuition costs whether they supported the PIRG or not. As you can imagine, most students forwarded the tuition bills to their parents or paid it off with government loan money, and PIRGs watched the money flow into its coffers. A few students here and there tried to object, but they were usually told to be quiet by complicit university administrations. So lucrative was this method of funding that Ralph once said that a non-mandatory fee "is not a viable alternative for a PIRG. In essence, it is no different from a voluntary donation." (Boston Globe April 13, 1995). In today's parlance he was saying, "Show me the money!"
Fortunately, several individuals in various states (California, New York, Florida, and Oregon) had the courage to sue PIRGs for what amounts to extortion. Recently, state legislators in Massachusetts and New Jersey have jumped the bandwagon and drafted laws against such funding practices. This brings us to InPIRG and IU. Two years ago, InPIRG came to Bloomington asking for a modification on their mandatory fee. This involved a negative check-off system when registering for classes.
Usually, when a student wants football tickets or a bus pass, he positively checks the corresponding box and the fee is attached to his bursar bill. InPIRG wanted a student to automatically have the fee attached unless he checked the box not to fund them. Think of how many students would have missed that box, thereby enabling InPIRG to get lots of free goodies. Despite the overall liberal bent of IUSA, student government remarkably decided not to allow InPIRG to have this funding scheme. Undaunted, the group came back with a proposal whereby once a student voluntarily signed up, he had to fund InPIRG the rest of his college career. A vicious battle ensued and IUSA passed the resolution with an amendment that allowed the student to opt out through a complicated process. InPIRG is the only group on campus to benefit from such a funding ploy, whereas the College Republicans and all other groups must go regularly to their members to ask for voluntary donations. Imagine the great things CR's could do with thousands and thousands of dollars guaranteed every semester from the bursar.
It all boils down to this: when a disarming, lefty type approaches you around registration time to help save the environment, whales, poor, and what-ever else plays on your emotions, remember that InPIRG is a scam. They may claim that they are helping you, but they are really picking your pocket with sweet words to pay their activists' salaries, send lobbyists to Indianapolis, and to forward cash to other PIRGs . If you want to support their causes, there are many other groups on campus from SOAP, SEAC, and IUDEMS who provide the same services by having legitimate funding methods. Say no to InPIRG and take the money you will save to Ben & Jerry's. At least they give you ice cream for letting you pretend you helped the world.
Additional articles in this issue:Meet your CR executives! By Lydia Roll
Rethinking Kinsey and the Sexual Revolution By Kyle Hammer
Just for laughs--A Primer to PC Parlance
PR Director needed by Monroe Co. GOP