How influential are corporations in Spanish think tanks?

Update: The results presented in this piece have been featured in the online newspaper El Confidencial, including an interactive visualization with d3. You can read the article (in Spanish) here, and some clarifications to the report here

Access the dataset

This research question quickly stumbles against two main barriers. One is the opacity of the field, with only 21 out of 48 institutions disclosing some kind of information regarding their revenue sources; the second is the cumbersome task of operationalizing corporate influence in an effective way.

The first barrier can be overcome with some stubbornness determination. Let’s measure what we can, and conform the project to the subset of ‘somewhat open’ organizations, in the hope that results will be representative or may be improved in the future. The second barrier is much more substantial, and I fear that my response is very partial at best. My operational definition of ‘corporate influence’ is the existence of funding provided by one of the companies in the IBEX35 (the index of the 35 most important companies in Madrid’s stock exchange).

1. Mapping methodology

  1. Check the websites of the think tanks with at least one star in our DIY Transparify like rating of Spanish think tanks. I also excluded party foundations, as I know that they never identify their sources of private funding;
  2. List all supporting entities. This generates some noise: it’s common practice to recognize sponsors with the inclusion of their logos in the projects they support; but quite often there is no way of distinguishing true sponsors and donors from partners, collaborators and clients;
  3. Cross-reference supporting entities with IBEX-35 companies;
  4. Generate an affiliation matrix;
  5. Upload the affiliation matrix to NodeXL;
  6. Code vertices by
    • type of institution (donor(circle)/grantee (pink square));
    • node degree (number of ties);
    • industry. I used banking (purple), energy (green) and infrastructures (orange), as they are the most important with the results at hand.

Ibex35 dinero

2. Structural similarity

A second step I took was to classify the grantees by similarity of their revenue structure. I chose to do a cluster analysis on SPSS with the following metrics:

  • Total IBEX35 funders
  • Ratio of IBEX35 to non-IBEX35 funders
  • Total public funders

To be honest, I played with the different possible measures until I saw clusters forming, so this is more of a heuristical approach than a solid taxonomy. However, even given the small amount of information on which this analysis is based, it’s interesting to see, at the bottom, a cluster of corporate think tanks clearly bound together and distinguished from outliers like Fundación Sociedad y Educación or Fundación Ortega y Gasset, which has as many ties to IBEX35 as COTEC or FEDEA, but a lot more ties to public institutions both in Spain and in the Americas; at the top, a cluster of independent organizations with no relation to IBEX35 companies, and a middle group of more diversified entities which includes ECODES (which was rated 5 stars); and Fundación Alternativas, related but formally independent from the Spanish socialist party.

taxonomy

The research question can be answered with a grain of salt. The network mapped is quite dense in spite of the fact that a lot of institutions are missing. However, since many think tanks don’t disclose their total budget or the amounts provided by each donor, an accurate measurement of the weight of corporations as a ratio of overall support is impeded. In any case, this exercise has identified a number of central actors in the interaction between corporate interest and policy recommendations and suggests the interest of many of the biggest Spanish companies in using corporate think tanks as their proxies.

Table 1. IBEX35 companies and number of funding ties to transparent think tanks

IBEX35 COMPANIES TIES
ABENGOA 1
ABERTIS 6
ACERINOX 0
ACS 3
AENA 0
AMADEUS 0
ARCELOR MITTAL 0
BANCO POPULAR 2
BANCO SABADELL 2
BANCO SANTANDER 7
BANKIA 2
BANKINTER 0
BBVA 5
CAIXABANK 7
DIA 0
ENAGÁS 1
ENDESA 4
FCC 1
FERROVIAL 3
GAMESA 0
GAS NATURAL 4
GRIFOLS 0
IAG 2
IBERDROLA 5
INDITEX 1
INDRA 4
MAPFRE 1
MEDIASET 1
OHL 5
RED ELÉCTRICA 0
REPSOL 8
SACYR 0
TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS 1
TELEFÓNICA 7

Table 2. Think tanks with at least some degree of financial transparency and number of ties to Ibex-35 companies

THINK TANKS TIES
CATALUNYA I EUROPA 4
CATPE 1
CIRCLE D’ECONOMIA 13
CIRCULO DE EMPRESARIOS 14
CITPAX 7
CLUB DE MADRID 0
COTEC 13
ECODES 5
FEDEA 12
FRIDE 0
FUNDACION ALTERNATIVAS 5
FUNDACION CIUDADANIA Y VALORES 1
FUNDACION ORTEGA I GASSET 12
FUNDACION SOCIEDAD Y EDUCACION 2
REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO 0

2 thoughts on “How influential are corporations in Spanish think tanks?

  1. Pingback: Puntualizaciones al reportaje de El Confidencial sobre la financiación de think tanks por empresas del IBEX 35 | Open Policy Research
  2. Pingback: Els inacabables tentacles de l’imperi de La Caixa | LES QUATRE BARRES

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