Conservative Spotlight

Conservative Spotlight: Pacific Research Institute

Human Events had it right in 2005 when it named Sally Pipes one of the “Top 10 Women in the Conservative Movement.”

As president and CEO of Pacific Research Institute (PRI), Pipes has become an essential voice in the health-care debate, frequently sounding the alarm against the single-payer system.

During the ongoing debate over ObamaCare, Pipes was a constant presence on cable news shows and newspaper op-ed pages. She debated Howard Dean and Paul Krugman, appeared in Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko,” and testified before Congress — all the while spreading the message that government should not be responsible for universal health coverage. Pipes’ latest book, “The Truth About ObamaCare” (Regnery), was released last summer.

Her message of limited government fits well with the Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco free-market think tank founded in 1979. PRI’s stated mission is to promote “principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility” through policies that “emphasize a free economy, private initiative, and limited government.”

The institute uses its research publications, events, media outreach and legislative testimony to get its message out, Kelly Gorton, PRI’s marketing associate, said in an interview.
 
As part of the institute’s focus on health care, it sponsors the Benjamin Rush Society, a group which encourages dialogue among health-care professionals. The society holds regular debates and last year had several on the topic: “Is it the Federal Government’s Responsibility to Provide Health Care for All Americans?” At one debate, PRI President Pipes took the “No” position, along with syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock against two Harvard medical professors. Pipes as a native Canadian knows firsthand the flaws in that country’s government-run medical system.

While health are is a high priority for PRI, the think tank has a stable of experts that explore free-market solutions on issues ranging from education and the environment to business and technology.

In February, the institute started the CalWatchdog, an independent journalism center based in Sacramento, which works on investigative projects and covers the state government.

It turned out to be excellent timing as California’s public pension system and bloated state government bureaucracy is increasingly becoming a national scandal. CalWatch seeks to expose waste, fraud and abuse while holding the state government accountable.

The journalism center’ head is Steven Greenhut, former editorial writer at the Orange County Register and an expert on public-sector union abuses. He is the author of “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

PRI also conducts training sessions for school board members. The training seeks to help the officials become effective reformers in their school districts and learn what kind of policy options and strategies work best. Seminars address topics such the state budget issues, technology, school finance, academic achievement and union negotiations. Last year’s training session highlighted how charter schools can use new technology to track students’ progress.

Another high-priority issue for think tank is the environment. Gorton said the institute’s 14-year database of environmental research will soon be transferred to an interactive website.
 
Every year, PRI releases its “Index of Leading Environmental Indicators,” which stands in stark contrast to the doomsday scenarios put forth by the environmental lobby.
 
Last year’s index, which is released annually on Earth Day, noted progress being made in efforts to clean up and preserve the environment. It cited evidence that air pollution is falling in U.S. cities, the ozone layer has reversed its decline and tropical rain forests are expanding faster than they are being cut down.

The author of the index, Steven F. Hayward, a senior fellow at PRI, said there is “growing public weariness with ‘green’ messages in general and messages on global warming in particular.”

That sums up the work of PRI — taking a stand contrary to the liberal orthodoxy so prevalent in liberal think-tanks, academia and the media.

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