Charles Murray is none too pleased by David Frum’s account of his departure from AEI:
Regarding donor pressure: The idea that AEI donors sit down to talk with AEI’s president about who should and shouldn’t be on the staff, or what the staff should write, is fantasy. David has never seen the slightest sign of anything like that at AEI. He can’t have. He made it up. AEI has a culture, the scholars are fiercely proud of that culture, and at its heart is total intellectual freedom. As for the reality of that intellectual freedom, I think it’s fair to say I know what I’m talking about. I’ve pushed it to the limit. Arthur Brooks is just as adamant about preserving that culture as Chris DeMuth was, and Chris’s devotion to it was seamless.
Obviously I can’t speak to AEI in detail. But having worked for a few non-profits, and for one money-losing non-profit, and being friends with many people who work for other non-profits and money-losing for-profits, I think anyone who’s trying to tell you that the views of the people who are paying the bills are irrelevant to an organization’s activities is being a bit silly. No organization is so crass as to have its doings dictated by donors, but “doing things that make donors happy” is rewarded in a way that “doing things that make donors mad” is not. That’s life. Grownups can admit it.