Sarah Palin (Photo by Newscom)

In several recent speeches by Sarah Palin, she has cited an analysis of Barack Obama’s tax plan prepared by the Center for Data Analysis (CDA), a research division of The Heritage Foundation. I direct the CDA and posted the new analysis last week. We used a model of the U.S. economy that is widely employed for economic forecasting and policy analysis to estimate the economic effects of Obama’s and McCain’s tax plans.

However, a minor controversy has erupted over the status of the CDA. The McCain-Palin campaign issued a press release on Oct. 30 that attributed the analysis to the “independent Center for Data Analysis.” Palin has subsequently referenced the “independent” CDA on the campaign trail.  CNN criticized this characterization on Friday, noting that CDA is a branch of Heritage and, therefore, cannot be considered independent.

I take exception to both CNN and the McCain-Palin campaign. First, Heritage is independent of any political party, interest group, or business, which makes CDA by definition independent, as well. Instead of telling it straight, the CNN reporter made a political point by wondering, How can a research group by independent and conservative?

However, McCain-Palin also erred. Rather than attribute this research to The Heritage Foundation, they chose to create a free-standing CDA. The center produces some of the finest, most rigorously empirical and scientific policy research in the world. We can do so only because we are nurtured and supported by the finest policy institute anywhere. There simply is no reason whatsoever for the campaign’s reticence on the source of this new analysis.