CovertAction Quarterly No. 63
Right Thinking, Big Grants, and Long-term Strategy, continued

Simon wrote: "Funds generated by business must rush by the multimillions to the aid of liberty ... to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars, social scientists, writers, and journalists who understand the relationship between political and economic liberty." He called on the business community to "cease the mindless subsidizing of colleges and universities whose departments of economy, government, politics, and history are hostile to capitalism," and to move funds from "the media which serve as megaphones for anti-capitalist opinion" to those more "pro-freedom" and "pro-business." Since then, a variety of investigative reporters and scholars have documented the hundreds of millions of dollars that conservative donors have invested to reshape the nation_s political conversation and policy priorities. One such report, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the early 1980s, documented the millions of dollars that Richard Mellon Scaife, heir to the Mellon oil fortune and chair of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, alone has invested in right-wing policy institutions. Dubbed the "financier of the right," Scaife was found to have made substantial investments over the 1970s and early 1980s in more than 100 "ideological organizations." A more scholarly analysis of right-wing funding found that 10 conservative institutions received a total of $88 million between 1977 and 1986 to finance their policy activities. Sociologist Michael Patrick Allen found that the 12 "sustaining" foundations increased their support of these ten policy institutions by over 330 percent during the 10-year period studied. These and other data demonstrate a long-term pattern of politically motivated investment by conservative donors. The role that conservative foundations have played in reinvigorating the intellectual, institutional and leadership base of US conservatism does not have a significant parallel in the philanthropic mainstream. While conservative donors see themselves as part of a larger movement to defeat

"big government liberalism," and fund accordingly, mainstream foundations operate within a tradition of American pragmatism by adopting a problem-oriented, field-specific approach to social improvement. The ideological commitments of conservative foundations and the caution of mainstream ones have exacerbated, if not created, a gap in the resources available to multi-issue public policy institutions working on the right and left of the policy spectrum. Consider, for example, that the combined revenue base of such conservative multi-issue policy institutions as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, the Cato Institute, and Citizens for a Sound Economy exceeded $77 million in 1995. In strong contrast, the roughly equivalent progressive (e.g., multi-issue, left-of-center groups whose work focuses on domestic policies at the national level) the Institute for Policy Studies, the Economic Policy Institute, Citizens for Tax Justice, and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities had only $9 million at their collective disposal in 1995. Adding the Twentieth Century Fund, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, OMB Watch, and the Center for Community Change would push the combined 1995 budgets of these eight organizations to $18.6 million, still less than a quarter of the top five conservative groups. While revenue base may be only one factor underlying (or contributing to) organizational capacity and effectiveness, surely it is a critical one.

The long-term investments that conservative foundations have made in building a "counter-establishment" of research, advocacy, media, legal, philanthropic, and religious sector organizations have paid off handsomely. These donors have altered the mix of organizations actively seeking to influence public policy in


Washington, DC, and in state capitals. In doing so, they have reshaped the institutional landscape of US politics and policymaking profoundly. Their long-term support of policy institutions has occurred at a time of significant change in American politics change that has facilitated the emergence of groups like the Heritage Foundation as particularly influential policy actors. Among the most important of these changes are the long-term decline in electoral participation, the deepening class skew to US voting patterns, the transformation of political parties into top-down fundraising vehicles, the growing role of money in politics, the rising political importance of the media, and the decline of institutions (such as unions and political parties) that once played a stronger balancing role in setting national, state, and local priorities. Over time, these changes interacted in a way that reduced opportunities for low income people to exercise influence while enlarging such opportunities for upper-income constituencies. Philanthropic money thus converged with political opportunity in a way that has not only pushed the debate to the right but also exacerbated America's "participatory

inequality." Beyond the groups previously mentioned, the institutional actors receiving significant support over the 1992-1994 period include media groups, legal organizations, state-level advcates, and religious sector organizations. The following list represents a sampling of grantee institutions and activities.

* American Spectator Educational Foundation received grants totaling $1.7 million with more than $600,000 to expand editorial staff and reporting at The American Spectator, $515,000 in flexible general operating support, and $485,000 in special project funding. Its subscription base lunged from 38,000 in 1992 to 335,000 today.
* National Affairs is the funding vehicle which handled grants for The Public Interest and The National Interest ($1.9 million), and the Foundation for Cultural Review

for The New Criterion ($1.6 million).
* Commentary magazine got a tidy $1 million.
* American Studies Center. Grants worth $410,000 helped ASC spread "Radio America" to 2,000 radio stations across the country, produce conservative programming, and support two conservative daily radio shows the "Alan Keyes Show" and "Dateline Washington."
*Firing Line (William F. Buckley), Think Tank (Ben Wattenberg), Peggy Noonan on Values, and other conservative public television public affairs programs, got $3.2 million.
* Center for the Study of Popular Culture (cspc), Accuracy in Media, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the Center for Science, Technology and Media, the Media Research Center, the Media Institute, and others were granted $5.2 million "to perpetuate the myth of a liberal bias in mainstream media reportage," with particular criticism leveled against the

The right-wing approach to social problems has boosted the already
astronomical US prison population. Here Suffolk, Massachusetts county jail.

Public Broadcasting Service. With seed money from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, cspc launched the Media Integrity Project in 1987 to attack PBS for "left-wing bias." Other critics, including Laurence Jarvik, a former Bradley Research Scholar at the Heritage Foundation and a current fellow at the Capital Research Center, have called for cutting funds or privatizing PBS. Accuracy in Media criticized PBS for "blatantly pro-Communist propaganda." The efforts of these media grantees have made right-wing issues and views increasingly respectable and have pressured major media to become more responsive. Through scandalmongering and issue emphasis, conservative media outlets help to shape the news agenda for more established media while organized attacks on public television have pushed PBS to augment already substantial conservative public affairs programming. The result is an even further narrowing of viewpoint. As the former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, Ben Bagdikian observes, "what gets reported enters the public agenda. What is not reported may not be lost forever, but it may be lost at a time when it is most needed."

* The Institute for Justice (IJ), the top grant recipient, received $2.9 million in 24 separate grants to support litigation, training, and outreach activities focused on four areas: private property rights, economic liberty, school choice, and the First Amendment. The IJ's budget increased to more than $1 million less than a year after it was founded in 1991 and is presently $2.3 million.
* The Center for Individual Rights and the Washington Legal Foundation were also heavily funded to reverse affirmative action programs of the federal government and in higher education. These foundations not only emphasized litigation, but worked to nurture and coordinate a growing network

of like-minded law students, alumni, and attorneys. The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, founded by two Yale law school students in the early 1980s, received $1.6 million in grants to support its efforts to transform the legal profession, which it sees as "currently dominated by a form of liberal orthodoxy [advocating] a centralized and uniform society." According to the Federalist Society_s 1995 annual report, its Student Division has more than 4,900 law student members in more than 140 law schools across the country, up from 2,137 members in 1989. Its Lawyers Division boasts more than 15,000 attorneys and legal professionals and more than 50 active chapters. The Society also publishes The Federalist (circulation 57,000), and other legal monographs and reports, and sponsors a Continuing Legal Education program.

*The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, heavily

funded since its inception by the Bradley Foundation, has pushed to shape state education and welfare policy in accordance with key conservative principles.
* The Pacific Institute for Public Policy Research aggressively worked for California's Proposition 209, the ballot initiative to eliminate that state's affirmative action program. * The Heartland Institute publishes Intellectual Ammunition, a glossy, 25-page journal featuring condensed versions of policy statements and position papers of most of the think tanks and advocacy organizations to which the 12 foundations directed grants between 1992 and 1994. The May/June 1996 issue introduced PolicyFax, a regular insert described by Illinois state senator Chris Lauzen as: a revolutionary public policy fax-on-demand research service that enables you to receive, by fax, the full text of thousands of documents from more than one hundred of the nation's leading think tanks, publications,

and trade associations. PolicyFax is easy to use, and it's free for elected officials and journalists. The 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week service features topics from crime to the economy to welfare, including South Carolinians Have Nothing to Worry about from Concealed Handguns; Four Steps to Reforming Superfund, Medical Savings Accounts: The Right Way to Reform Health Care: Benefits of the Flat Tax; and Effective Compassion.
* The American Legislative Exchange Council (alec) and the newer State Policy Network. Provide technical assistance, develop model legislation, and report about communications activities and conferences. Alec, well-funded by private family foundations and corporate contributors, is a powerful and growing membership organization, with almost 26,000 state legislators more than one-third of the nation's total. The organization, which has a staff of 30, responds to 700 information requests each month, and has
developed more than 150 pieces of model legislation ranging from education to tax policy. It maintains legislative task forces on every important state policy issue, including education, health care, tax and fiscal policy, and criminal justice.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), founded in 1982, believes that "the National and World Councils of churches are theologically and politically flawed." Its early focus was international, supporting US foreign policy in Central America during the Reagan years. Today, IRD publishes Faith and Freedom and monitors "mainliners and other Christian groups that often claim to speak for millions but really represent only an extreme few."
* The Institute on Religion and Public Life and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion

and Liberty both seek to influence the religious community through seminars, colloquia, sponsored research, book projects, newsletters, and journals. They work to instill a stronger appreciation of the morality of capitalism in the US and around the world. To counter "the clergy's disturbing bias against the business community and free enterprise," the Acton Institute runs three-day conferences for seminarians and divinity students to "introduce them to the moral and ethical basis of free market economies." In 1995, it also launched a national welfare reform initiative to help shape national policy debates, believing that "churches and private individuals and organizations, not the government, can best help change people's lives." Other national think tanks, both large and small, have decried the national moral decay and blamed teenage pregnancy, single-parent families, crime, and drugs on ceaseless expansion of the Leviathan state. This linkage between morality, poverty, and government spending consistently propagated by a wide range of conservative grantees has contributed to the movement's overall political coherence, helping unite religious right activists and the often more secular fiscal conservatives. When moral failure is invoked to explain the plight of the poor, both can unite around a policy agenda stressing market discipline and the replacement of government social programs with personal responsibility. As James Morone noted, "Once the lines are drawn [between a righteous us and a malevolent them], one can forget about social justice, progressive thinking, or universal programs. Instead the overarching policy question becomes, "How do we protect ourselves and our children? Never mind health care build more jails."

Conservative foundations bring to their grant making programs a clear vision and strong political intention,

funding to promote a social and public policy agenda fundamentally based on unregulated markets and limited government. They have created and anchored key institutions, concentrating their resources to sustain and expand a critical mass of advocacy, litigation and public policy groups working on the right of US politics and culture. The results have been cumulative and impressive. Scholars develop the intellectual basis for conservative social perspectives and policy views. Conservative think tanks and advocacy organizations produce hundreds of policy reports, briefings, action alerts, monographs and analyses on matters both broad and specific, from national fiscal policy to regulatory reform. Business-sponsored law firms pursue strategic litigation to advance conservative legal principles. Conservative media outlets profile policy approaches and proposals to inform and mobilize opinion while attacking the political and journalistic mainstream. And fellowships, internships, and leadership training programs create an effective pipeline for moving young conservatives into the fields of law, economics, government and journalism. Further leveraging their investments, the 12 foundations have targeted their grants to support activities and projects intended to bring conservative scholars, policy analysts, grassroots leaders, and public officials into frequent contact with each other. Think tank leaders attend meetings to learn how to use new information and communication technologies for greater public opinion and policy impact. Grassroots activists are linked by satellite to training conferences focusing on how best to frame issues for public consumption. Students are subsidized to participate in public policy programs that teach them the essentials of free market economics and place them in think tanks, advocacy organizations, law firms and media outlets for further training. And organizations and projects are supported to build linkages and communication between grant making institutions

and grant recipients. In funding a policy movement rather than specific program areas, these 12 foundations distinguish themselves from the philanthropic mainstream, which has long maintained a pragmatic, non-ideological and field-specific approach to the grant making enterprise. The success of conservative foundation grantees in developing and marketing both general principles and specific policy proposals has also been enhanced by the institutional weaknesses of those who would place alternative policies on the table for political debate. The political implications and policy consequences of this imbalance have been profound. First, the heavy investments that conservative foundations have made in New Right policy and advocacy institutions have helped to create a supply-side version of American politics in which certain policy ideas find their way into the political marketplace regardless of existing citizen demand. Second, the multiplication of institutional voices marketing conservative policies and policy approaches has resulted in policy decisions with disastrous and disproportionate consequences for low income constituencies. The strategic grant making of the 12 foundations offers valuable lessons for those grant makers and others interested in national and state public policy matters. Seven stand out in particular. They include:
* Understanding the importance of ideology andoverarching frameworks;
* Building strong institutions by providing ample general operating support and awarding large, multi-year grants;
* Maintaining a national policy focus;
* Recognizing the importance of marketing, media, and persuasive communications;
* Creating and cultivating public intellectuals and policy leaders;
* Funding comprehensively for social transformation and policy change by awarding grants across sectors, blending research and advocacy, supporting litigation, and encouraging the public participation of core constituencies; and
*Taking a long-haul approach. While each of these lessons alone has funding power and significance, it is the combination that has given conservative philanthropy its vast clout.


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