Buying a Movement

A report by People For the American Way Foundation

Executive Summary

Each year, conservative foundations pour millions of dollars into a broad range of conservative political organizations. These foundation gifts are remarkable for two principal reasons: first, their sheer size and concentration; second, the willingness of the foundations to promote a highly politicized agenda by funding a broad range of organizations.

The following report examines the funding patterns of a number of significant conservative foundations and their grantees. The report demonstrates:

  • Right-wing foundations have developed a truly comprehensive funding strategy, providing grants to a broad range of groups, each promoting right-wing positions to their specific audiences. The grants have created and nurtured an enormous range of organizations all bent on promoting a far-right-wing agenda. Recipients of foundation largesse include the right-wing media; national "think tanks" and advocacy groups; a budding network of regional and state-based think tanks; conservative university programs; conservative college newspapers; conservative scholars and more. In many of these funding areas, progressive and mainstream foundation giving lags far behind.
  • Five foundations stand out from the rest: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Koch Family foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Scaife Family foundations and the Adolph Coors Foundation. Each has helped fund a range of far-right programs, including some of the most politically charged work of the last several years. For example, the American Spectator magazine, which led the charge on President Bill Clinton's state trooper contretemps and launched a slash-and-burn strategy targeting Anita Hill, is a prime recipient of foundation support.
  • Public debate on a number of issues has been transformed by foundation largesse. For example, the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation has supported a range of pro-voucher efforts in its home state, sowing the seeds for that state's first-in-the-nation school vouchers program in Milwaukee. Other such case studies are presented in the report.
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