The Federalist Society: From Obscurity to Power

Key Sources of Funding

The Federalist Society's standard membership fees-$25 for lawyers and "standard members," $5 for law students and $10 for faculty-account for a relatively small share of the organization's annual income.27 Major contributors, both individuals and foundations, are recognized through the James Madison Club, whose namesake appears as the silhouetted profile in the Society's logo. The growing clout of the Society has been aided by millions of dollars from the likes of the John M. Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Sarah Scaife, and Charles G. Koch foundations-some of the largest funders of right-wing groups in the country. In 1998, all four of these foundations contributed at least $100,000 to the Federalist Society, gifts that placed them in an elite group of eight top Society contributors.28

The Olin Foundation grew out of a family chemical and munitions manufacturing business. It routinely has funded ultra-conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research. Other organizations on the far right that have received support from Olin are the Center for Individual Rights, Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, the Free Congress Foundation, the Independent Women's Forum, and the Institute for Justice.29 The Olin Foundation was once headed by Michael Joyce, who later departed to head the Bradley Foundation. (The Olin Foundation has recently decided to disband in keeping with the wishes of its namesake, who feared that the foundation might someday be "captured by someone who didn't agree with his philosophy."30)

The Bradley Foundation, which uses much of its financial resources to promote school vouchers and attack affirmative action and welfare programs, has a history of funding right-wing causes. It provided a grant to support David Brock's 1992 book The Real Anita Hill.31 The book was designed to "ruin" Hill's reputation and remove lingering doubts about Thomas' fitness for the Supreme Court, but Brock has recently recanted the book's claims, admitting that right-wing activists encouraged him to work "virtually every derogatory-and often contradictory-allegation I had collected on Hill into the vituperative mix."32

The Bradley Foundation's Joyce defended the foundation's $100,000 grant to Charles Murray, who co-wrote the highly controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve. Murray's book was criticized widely by scholars as racist and statistically unsound. An earlier book that Murray wrote, Losing Ground, was also produced with financial backing from Joyce. In Losing Ground, Murray argued that poverty did not result from economic dislocation or discrimination, but from personal failings. In response to critics who assailed Murray's blame-the-victim view, Joyce praised Murray as "one of the foremost social thinkers in the country."33 (This summer, Joyce left the Bradley Foundation and has formed a lobbying group to help push for congressional passage of President Bush's plan for government funding of religion, also known as faith-based initiatives.34)

The Scaife Foundation has also funded the Federalist Society, along with a long list of other right-wing efforts. These include the American Spectator and its "Arkansas Project"-a $2.4 million campaign to gather information for the expressed purpose of discrediting former President Bill Clinton and potentially forcing him out of office.

The Koch Foundation is one of three family foundations established by Charles G. Koch, the heir to Koch Industries, an oil refining and petrochemical company based in Wichita, Kansas. Koch Industries began as Rock Island Oil and Refining, built a generation ago by Fred Koch, who was also one of the founders of the John Birch Society.35 In addition to serving as chief executive officer of the company, Charles Koch is a co-founder of the Cato Institute,36 a libertarian Washington, D.C.-based think-tank whose publications have downplayed the dangers of lead-based paint and asbestos, and proposed allowing states to choose "whether to accept any increase" in the minimum wage.37

The Koch Foundation supports right-wing causes at every level-from academic research and the recruitment of young scholars to think tanks and "implementation" groups that attempt to turn these ideas into political realities. Among the other right-wing groups supported by the Koch Foundation are Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Institute for Justice, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Landmark Legal Foundation and the Young America's Foundation.38

Since 1985, the Olin, Bradley and Scaife Foundations have provided over $5 million in grants to the Federalist Society.39 Since 1993, the Federalist Society's funding has soared 182 percent.40

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