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Foundation Watch

A monthly newsletter that examines the grantmaking of private foundations.

Tom Steyer, the New Paladin of the Left

Tom Steyer, the New Paladin of the Left
A hedge fund billionaire bets heavily on politics

By Neil Maghami, Foundation Watch, August 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Thomas Steyer’s avowed desire to devote his wealth to philanthropic ends appears, at first blush, commendable. Unfortunately, he has so far dedicated his $1.6 billion fortune to advancing far-left causes through donations to nonprofit groups and politicians, and by coordinating with like-minded donors like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This year Steyer plans to pour $100 million or more into political races to push America to the left.

He’s telegenic, he’s outspoken, he founded a successful hedge fund, and he dines on organic beef raised on his own ranch, whose amenities include solar-powered electric fences. His name is Thomas Steyer, and if the Left had an award for “Most Promising Billionaire,” Steyer would be a shoo-in. The love is mutual: Steyer is putting up millions of dollars in order to throw his weight around in elections across the country this November, with a number of Republicans in his crosshairs.

Steyer is deadly serious about using his vast wealth to smite his political foes and aid his allies. In February, the New York Times reported that Steyer plans to spend up to $100 million during the 2014 election cycle, which will be funneled through his NextGen PAC to “pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.” (He will put up $50 million in the hopes of finding $50 million in matching funds from like-minded donors).

In April, Steyer upped the ante when he mused publicly that $100 million “would be very low, honestly,” compared to what he would “be willing to spend, to make this [climate change] what I believe it is, the most important issue in the minds of Americans.” Steyer’s net worth is estimated at $1.6 billion. In May, he shared his target list with the Times: races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maine. As we go to press, Politico reports that so far Steyer “appears to be struggling” in his efforts to raise money from other donors, but the $11-plus million of his own money that he’s spent in this year’s electoral cycle “puts him atop the Center for Responsive Politics list of individual contributors to federal candidates, parties, political action committees and other groups that are required to disclose their donors.”

In anticipation of Steyer’s all-out political war against his perceived enemies, this issue of Foundation Watch will survey his activities to date as a donor, both in terms of his personal foundation and his giving to political causes.

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The Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation: California Dreamin’ of Social Democracy

The Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation:  California Dreamin’ of Social Democracy

By Jonathan Hanen, Foundation Watch, July 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Stephen M. Silberstein, a member of George Soros’s far-left Democracy Alliance, sheds light on the extent of Soros’s socialist agenda for America.  Silberstein’s foundation backs a panoply of leftist groups that fight for higher taxes on the rich, wealth redistribution schemes, single-payer socialized medicine, burdensome regulation of energy markets, judicial activism designed to advance a radically egalitarian agenda, and the replacement of the linchpin of federalism, the Electoral College, with a national popular vote.   

George Soros’s secretive donor consortium, the Democracy Alliance, has been making news lately in the wake of a new plan set forth at its four-day conference entitled “A New Progressive Era?” which took place in Chicago at the end of April 2014. According to the Washington Post, “The plan, being crafted in private by a group of about 100 donors that includes billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros and San Francisco venture capitalist Rob McKay, seeks to give Democrats a stronger hand in the redrawing of district lines for state legislatures and the U.S. House.” More specifically, the newspaper reports that “keeping Democratic control of the Senate” was of paramount concern to the donors. “There’s a lot of anxiety about the midterms,” admitted McKay, the outgoing chairman, “who said substantial investment this year will go to local and state minimum-wage campaigns that can help drive turnout for federal races.” The new plan would shift significant resources away from the Alliance’s typical focus on donating to left-wing media outlets and think tanks, such as Media Matters for America and the John Podesta-founded Center for American Progress. Assuming the reported shift occurs, the Alliance will try to engage in ground-level political campaigning by in effect acting as a bundling super PAC—an über super PAC—in order to prevent the expected GOP takeover of the Senate.

Over time it has leaked out that more than 100 billionaires and multi-millionaires belong to this shadowy philanthropic collective that Markos Moulitsas, founder of the influential leftist blog Daily Kos, has called “a vast left-wing conspiracy.” Membership in Democracy Alliance comes by invitation only and requires donating a minimum of $200,000 per year to left-wing activist groups and think tanks endorsed by the Alliance. In addition to Soros and McKay, the Washington Post reports that hedge fund manager Tom Steyer of San Francisco (who is most famous in conservative circles for his self-interested opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline) and the trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn from Houston are relatively new members (for more on Steyer, see Green Watch, January 2014). Other notable figures from the world of business have recently joined the ranks of this elite group: Adam Abram (insurance and real estate), Rick Segal (financial services), Paul Boskind (mental health services), Amy Goldman (real estate), and Henry van Ameringen (manufacturing). New School Professor Philip Munger, son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger, also became a member.

There has been a sizeable influx of labor leaders into Democracy Alliance. This may help to explain the group’s strategic shift to make the minimum wage an issue in the 2014 mid-terms. Of course union contracts often have automatic salary increases triggered by increases in the minimum wage. New Alliance members include Noel Beasley, president of Workers United, a textile union affiliated with SEIU (Service Employees International Union), and Keith Mestrich, president of the union-owned Amalgamated Bank. Other new members are Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA); Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; CWA senior director George Kohl; and Michelle Ringuette, Weingarten’s assistant. Other individuals previously reported as members with ties to organized labor include former SEIU executive Anna Burger and National Education Association executive director John C. Stocks. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry is vice chair of the Alliance’s board of directors. SEIU and the AFL-CIO are institutional members of the Alliance. (Around press time, the Alliance’s website was updated to reflect that Stocks of the NEA has been named chairman of the group’s board.)

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The Philanthropy of Pierre Omidyar, the eBay Billionaire

The Philanthropy of Pierre Omidyar, the eBay Billionaire

By Neil Maghami, Foundation Watch, June 2014 (PDF here)

Summary: Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, says he wants to use his billion dollar fortune to do good, both at home in the U.S. and abroad. But in embracing a seemingly ever-widening variety of causes in his philanthropic efforts, has he abandoned the need for a consistent approach to his giving – and sacrificed coherence for trendiness?

You’ve heard versions of this story before. A young man arrives in Silicon Valley, takes a job in the high-tech sector, and begins to experiment on the side with a promising idea for a new venture. Eventually, what starts out as a hobby begins to bring in much more money than his day job, and the young man quits to focus on his new venture full-time. Investors enthusiastically pile in, the new venture goes public—and the young man becomes a billionaire. He next plunges enthusiastically into philanthropy.

While this sounds like it could be any recent high-tech success story, it is in fact a one-paragraph summary of the life of Pierre Omidyar, the founder of the online retailing system eBay, which has nearly 100 million users around the world. Omidyar’s personal wealth is estimated at around $8.5 billion. He has mused in public that he and his wife, Pam, both in their thirties, are looking forward to perhaps 50 years of active philanthropy through the Omidyar Network, their primary philanthropic vehicle.

The Omidyars have jumped with gusto into support for everything from promoting post-partisan politics in the U.S. and property rights in developing countries, to helping American parents select child-friendly entertainment, to influencing U.S. foreign policy—and, in some cases, to coordinating grants with ultra-liberals like George Soros and the shadowy Tides Foundation.

Omidyar’s vision stretches even further. In October 2013, Omidyar announced he would launch First Look Media, an investigative news service. “Our goal is to experiment, innovate and overcome existing obstacles to make it easier for journalists to deliver … transformative stories,” Omidyar said at the time. He had previously said he might invest up to $250 million in the venture, which is being organized as a hybrid: part nonprofit, part for-profit. First Look subsequently hired far-left firebrands Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi as staff.

With a such variety of activities, even Michael Gentilucci, a sympathetic observer of Omidyar’s funding activity, concedes that “from the outside,” Omidyar’s funding announcements to date give the impression of “one of the more scattered philanthropic operations around.”

As proof that there really is a method and a high level of organization to their giving, Gentilucci quotes the Omidyars’ declaration that “[c]omplex problems defy simple solutions. For every issue we focus on, we come to the table with specific goals but without preconceived notions about how to best achieve them. Our approach relies on experimentation, iteration and constant learning.”

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De-Imagining America …because our college campuses aren’t far enough to the left

 

hillary-clinton

De-Imagining America  …because our college campuses aren’t far enough to the left

By Matthew Vadum, Foundation Watch, May 2014 (PDF here)

Summary: Imagining America is a creature of radical foundations and the Clinton administration. Both activist group and grant-maker, the Syracuse University-based organization aspires to spread the ideology of “community organizing” to the nation’s colleges and universities.

Fifteen years ago the Clinton administration joined with left-wing foundations in an effort to fundamentally transform the way Americans think about their country. Since then, more than 100 institutions of higher learning have signed onto this campaign to rewrite American history and indoctrinate future generations. The goal, in effect, is to turn academics and students into left-wing community organizers.

The group, Imagining America, is headquartered at Syracuse University, a private school in upstate New York that, like most colleges, receives millions of tax dollars a year. Imagining America was virtually unknown until Glenn Beck threw some light on it in a broadcast last fall. Beck described Imagining America and an offshoot group that calls itself “The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture” (USDAC) as an “effort to rewrite our history and catalyze a new culture for America.” This “department” isn’t actually part of the U.S. government but describes itself as “the nation’s newest people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change.”

USDAC was launched at Imagining America’s conference in Syracuse in October 2013. It appears to be an ad hoc, volunteer-based organization, centered in New York City. It seeks to enlist “Citizen Artists” and “Cultural Agents” to spout Marxist drivel through performance art, similar to what Adbusters magazine does through what it calls its “culture jamming” efforts. This kind of whimsical “protest” seems none too serious, but sometimes it quickly transforms into grimmer fare. Recall that Adbusters was best known for spoofs of corporate advertising—before it sponsored the Wall Street event that spawned the violent Occupy Wall Street movement. (See Foundation Watch, January 2012.)

USDAC “Deputy Secretary” Norman Beckett gave a speech recently in which he rolled out the usual litany of leftist complaints:

“This is an era of broken systems—from healthcare to energy to education to the way our entire economy is structured. We inhabit a planet on the verge. The problems are complex, the solutions uncertain, but there is one truth we can hold onto: if we are going to keep our society and planet healthy, all people must be empowered to imagine and enact alternatives for a better world. In order to do this, to cultivate effective co-creators of new systems better aligned with equity and sustainability – we must deepen our investment in the tools and tactics that grow empathy, imagination, and the capacity to collaborate. We must encourage creative risks. We must nourish the artist in us all.”

It is unclear how serious an effort USDAC actually may be. Beckett concluded his remarks by urging supporters to “play.”

“Friends, we have a ways to go to get there. But what we imagine together we can create together. Of the world’s many crises, a creativity crisis is not among them. Indeed, creativity is one of the world’s greatest renewable resources. We have it in abundant supply. As Citizen Artists with the USDAC I invite you to harness that creativity in all of your changemaking work. In tackling the world’s most dire problems we need seriousness of intent, of course, but we also need serious play.”

Beck was not impressed by Imagining America and USDAC. He warned that the people who are active in both groups “will be teaching and influencing your children” through “art and music and film and history books.”

America’s neo-Marxist radicals figured out a long time ago how to have their cake and eat it, too. U.S. taxpayers have been funding subversive left-wing groups like the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation since the LBJ administration. They advance their objectives, erode civil society, and send you the bill.

The Left already dominates the main organs of culture and knowledge-creation in American society—the media, the arts community including Hollywood, and academia—and now it seeks to further diminish whatever remains of civil society, rewriting U.S. history along the lines of Communist Party USA member Howard Zinn’s bestselling book-length fable, A People’s History of the United States.

Creation Story
Imagining America grew out of executive action.

President Bill Clinton created the White House Millennium Council by Executive Order 13072 on Feb. 2, 1998. One of the council’s tasks was to “produce informational and resource materials to educate the American people concerning our Nation’s past and to inspire thought concerning the future.” This taxpayer-supported, culture war-waging council was headed by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Imagining America was founded at a 1999 White House Conference initiated by the White House Millennium Council, the University of Michigan, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Conference participants became the basis for what was to become the group’s “consortium” of 100-plus colleges and universities.

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The Bezos Family Foundation: Mr. Bezos goes to Washington

The Bezos Family Foundation:  Mr. Bezos goes to Washington

By Jonathan Hanen, Foundation Watch, April 2014 (PDF here)

Summary: The foundation that bears the name of Jeff Bezos, founder of online retailing giant Amazon, provides insight into the political vision he will bring to Washington. The Bezos Family Foundation does advocate for some smart opportunity education policies, such as charter schools and testing, and Bezos has managed thus far to combine social liberalism with fiscal conservatism. But the far Left’s hope that Bezos will be a transformational post-partisan figure, as well as the center-right’s hope for a progressive reformer are overblown. The self-interested lobbying activities of Bezos’s PAC, as regards the Marketplace Fairness Act, reveal a pattern of Beltway politics as usual.

Jeff Bezos, 50, is best known as one of America’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs of the Internet age. He is the face of the dotcom 1990s who founded Amazon, the online retail sales giant that raked in $27.2 billion in revenue for 2013. Forbes currently lists Bezos as 15th on its list of most powerful people, 12th on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans, and 19th on the same magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires.

Bezos was born on January 12, 1964, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He showed an early interest in electronics, according to Biography.com. In his teenage years, after his family moved to Miami, he developed a love for computers. He excelled in school, became the valedictorian, and started his first business, “the Dream Institute, an educational summer camp for fourth, fifth and sixth graders.”

Bezos graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1986 with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering. “After graduation, he found work at several firms on Wall Street including Fitel, Bankers Trust, and the investment firm D.E. Shaw where he met his wife Mackenzie and was named the youngest vice president in 1990.” Bezos was well-compensated on Wall Street, but in 1994 he took what was then a great risk by going into the brave new world of electronic commerce. He quit Wall Street and moved to Seattle to open an online bookstore.

Amazon opened for business on July 16, 1995, and took off like a rocket. Within two months, Amazon was selling books in the U.S. and 45 other countries at a clip of $20,000 weekly. Amazon had its initial public offering in 1997 and became a top e-commerce company in only two years. Amazon diversified its business in 1998 by adding compact discs and videos to its online offerings. The company subsequently partnered with other retailers to offer clothes, electronics, toys, and a cornucopia of other products.

Many profitable “dotcoms” of the early to mid-1990s have long since vanished, but Amazon has prospered and survived to become one of the greatest successes, with sales expanding from $510,000 in 1995 to over $17 billion in 2011.

Bezos is not merely a CEO with a gift for supply chain management; he is also an inventor who likes to take risks in order to innovate and evolve. In 2007, Amazon released the Kindle, the revolutionary digital book reader that allows users to download books with the touch of a button. Bezos entered the tablet computer marketplace with the Kindle Fire in 2011, and in September 2012, he announced the new Kindle Fire HD, the company’s next iteration of the tablet designed to compete against Apple’s iPad.

All of this commercial success would be enough to ensure Bezos a place among America’s greatest businessmen since the industrial age. Bezos, like his industrialist forbears, has now moved into the arena of political action. His own political views are the subject of intense speculation. The consensus amongst the commentariat is that he is some sort of left-leaning libertarian, or perhaps a social liberal and fiscal conservative.
Bezos donated an undisclosed sum to Reason Foundation, the publisher of the libertarian Reason magazine, and in 2010 he donated $100,000 to a successful campaign to stop a proposed tax hike on individuals earning over $200,000 per year in Washington State. In 2012, he and his wife donated $2.5 million to support a successful ballot initiative for same-sex marriage in Washington State. This donation far surpasses that of Bill Gates, one of Bezos’s peers in the pantheon of computer age entrepreneurs. The New York Times reports, “Bill Gates and Steven A. Ballmer of Microsoft each gave $100,000 to the referendum campaign, according to its officials.”

Apart from fighting an income tax hike, donating to Reason Foundation, and supporting same-sex marriage, Bezos has kept his political cards close to his chest in his public speeches and interviews. He hasn’t given much to political campaigns. He has donated just $15,000, and it was about equally split between Democratic and Republican candidates, according to Slate’s Dave Weigel, who wrote an article headlined, «Jeff Bezos, Inscrutable Libertarian Democrat.”

Amazon, for its part, has been aggressively lobbying Congress since 2011 on issues regarding telecommunications, copyright law, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and most controversially, the Internet sales tax (the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013) and individual state Internet taxes. In 2003 the Bezos Family Foundation, based in Mercer Island, Washington, was launched to promote excellence in education and leadership training for the young. In August 2013, Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. This report aims to determine Bezos’s comprehensive political intention as it comes into focus by examining the projects and funding decisions of the Bezos Family Foundation (BFF) and in Amazon’s political action committee and lobbying efforts.

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Building a Radical Foundation: The Glaser Progress Foundation makes no bones about its focus on far-left activism

Building a Radical Foundation:  The Glaser Progress Foundation makes no bones about its focus on far-left activism

By Matthew Vadum, Foundation Watch, March 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Although the Glaser Progress Foundation was made possible by the great wealth its benefactor garnered from a mere decade’s work at Microsoft, it aims to change the country radically.  To that end, it works with left-wing agitators at such groups as the Democracy Alliance, Media Matters for America, and Demos.

Often when wealthy left-wingers endow an eponymous foundation, they fade into the woodwork, preferring to let their money do the talking. Not so with software magnate Rob Glaser, a well-connected high-dollar Democratic donor best known for founding RealNetworks, a prominent Internet company. Glaser has been a supporter of Barack Obama since Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate run, according to DiscoverTheNetworks. In 2010, Glaser and his wife hosted a $10,000-a-plate lunch event with President Obama at their Seattle home, the same year Glaser attended a White House forum on technology and government.

Glaser had previously donated $50,000 to Obama’s 2009 inauguration fund. But Glaser did still more in the 2008 electoral cycle; he also helped Al Franken (D) procure his Minnesota U.S. Senate seat by first “maxing out” to the candidate with $4,600 for his regular campaign, and then contributing $12,300 after the election to the Franken Recount Fund. During the bitter recount battle for this Senate seat, Franken’s team used means so outrageous that the Wall Street Journal declared that Franken’s opponent, Norm Coleman “didn’t lose the election. He lost the fight to stop the state canvassing board from changing the vote-counting rules after the fact.”

In the 2004 electoral cycle, Glaser reportedly gave more than $1 million to defeat George W. Bush. So it’s no surprise that Glaser is an ally of George Soros, who poured tens of millions of dollars into the fight against Bush in 2004. Nor is it surprising that Glaser is also a leading member of Soros’s Democracy Alliance, an invitation-only donors’ collaborative for rich left-wingers. Created in the aftermath of the 2004 elections, which brought stinging defeats to the Left in battles for the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, the Alliance is a financial clearinghouse for those who want to move America farther to the left.

Clinton administration official Rob Stein founded the Democracy Alliance with the aim of creating a permanent political infrastructure of nonprofits, think tanks, media outlets, leadership schools, and activist groups—a kind of “vast left-wing conspiracy” to battle the conservative movement. The donors group has channeled its members’ funds to fairly well-established pressure groups, watchdogs and think tanks, get-out-the-vote operations, and political action committees (PACs). It is intensely secretive. Members of the group meet twice a year to decide which causes to support with their checkbooks. (For more on the Alliance, see Foundation Watch, December 2008.)

Other ways that Glaser battled for the Left in the 2004 electoral cycle include his early support of America Coming Together (ACT), a large, ambitious Democratic get-out-the-vote operation created to affect the 2004 elections. Glaser donated $750,000 to ACT and talked his friends into donating as well. ACT folded in 2005 with little to show for the millions of dollars it raised and spent—with the exception of a $775,000 fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using unregulated “soft money” to support John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

In the previous presidential election of 2000, Glaser donated both to Ralph Nader’s Green Party campaign and also, less generously, to Al Gore’s campaign on the Democratic ticket.

Early Years
When Glaser studied at Yale, graduating in 1983, his politics were “slightly to the left of Che Guevara,” according to Bruce Jacobsen, a former RealNetworks executive who knew Glaser at the Ivy League school. Glaser once considered becoming a labor organizer, but instead he became a multi-millionaire thanks to his decade at Microsoft, where he worked on the Windows operating system and the word-processing program MS Word.

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The Joyce Foundation: Betraying donor intent in the Windy City

The Joyce Foundation:  Betraying donor intent in the Windy City

by Jonathan Hanen, Foundation Watch, February 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  The Joyce Foundation’s endowment came from David Joyce, a lumber magnate who believed in the American system of free enterprise.  Today the foundation that lives off his wealth is a hotbed of trendy, left-wing thinking and grant-making. It funds efforts to hurt the lumber industry, turn schools into union-controlled sources of Democratic Party patronage, block Americans’ gun rights, and constrict  economic freedoms.  Barack Obama sat on its board from 1994 to 2002, and directed the foundation’s money to causes Joyce almost certainly would not have favored.

The Joyce Foundation, based in Chicago, Illinois, was founded in 1948 by Beatrice Joyce Kean, the sole heir to the Joyce family fortune. The Joyces of Clinton, Iowa, originally made their money in the lumber industry. The patriarch who created the Joyce fortune was the great nineteenth-century entrepreneur David Joyce (died 1904). Of “old New England Puritan stock,” he was “strong, bold and resourceful.” “He was one of the captains of industry, able to command men, things and events to the accomplishment of his purpose,” according to a contemporary trade publication (“The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States,” Third Series, American Lumberman, Chicago, 1906).

Joyce trained as a civil engineer. At age 12, he began working for his father, who ran a blast furnace and foundry and machine shop. At 15 he took over bookkeeping there. Years later he took over a lumber mill, and by the end of his life he was “a stockholder in twelve different sawmill plants located in all sections of the country, one within eighteen miles of Lake Superior at the North and another within eighty miles of the Gulf of Mexico in the South, while still another was on Puget Sound.”

Joyce also had significant investments in pinelands in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas, and his “careful personal supervision of [his investments] was well known to all acquainted with him.” He helped to create the First National Bank of Lyons (Iowa) and was its president when he died. He also held an interest in a street railway running through Lyons and Clinton, Iowa. He was a top-notch businessman and a visionary. “Few men showed more shrewdness than he or a clearer comprehension of the possibilities of the industry. Reinvestment of profits gave him the ownership of several plants.” Joyce was “prominent in public enterprises and contributed large amounts to various religious institutions and was a subscriber to society and educational work.”

“Mr. Joyce was a staunch Republican, though not a politician in the ordinary acceptance of that term. He sought no public office, but when the mayoralty of Lyons [Iowa] was pressed upon him, in 1872, he filled that position with marked ability and success. The confidence of the people in his integrity and in his ability to manage the municipal affairs was well shown in that election. The city finances were in a low condition, city bonds selling for forty-five cents on the dollar. He was the nominee of the business men of Lyons for the office and was elected by a very substantial majority; a second time was he nominated and was elected by the entire vote of the city, the only vote not cast for him being his own. The confidence which the people placed in him was well justified, for when, after four years, he retired at the end of his second term, the city’s credit was reestablished and there was sufficient money in the treasury to pay all its obligations in full.”

His last heir, Beatrice Joyce Kean, generally went about her philanthropic activities on a small scale, spending under $100,000 per year. Most of her grants went to apolitical beneficiaries, such as hospitals and health organizations. It is unclear if she had political opinions or was partisan during her life. When she passed away in 1972, Kean bequeathed more than $100 million, or about 90 percent of her estate, to the foundation, according to DiscoverTheNetworks.org.

Over time the Joyce Foundation moved away from the philanthropic inclinations of Kean and her wealthy ancestor and turned hard left. Professional staffers took over the foundation and began putting the wealth generated by a great capitalist trailblazer at the service of social engineering schemes and so-called social justice activist organizations.

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The Surdna Foundation Meets Saul Alinsky: Community organizing in the era of Obama

The Surdna Foundation Meets Saul Alinsky: Community organizing in the era of Obama

By Jonathan Hanen, Foundation Watch, January 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  New York’s Surdna Foundation used to focus on the usual left-wing causes: environmentalism and so-called smart growth, community development, and the arts.  Sensing an opportunity when Barack Obama became U.S. president, the charity changed its mission to promote community organizing above all else. Its benefactor would not have approved of its old mission statement or the new mission statement.

Founded by a practical, hard-nosed, free market-loving capitalist, over the past century the Surdna Foundation Inc. was transformed into a hotbed of revolutionary radicalism. Created by legendary industrialist John Emory Andrus, the New York City-based foundation now adheres to the Weltanschauung of extremist agitator Saul Alinsky and Alinsky acolytes like Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Andrus was no utopian, holier-than-thou dreamer or activist.  In the obituary carried by Time on Jan. 7, 1935, the magazine declared,

He was supposed to be one of the ten richest men in the U.S. But when Death came to John Emory Andrus at 93 last week, the best the Press could do was to identify him as the “millionaire straphanger.”  Indeed the Press never heard of the financier-philanthropist until he was past 60.  And then it spotted him, a shy, parsimonious, white-bearded old gentleman, because he always rode the subway to his Manhattan office until he was 86.

If he were alive today it seems a fair bet he would be a conservative, Tea Party movement supporter.  He would likely stand bewildered at the grant-making patterns of his foundation that over time has degenerated into a philanthropic epicenter for the promotion of statism.

Andrus was “the complete laissez-faire businessman,” according to biographer George P. Morrill, author of The Multimillionaire Straphanger.  “He believed in simple capitalism all his life.”

“Under his code, a man was responsible for his own welfare,” wrote Morrill.  “Therefore he was obliged not only to earn his bread by his own brain and sinew but to guard himself from anything that threatened his welfare.  The dangers included businessmen, the government, genteel beggars, high taxes, frivolous pursuits, intemperance, and waste in any form.”

Andrus and his business partner, Thomas Barlow Walker, both “clashed with government investigators—whom they impatiently considered stumbling blocks in the path of progress.”
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The Nathan Cummings Foundation: Another foundation skews leftward after its benefactor’s death

The Nathan Cummings Foundation: Another foundation skews leftward after its benefactor’s death

By Jonathan Hanen, (Foundation Watch, December 2013) (PDF here)

Summary:  The Nathan Cummings Foundation is yet another philanthropy whose original donor was able to live the American dream and create great wealth through the free market.  But once he died, his foundation began to fund left-wing groups that fight for such causes as single-payer health care, a centrally planned energy economy, open-borders amnesty, and same-sex marriage. 

The Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) of New York City was created by its namesake in 1949. Nathan Cummings (1896-1985) was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. This apparently apolitical, self-made man bought the C.D. Kenny Co. of Baltimore in 1939, and over the next 30 years transformed it from a small wholesale distributor into the international giant known as the Sara Lee Corporation. He retired in 1968 and turned to art collecting and philanthropic interests, with a focus on medicine and science.

Cummings created the foundation in 1949 and “contributed to mainstream American and Jewish groups and supported the nascent nation of Israel through gifts to such organizations as United Jewish Appeal; he also made grants to various universities, medical centers, and hospitals,” according to DiscoverTheNetworks.org. The foundation only began to take on an overtly left-wing focus upon his passing in 1985, when it received most of Cummings’ $200 million estate. Like many benefactors, Cummings had stipulated vaguely that his philanthropy’s resources should be directed to pursue “charitable, eleemosynary, educational, scientific, literary, religious and artistic purposes.”

The NCF board, consisting mainly of his children, in conjunction with a lawyer and a foundation consultant, reinterpreted these directives. The new goals of the NCF were to be health care, Jewish causes, the arts, and environmentalism.

But how have even these goals been pursued by the NCF? It is next to impossible to determine the NCF’s institutional self-understanding of its history since the time of its re-focusing in 1986. The website presents its so-called history in the form of six asynchronous and impressionistic anecdotes regarding the NCF’s general approach to board-recommended grants, shareholder resolutions, the investment committee, the impact of early and late funding, and family and spouse involvement on the board.

The current self-understanding of the NCF is presented in a video and accompanying article of March 13, 2012, entitled “The Invisible Helping Hand of Government,” which attacks the conservative view that government need only get out of the way of the private sector in order for the economy to grow. The video claims that America’s prosperity only exists thanks to government efforts like the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), government funding of scientific R&D at government labs and private universities, broadband and wireless infrastructure, public job training programs, the National Weather Service, the auto bailout, public education, fuel efficiency standards, transportation infrastructure, the Clean Air Act, and Department of Defense research and purchasing that led most notably to commercial jet engines.

NCF’s CEO Simon Greer concludes, “Until we Americans truly recognize the myriad ways in which government protects the quality of life in America and provides the foundation for economic growth, we’re likely to continue to have a shallow and partisan debate about the size of government or trust in government.”

The NCF wants governments to increase spending on existing poverty relief programs, fund groups that seek to lobby the states to set up the Obamacare exchanges or to register people for the misnamed Affordable Care Act, and to implement a carbon-trading scheme or perhaps a carbon tax.

But, as we shall see by examining the groups that the NCF actually funds, its true policy goals are explicitly understood to be the establishment of universal single-payer health care, an extreme egalitarian vision of economic and social justice in the U.S. and Israel, the promotion of social justice through the arts, and financial support for radical environmentalist groups whose understanding of “sustainability” goes beyond the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, beyond carbon controls, to the destruction of the coal industry and government funding of arbitrarily chosen green tech companies, if not to full governmental control of energy markets.

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The Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation: The real legacy of the Washington Post

The Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation: The real legacy of the Washington Post
By Kevin Mooney (Foundation Watch, November 2013) (PDF here)

Summary:  For seven decades, a foundation created with money from the Washington Post’s owners has been trying to help push America further to port.  You have probably never heard of it, but it continues to exercise significant influence in America’s capital city and beyond.

Created in 1944, the low-profile Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation may not be as large and prolific as the Tides Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, or the Ford Foundation, but it funds the same garden-variety left-leaning causes.  While it rarely attracts media coverage, the Meyer Foundation has been cutting a larger figure for itself in recent years.  Based in the nation’s capital, it concentrates its efforts on “improving the lives of low-income people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region.”

So, just how influential is the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation?  Its small size belies some high-level connections.  Former board members include Attorney General Eric Holder, who is making every effort to take down voter identification laws across the country while refusing to investigate ACORN and its affiliated and successor organizations.

The Meyer Foundation’s board of directors is jam-packed with Washington power players.  Among them are Joshua Bernstein, a D.C.-area real estate developer who founded the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund; Antoinette Cook Bush, executive vice president of Fox News’ parent News Corp.; Ginger Lew, former member of President Obama’s White House National Economic Council (no relation to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew); financier William Dunbar; Barbara J. Krumsiek, CEO of Calvert Investments Inc.; James J. Sandman, president of Legal Services Corp., the single largest funder of civil legal aid for poor people in the U.S.; Barbara Lang, CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce; and Robert G. Templin Jr., president, Northern Virginia Community College.

The family of board member Deborah Ratner Salzberg is connected with some powerful Democrats, including President Obama.  Ratner family members are big contributors to the Democratic Party and the president.  They operate Forest City Enterprises, a vast real estate company based in Cleveland, Ohio.  Deborah is the daughter of co-chairman Albert Ratner.  She runs Forest City’s Washington, D.C. office.  Bruce Ratner, who is a cousin to Albert Ratner, runs the company’s New York City subsidiary.

Bruce Ratner bought off local opposition, including the New York branch of ACORN, to make way for the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn.  The massive 22-acre residential and retail complex includes a stadium for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team.

Another of Albert Ratner’s cousins, Michael Ratner, is president emeritus of the radical Center for Constitutional Rights, a Greenwich Village-based public interest law firm whose lawsuits have hurt America’s ability to defend itself from terrorist groups.  Michael’s sister is PBS commentator turned Fox News analyst Ellen Ratner.

Julie L. Rogers, the Meyer Foundation’s CEO for the past 27 years, intends to retire in June 2014.  In mid-October 2013 the foundation announced that its board’s search and transition committee had chosen the McCormick Group to manage the search for a successor.
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