The Bauman Family Foundation: Funding community organizers for a progressive paradise
By Jonathan M. Hanen, Foundation Watch, December 2014 [PDF here]
Summary: The Bauman Family Foundation is not well known, but it and its head, Patricia Bauman, are significant leaders of the American Left. The real estate heiress donates to liberal politicians and holds powerful positions with far-left flagship institutions like the Democracy Alliance, the Brennan Center, and Catalist. Her foundation supports “social justice” by fighting to redistribute wealth, stop voter ID laws, deny workers the secret ballot in union elections, and otherwise achieve the Left’s goal of fundamentally transforming America’s constitutional order.
Little is known about Lionel R. Bauman, the New York lawyer and real estate investor who founded the progressive philanthropy known as the Bauman Family Foundation (BFF), now headquartered in Washington, D.C. According to the foundation’s website, Bauman was born into a family of immigrants in 1911, grew up during the Great Depression, and earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a law degree from Columbia. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, on Sept. 13, 1963, Bauman was “elected national president of the American Friends of the Hebrew University by the board of directors of the organization.” The BFF website claims Bauman was a “proud New Yorker” and that “throughout his lifetime, he maintained a passionate commitment to social justice and civil rights and liberties, shared with his wife, Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman, who predeceased him in 1975.” He established the foundation “in the early 1980s.”
The foundation’s website states that, “recognizing that his family had earlier been well provided for, Mr. Bauman bequested [sic] his entire Estate to the Foundation upon his death in 1987.” Although the website provides no documents written by Lionel Bauman regarding his donor intent, the foundation appears to be adhering to its late benefactor’s wishes. There is only the testimony of his daughter Patricia Bauman, the foundation’s second president, who says, “He believed in philanthropy not just for services or for bricks and mortar, but also for advocacy for progressive social change.” The website claims “He was deeply engaged in education and in bringing the arts to disadvantaged children, among his other philanthropies” and that “during his lifetime, Lionel Bauman was a generous supporter of education, the arts and progressive social justice.”
“Progressive social change,” “social justice,” and “economic democracy” are vague terms that are rarely defined by commentators on the far left. In practice, when the demand for social justice comes from the leadership of a left-wing nonprofit, it is typically a shibboleth for the attempt to use the power of the regulatory state to supplant the traditional American notion of justice, which aims for the equality of all citizens before the law, with the social democratic ideal of justice which aims for equality of result.
In its mission statement, the foundation cleverly cloaks its demand for social justice with the language of the Constitution: “The Bauman Foundation is dedicated to achieving the values of a true democratic society—the common good and general welfare, as articulated in the Constitution. We believe that the struggle for true democracy and progressive political and social change is ongoing.”
Coming from a far-left nonprofit like the BFF, this innocent-sounding equation of the common good with social justice betokens nothing less than the unjust Progressive demand for the leveling of civil society by a centrally planned administrative state that would be endowed with the power to choose winners and losers in the market place and to vitiate state and local government with a heap of federal regulations. In this case, the unexplained reference to the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution signifies the indefinite expansion of the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce into all aspects of state and local governance.
About the specific policy proposals the foundation imagines will enact its vision of social justice the BFF mission statement is equally vague: “At present, the Foundation focuses on advocacy to protect the environment and public health; advocacy to assure the right-to-know and open, responsive government; and non-partisan civic engagement in the political process.”
This report will examine the political activities of the recipients of the Bauman Family Foundation’s largesse and the views of its board members, with a view to determining what the foundation understands by its goal of “the common good and general welfare as articulated in the Constitution” and its pursuit of “true democracy and progressive political and social change.” By surveying these concrete funding decisions, we can determine the foundation’s vision of the role of government in a liberal-democratic political order.
The Bauman Foundation’s website says it “focuses its grants on advocacy that encourages systematic changes rather than on those that merely ameliorate symptoms. The Foundation selects and becomes intimately familiar with carefully-chosen policy areas, and it identifies organizations through which it can accomplish its goals. As a result of this approach to its grant-making, the Bauman Foundation does not review unsolicited proposals.”
This kind of talk has long been criticized by William Schambra of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, who rebuts the arrogant claims of some philanthropists to attack the “root causes” of social ills. Schambra notes that “John D. Rockefeller himself got the root causes bandwagon rolling in the 1890s by pronouncing that ‘the best philanthropy is constantly in search for finalities—a search for cause, an attempt to cure the evils at their source.’ In this view, … scientific philanthropy, armed with new social sciences like economics, sociology, and psychology, could reach the source of ills and finally cure them.”
That approach worked with health issues like eradicating hookworm, Schambra continues, but when applied to social problems, it produced little to no real progress and some genuine embarrassments. By the early 1960s, Schambra observes, American philanthropy had switched to a new “root causes” fad, based on the theory that “social ills result less from the problems of individuals than from social-service systems that are insufficiently responsive to the poor,” and so “attacking problems at their roots requires not social-science therapy for individuals but political mobilization of groups, who then demand they be given more and better social services.”
“This new understanding lay behind the Ford Foundation’s support of Mobilization For Youth (MFY) on New York’s Lower East Side, which became the model for the War on Poverty’s community action program. `The underlying issues are really political. Thus the problems of the poor require political action, and political action requires power,’ wrote MFY organizers George Brager and Harry Specht in 1967.” How perfectly this hoary 1960s rhetoric fits Bauman’s focus on “advocacy that encourages systematic changes.”
Each time philanthropists have gone in quest of root causes over the past century, they begin with optimism verging toward arrogance, but somehow the social ills resist their magic and some new fad must replace the last one. “Why such unpleasant failures?” asks Schambra. His answer goes to the heart of what’s wrong with the Bauman Foundation’s approach:
“Because a philanthropy enthralled with root causes sees individuals as unimportant, passive playthings of social, political, or biological forces which rule humanity and can only be understood and managed by experts. Yet the American way of life is grounded in the opposite view: each individual … is responsible for his or her own behavior and endowed with certain unalienable rights. Consequently, our political system disperses political power so that the sovereign individual is less liable to elite manipulation.”
The Bauman Foundation describes its finances and its philanthropic causes as follows: “Presently, the Foundation’s endowment is between $90 million and $100 million. The Foundation gives between $5 million and $6 million in grants per year, exceeding the minimum 5 percent payout requirement. The Foundation is intended to have perpetual life. Since its inception, the Foundation has supported environmental health, toxics right to know [sic], open government, and civic participation. It has also made special grants in health care and the arts.”
This innocent language of “open government” and “civic participation” is belied by the social democratic agenda of the far-left groups that the BFF bankrolls. A brief survey of the BFF’s grantees leaves no room for doubt.
The BFF has donated $1,915,000 since 2005 to the Center for Community Change. CCC is a flagship far-left activist group. Founded in 1968 as the first grant recipient of the RFK Memorial Foundation, it boasts of having had a hand in implementing the Community Reinvestment Act of 1974 that used the coercive power of government to strong-arm banks into lending to applicants with substandard credit scores. CRA legislation set the precedent for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno’s lawsuits in the 1990s against banks that denied as few as three minority applicants with insufficient credit. The CRA helped to encourage the mass origination of billions of dollars in bad mortgages and mortgage-backed securities that were primary drivers of the financial collapse of 2007.
Since 2004, CCC’s Fair Immigration Reform Movement initiative has advocated for “comprehensive immigration reform.” CCC’s website states, “Today, after more than a decade of organizing and the brave advocacy of immigrants, we and our allies continue the fight for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.” With the exception of the National Council of La Raza, no leftist group is as brazenly open about its endorsement of a blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants that would reward law-breakers, encourage more mass illegal immigration, and cheat those who have applied legally to live in the United States. CCC does not even bother to cloak its aim in the rhetorically accommodated language of “comprehensive immigration reform” that polls much better than “amnesty” with the American electorate.
CCC has played a leading role in training so-called community organizers. Precise numbers will never be available, but DiscoverTheNetworks.org asserts that “The Generation Change program trains and mentors new community organizers in an effort to build ‘the next generation of [progressive] leaders.’ CCC claims that since its inception, it has ‘nurtured thousands of local groups and leaders’ across the United States.” Likewise, “The Linchpin Campaign, which has received financial support directly from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, seeks ‘to spread the word about the power of community organizing and to make the case for serious investment in the growth of [that] sector.’” (For more on CCC, see the September 2013 Organization Trends.)
Project Vote has received $1,660,000 from the foundation since 2003. Project Vote presents itself as a 501(c)(3) public charity that registers minorities and the poor to vote, and litigates against the states on issues involving the National Voter Registration Act (motor-voter law) which requires states to register citizens to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or public assistance. Actually, the group was the registration mechanism behind ACORN, the group sued for fraudulently registering voters in dozens of states in 2004 and 2008.
Project Vote made national news in 2008 when, according to DiscoverTheNetworks.org, “Barack Obama’s presidential campaign furnished Project Vote with a list of donors who had already contributed (to the campaign) the maximum amount of money permitted by law. Anita MonCrief, a former Washington, D.C. staffer for Project Vote, later revealed that her organization had contacted these big donors and urged them to give money to Project Vote—money which could then be funneled directly into the Obama campaign coffers, thereby evading election-law limits on campaign contributions.”
Project Vote was also implicated in the so-called Teamstergate scandal of 1996 that DiscoverTheNetworks.org describes as “a criminal conspiracy to embezzle funds from the Teamster treasury, launder them through outside organizations, and then siphon them back into the re-election war chest of Teamsters President Ron Carey in 1996. According to trial testimony, the operation was approved by high-level White House and Democratic Party officials.”
American Institute for Social Justice (AISJ) received $450,000 from the BFF in a series of grants beginning in 2005. Now defunct, AISJ was one of the four primary arms of the ACORN activist network. AISJ presented itself as a defender of the poor and declared, “AISJ has provided extensive training, research, and campaign assistance to the staff and leaders of many different community groups. The AISJ has developed a model to involve people in community activity by focusing on the issues of greatest local concern such as city services, drugs, crime, housing, jobs, access to healthcare, and schools. The AISJ trains people on how to approach these issues and develop campaigns into winnable changes.”
However, as journalist Kevin Mooney wrote for Breitbart News in 2010, the AISJ “deserves greater scrutiny and attention in this area. Over $53 million was transferred between ACORN and AISJ from 2000-2004, according to a report from the House Oversight Committee. …. ACORN was also on the receiving end of a $4,952,288 grant from AISJ, according to the Institute’s 990 tax form for 2006. This is instructive because AISJ itself received almost $4 million from ACORN Housing Corp. (AHC) between 2000 and 2006, tax documents show.”
Mooney goes on to explain that, in essence, a tax-deductible conduit had been set up between AISJ and Citizen Consulting Inc. (CCI) in order to provide a tax-deductible conduit to fund the main branch of ACORN. CCI was the financial heart of the ACORN network, handling the financial affairs of many of the 370 identified affiliates of ACORN.
CRC senior editor Matthew Vadum, whose book on ACORN, Subversion Inc., was published in 2011 by WND Books, remarked of the AISJ’s money shuffling: “The money flowing to AISJ from ACORN Housing should be a huge red flag for investigators because almost all the federal money that the ACORN network receives goes into its housing affiliate. …So it’s entirely possible that when money was being transferred to the national ACORN organization from AISJ, taxpayer money designated for nonpartisan purposes might have been used for blatantly partisan purposes. These transfers are extremely suspicious. This is the type of financial activity that we see with organized crime and it should be investigated.”
Although the specific catalyst for the defunding of ACORN was a series of embarrassing videos showing ACORN employees urging the commission of criminal acts, congressional investigators cited the AISJ-to-CCI-to-ACORN conduit as one of many reasons for Congress to end all taxpayer funded support to ACORN (which it did in 2010); another reason was the hundreds of thousands of fraudulent voter registrations and voter fraud lawsuits that blighted the 2008 presidential election.
For their part, many of ACORN’s subsidiary groups merely reformed under different names and continue to the present day with their taxpayer funded electioneering and community organizing activities. (For more on AISJ and ACORN, see Organization Trends, May 2011.)
The BFF has donated $365,000 since 2004 to the Advancement Project. The group focuses on three major areas: achieving greater community involvement in the redistricting process, restoring the right to vote to felons, fighting voter ID laws, and the universal registration of all citizens by means of a single national legal code for holding elections. If Advancement Project policies became law, the constitutionally enumerated power of redistricting would pass out of the hands of the people’s representatives in the state legislatures and into the hands of unelected and unaccountable federal bureaucrats. Universal registration would in practice mean that voter fraud laws would be unenforceable, and the states’ power to manage their own elections would be forfeited to the federal government. Likewise, voter fraud cases are difficult to prosecute in the absence of voter ID laws. The Advancement Project fights them in spite of the fact that states with voter ID laws provide free photo IDs to all, usually on the spot with any new voter registration. (For more on the Advancement Project, see Organization Trends, May 2012.)
The AP claims credit for pushing Eric Holder’s DOJ in 2012 to block Florida’s duly enacted law to purge non-citizens and the deceased from its voter rolls. Many states have laws that require a biennial purging of citizens who have died or moved to other states, and there are an estimated one million non-citizens registered to vote in the United States, but the Left sees any sort of ballot integrity law as voter suppression of minority groups. DiscoverTheNetworks reports, “In May 2012 the Department of Justice (DoJ) complied with the Advancement Project’s request and ordered Florida to halt the name purge. When Florida secretary of state Ken Detzner defied the DoJ mandate (saying “we have an obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate and … ineligible voters cannot vote”), AP co-director Judith Browne Dianis accused him of being ‘recalcitrant.’”
Since 2004 the BFF has donated $150,000 to the Gamaliel Foundation, a radical community organizing group that “worms its way into church congregations and uses the ‘in-your-face’ tactics espoused by community organizing guru Saul Alinsky to incite church members to agitate for socialism,” according to a Capital Research Center profile. “Worse, Gamaliel indoctrinates its own community organizers in creepy cult-like teachings and deceives church congregations about its real motives.” Gamaliel is also famous for its ties to Obama’s early days as a community organizer in Chicago in the early 1980s. Obama conducted trainings for Gamaliel staff and named Gamaliel as a consultant to his Developing Communities Project when he embarked upon law school. (For more on the Gamaliel Foundation, see Foundation Watch, July 2010.)
The BFF has donated $500,000 since 2010 to the Brennan Center for Justice. The BCJ subscribes to an extreme activist jurisprudence that first came to prominence in President Woodrow Wilson’s “What is Progress?” speech that elaborated the concept of “the living constitution.” Proponents of the living constitution hold that the principles of the Declaration, the federalist doctrine of narrowly circumscribed powers, and the Constitution’s system of checks and balances are outdated and optional, unless they can be harnessed to achieve what Wilson called “the common task and purpose” of the evolving social organism. In this view, the Constitution has no fixed meaning or principles, but means whatever Supreme Court judges deem to be in the economic or social interest of the country. The radically egalitarian goal of far-left jurisprudence is to invoke the General Welfare clause and the rhetoric of the common good in order to legitimate government regulation of markets, social institutions, and individual freedoms at a level sufficient to guarantee that the genuinely democratic principle of equality before the law is subordinated to equality of results. Traditional due process is to be replaced by what leftist scholars euphemistically call “substantive due process.” For more on the Brennan Center, see Organization Trends, April 2014.)
Other Bauman Foundation grantees include PICO National Network ($80,000 in 2012), US Action Education Fund ($1,580,000 since 2003), National Council of La Raza ($275,000 in 2012), and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which used to be run by leftist Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie ($400,000 since 2001).
The BFF has helped to generate the torrent of “dark money” flows that the far-left hypocritically bemoans. For instance, the BFF has donated $6,265,000 since 2004 to the Tides Foundation and $2,665,000 since 2006 to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors—both organizations that take such donations and surreptitiously pass them on to other groups. The BFF has also donated to environmental groups seeking to crush the “fossil fuel” industries. The BFF donated $5,060,000 since 2001 to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and $500,000 since 2002 to the League of Conservation Voters. The BFF also supports extreme labor groups that seek to implement “card check” legislation (which would take away the secret ballot when workers decide whether to unionize) and that lobby to enact job-killing minimum wage hikes for the self-interested reason that union pay raises are often automatically triggered by minimum wage hikes. The BFF has donated to the union front groups Working America ($250,000 since 2010) and to Working America Education Fund ($600,000 since 2009).
The Bauman Foundation’s website states that Lionel Bauman’s daughter, Patricia Bauman, “became the Foundation’s first President and Co-Director, along with her husband John Landrum Bryant, Vice-President and Co-Director.” Although they are millionaires, they pay themselves generously. The foundation’s most recent tax filings show her total compensation as $230,000 and his as $105,800 (they both claim to work 40 hours a week for the foundation).
Patricia Bauman has degrees from Radcliffe and Georgetown University’s law school and is an especially powerful and influential leader of the Left. Her personal political giving has gone to such left-wing politicians as Sherrod Brown, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Russ Feingold, Al Gore, Kweisi Mfume, and Barack Obama.
She is vice chairman of the Democracy Alliance, a secretive funding group founded by George Soros that has steered at least $500 million into liberal and pro-Democratic Party groups (see Foundation Watch, November 2014). She co-chairs the board of Catalist—arguably the Left’s most powerful electoral weapon—with the AFL-CIO’s political director, Michael Podhorzer. The for-profit (and therefore non-disclosing) Catalist is a state-of-the-art data firm that services both “nonpartisan” radical groups and every would-be Democrat officeholder who can afford it, including President Obama. It was founded by President Clinton’s most notorious aide, Harold Ickes (see Organization Trends, November 2012).
Patricia Bauman also serves as co-chair of the Brennan Center for Justice, which leads the Left’s assault on voter ID laws (see Organization Trends, April 2014). She is a vice chair of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and was a founding donor and advisory council member of J Street, which describes itself as “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.” J Street has featured Obama administration speakers like White House aide Valerie Jarrett and Vice President Joe Biden at its meetings, reports DiscoverTheNetworks, and has criticized Israeli efforts to topple the terrorist group Hamas, because it “has been the government, law and order, and service provider since it won the [Palestinian] elections in January 2006.”
In July 2011, Gary D. Bass was named executive director. He previously ran the left-wing advocacy group OMB Watch, which he founded in 1983, and he remains “an affiliated professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute where he teaches about nonprofit advocacy and social change.” His writings at the Huffington Post reveal him to be a tax, spend, and tax some more liberal adherent of Keynesian economic stimulus spending. His writings offer pronouncements, rather than arguments, against low tax, pro-growth policies and supply-side economics.
The foundation’s board includes, in addition to Patricia Bauman, two other family members, Amy and Jessica Bauman, the former a clinical social worker and the latter a theater director.
Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, also serves on the board. On Dec. 1, 2007, CCC put on a major forum for community organizers from across the U.S. Bhargava went on stage to introduce the keynote speaker, Barack Obama, and asserted that America is “a society that is still deeply structured by racism and sexism.” He then elicited from Obama a pledge that if elected president in 2008, he would call upon CCC and other community-organizing groups to “help [the new administration] shape the agenda.”
Bhargava’s Huffington Post writings are redolent of redistributive central economic planning and the Marxist rhetoric of class warfare. This rhetoric is merely a tactic in Bhargava’s far-left quest to enable the administrative state to encroach upon the self-determination of the state governments and the freedom of civil society, and ultimately to supplant the genuinely democratic vision of justice as equality before the law with a socialist equality of outcome.
The foundation’s remaining board members are:
* David Brock (head of Media Matters for America and the left-wing super PAC American Bridge 21st Century; see the December 2014 Organization Trends).
* Marcia Avner (a consultant and author of The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations).
* Anne Bartley (a human rights “activist and funder” who helped found the union get-out-the-vote group America Coming Together and the shadowy billionaire funders’ group Democracy Alliance; she also serves on the boards of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, America Votes, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund).
* John Landrum Bryant (Patricia Bauman’s husband; oversees the foundation’s investments and “is a polymath designer of jewelry, furniture, lighting and bath and home accessories”; in 2012 he was sued for $6 million over sexual harassment allegations made by a 24-year-old immigrant maid, who said he was ordered to strip to his underwear and give Bryant a massage).
* Anne Hess (a philanthropist and political activist in New York City who is co-founder and current co-chair of MADRE, an organization that offers technical assistance and direct support to women’s groups all over the world).
* Kevin W. Irwin (a professor at the Catholic University of America and co-editor of the Georgetown University Press volume, Preserving the Creation: Environmental Theology and Ethics, to which he contributed an essay on the sacramentality of creation and the role of creation in liturgy and sacraments).
* The Rev. Walter G. Lewis (a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Richmond who reportedly “managed multimillion dollar development programs and supervised construction of two large church and school projects”).
* Gerald Torres (a professor at the University of Texas Law School “and a leading figure in critical race theory” as well as “an expert in agricultural and environmental law”; he was “honored with the 2004 Legal Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund [MALDEF]” and is “Chair of the Advancement Project and a Trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council”).
The Bauman Family Foundation financially supports the full-range of far-left agenda items, such as open borders amnesty, doing away with any sort of Voter ID and ballot integrity laws, doing away with the secret ballot when workers vote whether to unionize (“card check”), and the extreme environmental demand to eliminate the “fossil fuels” industry. The leadership of the BFF advances the social justice ideology of the many community organizing groups that it supports. Its primary goal is to achieve “the values of a true democratic society—the common good and general welfare, as articulated in the Constitution.”
Of course, the common good has been the general aim of any free and law-governed society that ever existed; the practical question is how the common good can be realized. How does a premier funder of numerous community organizing groups like the Bauman Foundation understand the common good and general welfare? The generic term ‘Community Organizer’ signifies that the whole of civil society—families, schools, autonomous social institutions, corporations, small businesses, and free-markets—must be organized from the outside for the sake of the leftist vision of the common good, understood as equality of result. The very term implies that social and economic inequality cannot be helped by local self-government, the spontaneous emergence of social institutions, and the creative destruction of free markets that have been the glory of America since her founding.
The community organizer aspires to supplant the American political system of ordered liberty under constitutional limits with a comprehensive regulatory state. What animates the grantees of the Bauman Family Foundation is an ideologically driven desire to generate not equality of opportunity through increased social spending and educational programs, but a radically egalitarian equality of results through legislation and, when possible, regulatory fiat. This is what becomes of the common good and democratic equality before the law in the extreme progressive vision of the political community.
Jonathan M. Hanen is a freelance writer and political consultant based in Washington, D.C. A native of Connecticut, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University.