Foundation Watch

The Ford Foundation’s Ugly, Warped View of America:
Megaphones and Militancy

The Ford Foundation’s Ugly, Warped View of America (full series)
Megaphones and Militancy | Funding for Politics
Big Labor, Big Government, Big Censorship | Media and Climate Alarmism
This Is Who They Are

The Ford Foundation is filled with money earned a century ago by Henry Ford in gritty Dearborn, Michigan. But neither the family nor the automaker control it anymore. Decades ago, it was taken over by left-wing bureaucrats working in a glitzy New York City building. Everything the Ford Foundation does today can and probably should be understood from the perspective of well-paid would-be revolutionaries who sit atop a $16 billion mountain of money and believe most Americans are irredeemably awful.  

Reporting net assets of $16.4 billion at the end of 2022, the Ford Foundation has reliably been ranked for many recent years as one of the five wealthiest private foundations in the United States. The annual grants given away from Ford now range from $700 million to $1 billion. If it were a for-profit firm, it could have a market capitalization rivaling one of the nation’s 500 largest publicly traded corporations.

The foundation is just part of the treasure amassed by auto titan Henry Ford, but today it is neither controlled by the Ford Motor Company nor the Ford family. Decades ago, the professional philanthrocrats controlling it decamped from where the money was earned, in gritty Dearborn, Michigan, to a glitzy building in New York City. Today, the foundation staffers collect $79 million in annual salaries and benefits to give away Henry’s money.

Henry Ford wouldn’t recognize the awful America portrayed in the grants, but his confusion would be shared by most Americans living today.

For example, from the start of 2022 through July 2023, Ford gave at least 13 grants totaling more than $8.4 million to NEO Philanthropy, which operates many left-leaning (and sometimes stridently left-leaning) political advocacy projects.

The Ford description for a grant to NEO’s MPower Change project said the loot was meant “to build grassroots Muslim power while advancing social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people.” A social media meme promoted on the home page of MPower explains what this vague happy talk really means. It features a woman with a clenched fist held high, holding a homemade sign reading “Capitalism Kills Workers: Rise-Up.” Muslim-American entrepreneurs and other capitalists interested in accessing grassroots power of a non-revolutionary flavor will need to look elsewhere. The Ford staffers want change from Marxists.

The meme on MPower’s webpage features a woman with a clenched fist held high, holding a homemade sign reading “Capitalism Kills Workers: Rise-Up.” Credit: MPower. License:

One of history’s great capitalists, Henry Ford was responsible for hiking the standard of living of his workers rather than killing them off. He was lucky he didn’t live to see his life’s work squandered to promote communist canards.

His grandson, Henry Ford II wasn’t so fortunate. “The Deuce,” as he was colloquially known, Henry II was another legendary leader of the eponymous automaker—and a sharp critic of the Ford Foundation’s lefty lurch. In 1977, he publicly abandoned his trustee seat, leaving the foundation without a Ford on its board for decades thereafter.

The MPower grant is merely a recent example of longstanding bad behavior.

“In effect, the foundation is a creature of capitalism—a statement that, I’m sure, would be shocking to many professional staff in the field of philanthropy,” wrote The Duece in his acerbic resignation letter. “It is hard to discern recognition of this fact in anything the foundation does. It is even more difficult to find an understanding of this in many of the institutions, particularly the universities, that are the beneficiaries of the foundation’s grant programs.”

Henry Ford I had nothing to do with it and likely would have strongly objected, but the people in charge of his money have turned him into arguably American history’s biggest billionaire bankroller of the Left. Out of $888.8 million in grants approved from January 2022 through July 2023, at least $303 million (34 percent) went to left-leaning causes.

Another recent Ford grant for $1,000,000 went to the Youth Engagement Fund (YEF). The grant description stipulates the funding was “to promote a more reflective and participatory democracy in the U.S. with a focus on strengthening civic participation by young people of color.”  But as with the MPower’s biased outreach to Muslims, the “young people of color” YEF is looking for involves just one color: Democratic blue.

Among many examples of the lopsided “civic participation” this funded is an evaluation of YEF’s work with state-level groups during the 2018 election. YEF predicted hopefully that directing resources to groups communicating with “Latinx” young adults would “increase turnout among this base, which tend to have more progressive views on policies than Anglo youth and the general electorate.”

Money for Megaphones and Militancy

The second sentence on the YEF main page states that the group “serves as the megaphone for the youth civic engagement within the philanthropic sector.” Next to the statement is a young woman shouting into a bullhorn during a demonstration.

The Women’s March Network, recipient of $375,000 from Ford since 2022, literally brags of its street demonstrations and uses “WE ARE STILL THE RESISTANCE” as the slogan for its 2023 national conference.

The Sunrise Movement Education Fund received $250,000 from Ford in June 2022. This is the education affiliate of the Sunrise Movement, a leftist clan so crazed that they have staged disruptive protests outside the offices of Democrats they deem insufficiently insane on climate and energy policy.

These and other examples totaling almost $45.2 million in grants since 2022 show that promoting a militant leftist agenda or adorning a website home page with pictures of protesters yelling into amplified megaphones correlates closely with getting grants from Ford.

The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) has received more than $10.6 million since 2022. The CPD website boasts that the group has “consistently taken direct action” to advance its goals, and year-end reports for 2022 and 2021 each feature bullhorn-wielding demonstrators on the cover. In May 2023, demonstrators from the CPD Action Fund, the political advocacy arm of CPD, were arrested during a disruption inside congressional office buildings while protesting against debt-ceiling negotiations. Additional arrests occurred in 2018 when CPD claimed responsibility for demonstrations targeting Republican U.S. senators.

PowerSwitch Action, formerly known as the Partnership for Working Families, seeks a world where “land is commonly-owned” and an economy where “the rules for how goods are produced, services delivered, and wealth produced are governed democratically.” The Ford Foundation staffers appreciated the socialism enough to give at least $9 million to PowerSwitch since 2022.

The advocacy group Demos promotes reparations for slavery, cancellation of student loan debt, and a government guarantee of a “good job to any individual who wants one.” In September 2022 the Ford Foundation gave Demos a $6.5 million grant described as support for “building an economy and democracy that work for all Americans.”

Similarly, in December 2022 a $350,000 Ford grant to “support the ecosystem of organizations working on truth, reconciliation, and reparations” was given to PolicyLink. Additional Ford funding for slavery reparations work included $550,000 for the Decolonizing Wealth Project, a subsidiary of Allied Media Projects, and $200,000 for Project Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations.

The Public Policy and Education Fund of New York (PPEF) was created as the think tank companion for Citizen Action New York, a left-wing advocacy group. According to its vision statement (which includes a photo of megaphone-armed protesters) Citizen Action is “battling against racial capitalism, the interacting oppressive forces of racism and capitalism that show themselves through inequality and bigotry.”

Racial capitalism is a socialist construct that argues racism is inextricable from capitalism. Since 2022 the Ford Foundation has given four grants totaling more than $5.2 million to PPEF of New York.

Florida Rising Together is a left-wing voter mobilization nonprofit. The group’s 2021 Impact Report featured bullhorn toting demonstrators on the cover, and boasted that its “voter registration efforts” and “get out the vote programs” played a “critical role in changing the political conditions of the nation.” The mission statement claimed the group was devoted to making “progressive changes.”

The 2021 Florida Rising report explicitly confirms that it is a “501c3 organization”—supposedly an educational group, not a political group. Such groups are permitted to register voters, under the assumption that democratic participation is a public good. However, there is little question that Florida Rising has its thumb on the scale for a one-sided political outcome.

This should arguably be problematic for a 501(c)(3) donor such as the Ford Foundation, because according to the IRS, 501(c)(3) groups are prohibited from “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that . . . have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates.”

Nonetheless, Ford gave Florida Rising more than $3.7 million in 2022.

At least two other left-biased voter registration groups received funding from Ford in 2022: One Arizona received $200,000, and Power California was given $500,000. One Arizona has photos of megaphone-blaring protesters on the main page. A December 2022 Power California social media post claimed the group’s agenda was to “reimagine a world without capitalism.”

The other recent lefty grantee recipients with megaphone militancy pictured on their home pages include Family Values @Work ($6.5 million since 2022), Re:Power ($2.8 million), Center for Community Change ($650,000), Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition ($350,000), Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity ($350,000), and ACCE Institute ($100,000).

In the next installment, the Ford Foundation tens of millions of dollars to groups supporting left-wing political activists.

Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
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