Tag Archives: foundations

Arthur Brooks’s worldliness is showing

Because the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which spends $9 million per year getting its message out, needs help getting its message out, its president, Arthur Brooks is on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review again this week. When he’s not spending rich people’s money to, for example, advocate for more military funding, Brooks takes time to promote a feel-good, post-materialist message for the rich-who-just-happen-to-be-rich.

But there’s a funny thing in the middle of today’s message to “love people, use things.”

Easier said than done, I realize. It requires the courage to repudiate pride and the strength to love others — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, God and even strangers and enemies. Only deny love to things that actually are objects.

Wait, God? Why is God in the middle of this list of people we should love? You could say (as he has) that religious people are happier, and that loving God is part of an uplifting selflessness. But I suspect this is more a political nod. Brooks is making a name as a compassionate conservative, dedicated above all to free markets but making American conservatives nervous by dropping in the importance of “safety-net policies for the indigent” (definition of indigent obviously the question being begged).

His brand of right-wing politics is not practically separable from conservative religious groups and ideologies, so regardless of his beliefs (which I don’t know), he can’t exclude God. For example, the Donors Capital Fund (DCF), which at $19 million aince 1990 is one of the top contributors to AEI, and on whose board Brooks sits, gives millions to a mix of education causes (e.g., charter schools), religious organizations (e.g., the Israeli right wing and God’s World Publications), conservative think tanks (Hudson, Ayn Rand, Heritage), and Republican activists (FreedomWorks). It’s hard to get the God out of that mix, even if you wanted to.

It’s too easy to accuse people like Brooks of hypocrisy, so I won’t belabor this, but I also note that DCF in 2012 gave $125,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, which that year pursued a project the “strategic goal” of which was “to drive a wedge between gays and blacks” in their campaign to deny marriage to gays and lesbians. Isn’t love grand?

Other posts on American Enterprise Institute:


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Right-wing family watch: New kid paydirt edition


The new kid in the right-wing foundation sandbox is the Institute for Family Studies. They are “dedicated to strengthening marriage and family life, and advancing the well-being of children, through research and public education.”

IFStudies gives off a distinct Brad Wilcox essence. That’s not just because its mailing address is the same as that of the Ridge Foundation (which you’d have to describe as “shadowy”), whose 1099 filings list Wilcox as its president. It’s also that one of Ridge’s directors was one Ernest “Skip” Burzumato, who is the managing director of IFStudies, program director at Wilcox’s National Marriage Project, and an adjunct professor of sociology at Bridgewater College. (Aside: at Ridge, Wilcox in 2011 paid himself $35,000 — a little more than Ridge got from the Bradley Foundation “to support the National Marriage Project.”)

All this is not to be confused with last month’s new kid, the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which is “keenly interested in documenting those practices, habits, and structures that make for greater sources of family stability as well as provide persons with the greatest opportunity of flourishing emotionally, socially, and economically.” This looks like a donation destination for Mark Regnerus’s foundation money now that his University of Texas credibility has been poisoned.

Or last year’s revamped kid, David Blankenhorn’s Institute for American Values, whose “current priorities are marriage, thrift, and public conversation… [the] primary determinants of the health of civil society.” (The “Director of Thrift” at IAV, Barbara Whitehead, is paid a modest $110,000 per year.)

It’s too early to see (from the outside) whether there has been a significant redirection of the money stream for right-wing family research or just some shuffling around, career-enhancement, and cocktail-party money.

Follow your nose

If you don’t mind flipping through hundreds of pages of PDFs, you can find bits of money trails from the charitable foundation tax forms these folks file, some of which are searchable here. These make it clear that a few thousand dollars for a website, an accountant, and an “entertainment” budget line for Wilcox is not the issue.

The overarching project is large-scale tax evasion and media manipulation in the service of political and religious ideology. As the foundations launder their political contributions through tax-exempt “charities” like these, they build a legitimate facade for disseminating their message to gullible (or culpable) media, and bolstering the careers of their ideological foot-soldiers.

In the tax years 2009-2011 the Templeton Foundation gave the Institute for American Values more than $3 million, and the Bradley Foundation gave it $2.2 million. About half a million (per year) went to the Blankenhorns and Elizabeth Marquardt. A little went to Brad Wilcox’s National Marriage Project, and to the BA-boosted research team of David and Amber Lapp (all of whom appear on the roster of the new IFStudies). Templeton is a big funder of Christian Smith, the Notre Dame religion sociologist who was Mark Regnerus’s advisor at UNC, and who now sits with Regnerus on the letterhead of the Austin Institute. (Bradley, at $500k+, and too a lesser extent Templeton also support the Witherspoon Institute, which served as Wilcox’s vehicle for launching what became the Regnerus study).


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