By CRAIG McGRATH
Special to The Progressive Populist
With the Philadelphia volunteerism summit behind us, it may be well to look
at what forces are driving the volunteerism agenda and providing the ideological
framework for the privatizing of welfare programs across the country. While
most liberal folks are banished from the airwaves and out of the political
debate, the right and far right is increasing its control of the political
agenda. The current debate on welfare reform, which along with charitable
giving and volunteerism often is framed in terms of "civic renewal,"
is a model of conservative efficiency in controlling the agenda. A case
in point is the recent debate over whether volunteering should become a
requirement for living in public housing.
A bill, H.R. 2, put forward by the Republican leadership in the House, would
require welfare recipients in public housing under 65 years old and unemployed
to "volunteer" eight hours of unpaid work each month or face eviction
from their homes. An amendment sponsored by Representative Jesse Jackson
Jr. (D-Ill.) to exempt young mothers and primary care-givers with children
under six failed in the House on May 1 on a largely party-line vote.
Representative Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked at the time of the floor fight
whether the owners of public housing were also going to be required to volunteer
eight hours a month. The answer from the bill's sponsor, Republican Dave
Weldon of Florida, was "no." Then Kennedy asked if the recipients
of Export-Import bank loans would be required to volunteer. The answer from
Jim Leach, an alleged moderate Republican from Iowa backing the volunteerism
plan, was again "no." The Republican bill, requiring unpaid work,
passed the House by a wide margin on May 14 and went on to the Senate.
WHILE THE POLITICAL STRUGGLE goes on in Washington to cut back aid
to the poor and require volunteer work every month as a condition to have
a home, a larger ideological process is at work in the civic renewal, volunteerism
and welfare debate. To make palatable the cutting of benefits, and get the
public's mind into the correct position on volunteerism, the rights foundations
and media personalities have swung into high gear. A new commission, funded
with foundation money, is trying to frame the debate on civic renewal and
volunteerism. The National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal
was ballyhooed through the media this past spring.
This group is a project of the far-right Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation
of Milwaukee and its president, Michael Joyce. The commission kicked off
with a conference last September and has met several times over the last
nine months. Its chairman is former Republican Presidential candidate Lamar
Alexander, clearly a man with high ambitions. Alexander's press releases
have stated that his commission would provide a "road map" for
charitable giving and volunteerism in communities across the country. The
commission's vice-chairman is Reed Coleman, a board member of the Bradley
Foundation. Coleman's background includes being a former military intelligence
officer and former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican party.
A brief road map of the Bradley Foundation might be useful here. The foundation
was originally formed in 1942 by two Milwaukee brothers, Harry and Lynde
Bradley, who ran the Allen-Bradley company. Allen-Bradley was a defense
contractor that made radio and electrical parts for the military. The foundation
was created to propagate the views of the Bradleys, especially Harry Bradley,
on a number of issues.
Harry Bradley was a member of the John Birch Society and made many contributions
to William F. Buckley's National Review. His extremely conservative
views were well known to employees of his company. He died in 1965.
The Bradley Foundation was an obscure institution until it leapt to super-star
status on the far right in 1985 when the defense contractor Rockwell International
paid $1.6 billion to buy Allen-Bradley out. Over $290 million from the sale
was directed into the Bradley Foundation's coffers. Overnight the foundation
became a major player in the funding of the right's think-tank, book-generating
and media machine.
After the buy-out, the Bradley Foundation began creating "fellows"
at think tanks and universities across the country. It set up or financed
clone think tanks, like the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, which became
a haven for Milwaukee far-right radio crank, Charlie Sykes. It was a primary
sponsor, through large grants, of the work of Charles Murray including his
books Losing Ground, which called for the abolition of all social
programs and The Bell Curve, which theorized that intelligence was
connected to race.
Even after Murray was let go by the conservative Manhattan Institute because
of this controversial book, Bradley continued to fund Murray at the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington. Michael Joyce at the time called Murray
"one of the foremost social thinkers in the country." If there's
any question that Joyce harbors far right views himself, consider his comment
in a September 1996 foundation newsletter, Wingspread, where he called
the Republican election victories of 1994 and the arrival of Republican
majorities on Capitol Hill, "America's version of the Revolution that
ended Eastern Europe's submission to too much government three years earlier."
Today Bradley's assets stand at nearly $450 million and it gives away between
$25 million and $30 million dollars annually in grants, almost exclusively
to the hard right.
At its founding meeting the Bradley civic renewal commission had several
keynote speakers. The first was Gertrude Himmelfarb, wife of conservative
icon Irving Kristol and mother of conservative talking head Bill Kristol.
Bill was Dan Quayle's chief of staff when he was vice-president. Having
written extensively on the Victorians, Ms. Himmelfarb openly advocates going
back to the predatory free-market society of the 1880s and 90s, when life,
for most, was short and brutish. Her view of the whys and where fors of
poor and disabled people is equally Victorian. Give them plenty of that
old time religion and things will be fine. Charity in the 1890s was a "source
of moral inspiration and gratification" for the wealthy, she told the
Washington Times at the time of the conference.
Another keynoter was Robert Woodson, president of the National Center for
Neighborhood Enterprise, a long time right talking head like Bill Kristol
and a regular on PBS, Fox and ABC as a basher of all things connected with
the government and civil rights movement. He may feel that way because,
according to foundation records, his Center receives an annual grant of
$225,000 from the Bradley Foundation. Woodson, however, is not above taking
government money. In March of this year his Center took thousands of dollars
from the Washington, D.C., housing authority to put gang members to work
on temporary graffiti-cleaning jobs in the Benning Heights neighborhood
THE MAKEUP OF THE Bradley civic renewal commission is telling in
its links to the Olin Foundation, yet another conservative funder. Commission
member Kenneth Dam, a former Reagan administration State Department official,
directs the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University
of Chicago. He received a grant from Olin of $740,000 in 1994-95 for his
Bradley commission member Chester Finn is a colorful character and former
assistant secretary of education when William Bennett headed that agency
under Ronald Reagan. He's a guy who likes to use McCarthyite rhetoric to
tar his opponents, once calling the non-conservative Joyce Foundation and
its director Deborah Leff "a fellow traveler of the education establishment."
Finn was given an Olin Foundation fellowship at the Indianapolis-based Hudson
Institute worth $250,000 in grants during 1994-95. In 1993, Olin gave Hudson
$100,000 for a fellowship for William Bennett and another $25,000 so Dan
Quayle could have a competitiveness project at the think tank. Bennett need
not worry, for the last two years he has been given a $125,000 annual grant
by Olin to work at the Heritage Foundation on Capitol Hill.
The Olin fortune that funds its foundation was built on the ammunition and
weapons business. The Olin Foundation's president for many years has been
former corporate raider William E. Simon. The Bradley Foundation-Olin Foundation
fusion is all the more clear since Bradley Foundation president Michael
Joyce was the executive director of the Olin Foundation from 1979 to 1985
before he moved out to head Bradley in Wisconsin.
The financial support of the New York-based Olin Foundation ripples through
the membership roster of the Bradley civic renewal commission. Commission
member Kimberly Dennis, for instance, worked as a staffer for the Olin Foundation
for five years and recently left her executive director position at the
Philanthropy Roundtable, an Indianapolis-based group of 400 right non-profits
set up in 1991 to counter the larger and more mainstream Council of Foundations.
The president of the Roundtable is, guess who, none other than Bradley Foundation
president Michael Joyce. It's probably worth mentioning that Bradley Commission
chairman Lamar Alexander has himself been a grantee of the Bradley Foundation
to the tune of $50,000 given to him through the Hudson Institute for a project
called the "American Dream." The balance of the membership of
the Bradley commission are local charity directors from around the country,
some of whom have been grantees of the Bradley Foundation.
Most observers remember that Lamar Alexander ran against Bob Dole in 1996
and will no doubt be a candidate for president in 2000. With his chairmanship
of the Bradley-sponsored commission on civic renewal, he has a launching
platform for his presidential aspirations. He will have instant media cachet
when it comes to welfare reform, volunteerism and what is "good"
for civil society over the next few years. The question is how much influence
his benefactors at the Bradley Foundation and their far right ideology will
have, not only over the debate on welfare reform and volunteerism, but over
Alexander's political aspirations. The report of the Bradley-sponsored National
Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal is due out in mid-June when
the Congress will likely be in recess.
Craig McGrath is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.Home
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