May 9, 2017; Cap Times (Madison, WI)
An opinion column in the progressive Cap Times shows evidence that the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is funding a national effort to “assess and expand right-wing ‘infrastructure’ to influence policies and politicians nationwide.”
Though many are aware of the Koch family foundations’ role in right-wing funding, fewer have heard of the Bradley Foundation, which, with $835 million in assets as of June 2016, is as large as the Koch foundations combined. In a recent investigation, the Center for Media and Democracy, a national investigative watchdog group, concluded,
The Bradley Foundation, organized as a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code, appears to be pursuing a highly partisan game plan: funding an “infrastructure” on the right that benefits the Republican Party, while at the same time attempting to crush supporters of the Democratic Party.
The Center for Media and Democracy examined Bradley Foundation documents that were released in 2016 via Twitter accounts connected to the Russian hackers tied to the breach of the Democratic National Committee. The documents reveal that Bradley “has a new stream of funding to build this ‘conservative infrastructure’ and is using a metric to assess the strength and depth of that infrastructure in individual states—including ‘receptive’ politicians, right-wing ‘think tanks,’ symbiotic ‘grassroots’ groups, friendly media, litigation centers, and opposition research—to guide Bradley’s strategic funding initiatives.”
Bradley describes its goal as advancing “conservatism,” but the files link “receptivity to conservative policy reform” to “unified control” of governorships, legislatures, and state Supreme Courts by the Republican Party… The documents also reveal that Bradley is bankrolling groups across the nation that are working to defund and dismantle unions.
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Regarding the Bradley Foundation’s efforts to defund and dismantle unions, Marcus Owen, who served as director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service for 10 years, told the Center for Media and Democracy, “There is no basis for the proposition that defunding labor unions is a charitable purpose within the Internal Revenue Code.”
The documents also reveal that a key partner in Bradley’s effort is Berman and Co., run by Richard Berman, described by Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, as “an aggressive propagator of industry spin and disinformation, profiled by 60 Minutes as a ‘hired gun’ for corporate America.” Berman has targeted “nonprofit environmental, worker rights, consumer, and animal welfare organizations” via propaganda websites and public relations and social media campaigns.
Over the course of a decade, Bradley also awarded $1.77 million to the Association of American Educators Foundation. Bottari suggests that Berman and Bradley aim to silence “the organized voice of public school teachers” and to “advance taxpayer vouchers for private and religious schools.” The new Berman project, the Interstate Policy Alliance, invests in strategic infrastructure
as a “discrete channel” for cookie-cutter reports for member groups to publish to “maximize credibility,” and to train Bradley-funded groups in “crisis communication” and opposition research…The key to success, the documents say, is “well sourced opposition research already prepared and ready to deploy” against opponents.
All of this contributes to the evidence pointing to a powerful private foundation “weaponizing philanthropy for their own private political purposes,” according to Bottari.—Cyndi Suarez