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Conniff writes: "It's 'the most powerful organization in America that no one seems to know about.'"

Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive of the Bradley Foundation, which during the period of 2001 to 2009, doled out nearly as much money as the seven Koch and Scaife foundations combined. (photo: Free Wisconsin)
Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive of the Bradley Foundation, which during the period of 2001 to 2009, doled out nearly as much money as the seven Koch and Scaife foundations combined. (photo: Free Wisconsin)


A GOP Funder That's Bigger and Darker Than the Koch Brothers

By Ruth Conniff, The Progressive

04 May 13

 

t's "the most powerful organization in America that no one seems to know about."

That's how Scot Ross, executive director of the progressive think tank One Wisconsin Institute, describes the Bradley Foundation.

Unlike David Koch of the Koch Brothers, whose cover was blown when a gonzo blogger named Ian Murphy (editor of the Buffalo Beast and a frequent contributor to The Progressive), impersonated him in a prank call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The Milwaukee based Bradley Foundation operates off the mainstream media radar. Yet the group has made more than $530 million in grants and awards since 1985, making it a much, much bigger giver to rightwing causes than the Koch brothers. With more than $290 million in assets, Bradley is one of the biggest foundations in the United States.

A new report by Ross's group One Wisconsin Now reveals the Bradley Foundation's particular focus on privatizing the public schools.

Among the report's findings:

  • The Bradley Foundation, headed by Governor Scott Walker's campaign co-chair Michael Grebe, has underwritten a massive, pro-privatization propaganda campaign, including "a systematic and relentless campaign to turn public opinion against the public school system."
  • Bradley has spent more than $31 million since 2001 supporting organizations promoting education privatization, academics providing favorable pro-privatization pseudo-science, media personalities promoting the privatization agenda, and lobbying organizations advocating for privatization legislation.
  • The Bradley-financed campaign has manufactured an education "crisis," proposed a "solution," attacked and undermined the ability of potential opponents to block their agenda, and funded aggressive pro-privatization media and lobbying efforts.
  • The Bradley-financed Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has manipulated research and pressured a University of Wisconsin professor to downplay results that show school vouchers in a negative light, while highlighting scientifically dubious favorable results.

Way back in 1990, Bradley backed the first private-school voucher program in the nation, right in Milwaukee.

This year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to expand the voucher program to nine new counties, despite test results that show voucher students underperform compared with their public school peers.

Across the country, Bradley has given money to groups like Americans for Prosperity to tout school vouchers and other privatization efforts as an answer to "failing" public schools.

"Their financing is the cornerstone for the privatization of public schools not just in Wisconsin, but across America," Ross explains.

Ross calls the interlocking efforts of Bradley and other groups "a tax-deductible SuperPAC." The groups that have received funds from Bradley include the MacIver Institute, the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, the Manhattan Institute, and rightwing pundits including George Will, a member of the Bradley Foundation board of directors and recipient of a $250,000 Bradley "outstanding achievement" cash prize.

The free-market mission of the Bradley Foundation fits in nicely with a national rightwing pro-privatization agenda.

"We've seen this influx of out-of-state corporate money into Wisconsin," says Ross, who was active in the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. "Here we have this homegrown foundation pouring more money into the rightwing foundation network than probably any other entity in America."

Those close ties between the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation and the national rightwing network have had a helped turn Wisconsin, despite its progressive history, into an incubator for rightwing politics nationally.

Bradley CEO Michael Grebe was not only Scott Walker's campaign co-chair, Ross points out, "he's the person Paul Ryan calls his 'political godfather,' and the guy who sent the letter to the Republican Party saying Reince Priebus should be the next RNC chair."

Can a Scott Walker Presidential campaign be far behind?

Many bad rightwing ideas can be traced back to Bradley.

In a previous report, One Wisconsin Now found that Bradley financed voter suppression efforts back in 2010, including billboards in Wisconsin warning people of criminal penalties for voters who turned out to be ineligible to cast ballots.

School privatization is, arguably, the biggest, baddest rightwing idea sweeping the nation at the moment.

In Wisconsin, which has historically boasted excellent public schools, Walker's current budget calls for a huge funding increase to expand the private school voucher program and independent charter schools free from school-board oversight.

"To understand the scope of the raid on public education," the One Wisconsin Now report points out, "consider that the total funding for private school vouchers, charter and virtual schools will have increased over $150 million" between the introduction of Walker's first budget two years ago and the current one.

"Meanwhile, over the same two budgets, total state and local revenue available to fund public K-12 schools will have been reduced by well over $1 billion."

All across the country, similar legislative efforts to transfer tax money from public to private schools threaten the very idea of public education.

The more the public understands this coordinated, ideologically driven attack, the better armed they are to defend their local public schools.


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+80 # 666 2013-05-04 16:28
how do you get slaves in the 21st century? why, my dear, you just manufacture them, getting paid handsomely to do it...

the model being, of course, much more efficient that that of mussolini, hitler, or stalin...

welcome to the matrix!
 
 
+59 # Walter J Smith 2013-05-04 17:45
Radical Republicans have not given up on destroying everything republican about the US.

Killing public education is the centerpiece of destroying the entire republican tradition of preparing citizens to responsibly assume their civic challenges in a democratic republic.

Welcome to the Democratic Party supported modern GOP.
 
 
+31 # RLF 2013-05-05 09:54
Keep Americans uneducated and then import foreign educated to work. They will be racially and enthnicly harassed contantly by the uneducated masses...keepin g the poor looking at the poor...not at the rich bastards begging for the return of the guillatine!
 
 
+26 # Active Voice 2013-05-04 23:32
Can the author of this piece shed any light on the sources of Bradley's funding?
 
 
+19 # RMDC 2013-05-05 08:39
Most of its money comes from the Bradley manufacturing of electrical components. When the original brothers died, the business was sold and the wealth put into the foundation. The brothers were founders of the John Birch Society. Here's their top 30 funded orgs.

Charter School Growth Fund - $16.525 million

Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE) - $12.8 million

Encounter for Culture and Education - $10.75 million

Hudson Institute - $7 million

American Civil Rights Institute - $6.775 million

American Enterprise Institute - $5.664 million

Marquette University = $5.54 million

National Strategy Information Center - $4.393 million

David Horowitz Freedom Center - $3.725 million

Wisconsin Policy Research Institute - $3.61 million

Heritage Foundation - $3.38 million

Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace - $3.37 million

Federalist Society for Law and Public
Policy Studies - $3.25 million

University of Chicago - $3.15 million

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research - $3.15 million
Institute for Educational Advancement - $3.06 million

Freedom House - $3.06 million

Ethics and Public Policy Center - $2.94 million

American Tort Reform Foundation - $2.9 million

Institute for American Values - $2.565 million

Philanthropy Roundtable - $2.33 million

Intercollegiate Studies Institute - $2.1 million
 
 
+27 # Regina 2013-05-04 23:38
I am now very grateful for my grandchildren, who have refrained from producing great-grandchil dren in this wrecked country. We would have had to do home schooling, although I'm sure my curriculum wouldn't match the coming official courses and might have been attacked as subversive. And where would I have found textbooks for real sciences, accurate American history, and good literature?
 
 
+17 # reiverpacific 2013-05-05 10:25
Quoting Regina:
I am now very grateful for my grandchildren, who have refrained from producing great-grandchildren in this wrecked country. We would have had to do home schooling, although I'm sure my curriculum wouldn't match the coming official courses and might have been attacked as subversive. And where would I have found textbooks for real sciences, accurate American history, and good literature?

There is in the US, of necessity, a quite strong and growing Alternative media, as more thinking people find the appalling corporate-owned media empty of content.
I don't know where you live but there are many "alternative" book stores in almost every city in the country (even the South) carrying the likes of Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States" and a huge "subversive" (a.k.a. factual) range of literature and community, listener-funded radio stations like radio versions of RSN, starting with KPFA (Berkeley) KBOO, Portland spreading right across the country with passionate programmers providing in-depth and well researched productions on everything from national and international news, politics and public affairs and History, to music and other art forms, like "Appalshop", Whitesburg, KY, also carrying major news and archival broadcasts like Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" and David Barsamean's "Alternative Radio" all podcast and supporting themselves by listener donations and sales of recordings of progressive speakers.
I wish you luck.
 
 
+11 # Texas Aggie 2013-05-05 17:34
I have yet to find a used book store that carries Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States." It seems that whenever a copy comes in, it goes out the same day. I finally had to go on-line to get a copy.
 
 
+2 # Skanner 2013-05-06 16:37
That should tell you something of the book's quality. Thank goodness for eBooks and, even, torrents (although I doubt Mr.Zinn would mind if those who couldn't afford his book would get AND READ a pirated copy).
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-05-06 18:04
Quoting Texas Aggie:
I have yet to find a used book store that carries Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States." It seems that whenever a copy comes in, it goes out the same day. I finally had to go on-line to get a copy.

It should be required school reading -and has actually snuck into a few high school libraries but obviously not enough.
Imagine a US where the late Mr. Zinn, Chomsky, Parenti, Caldicott and so many others were as well-known as "Pish" Limpballs, Swine Hannity and Pill O'Reilly.
We might just get something progressive done.
 
 
+21 # grouchy 2013-05-04 23:49
This piece needs to be followed by a detailed description of the WHY behind all this effort! Just what the hell are these fat cats after with all this attempt to take over education? What exactly do they have in mind anyway? If we know the answers here, we can debate and argue against this takeover attempt and do so based on real facts and data. Currently we can only dance around the edges and speculate.
 
 
+20 # mdhome 2013-05-05 09:13
The why? Todays profit, no concern for tomorrows cost of todays profit.
 
 
+30 # brianf 2013-05-05 10:39
I'm sure it's the same as all privatization schemes. There is the opportunity of making huge sums of money by transferring tax money from government to private organizations. In the end, the cost will be higher, the quality will be worse, the country will deteriorate, and a few people will get very rich.
 
 
+8 # Texas Aggie 2013-05-05 17:38
I'm sure that is a big part of it, especially with the smaller, fly-by-night enterprises, but there may be more to it than that. Here in Texas, the charter schools have a record of fraud and chicanery unseen since the time of O. Henry, but they aren't the ones pushing the privatization of the school systems. They're just taking advantage of it.

I wonder what the whole motivation of the pushers is.
 
 
+42 # tm7devils 2013-05-05 00:35
Don't you just love it? The GOP is trying to dumb down America...and making us fund the process with our tax dollars. They probably think that if it works, they can double the size of their party.
If the public school system goes the way of the dinosaur, parents will have to pay to get their children into schools...there by insuring that the bottom 20% in this country are not only poor...but ignorant as well - and destined to stay that way.
Those of us who can think past our noses have to make sure that their sick plan has no chance of working.
 
 
-23 # Susan1989 2013-05-05 04:53
The public school system is failing because it cannot remove students from schools when they consistently disrupt the education process for everyone else. Ask any teacher...it is that simple. As a result the bullies and disfunctional rule, while everyone else is a victim. I sacrificed to send my children to private school because I knew they would be ensured a safe and sane environment where students remained quiet long enough to learn. The great advantage private schools have is the ability to permanently expell students who make the educational environment a living hell for everyone else. Our public school system is based upon the concept that everyone is deserving of an education...reg ardless of the danger and misery they create for the others around them. Once chronically disruptive and abusive students can be expelled and sent to special environments that have specially trained teachers, public education will continue to deteriorate. The public needs to fully understand that educators have been stripped of the tools to maintain calm environments conducive to education...wit h no consequences to disruptive students.
 
 
+20 # brianf 2013-05-05 10:41
Students can be expelled from public schools.
 
 
+8 # angelfish 2013-05-05 11:55
Quoting Susan1989:
I sacrificed to send my children to private school because I knew they would be ensured a safe and sane environment where students remained quiet long enough to learn. Our public school system is based upon the concept that everyone is deserving of an education...regardless of the danger and misery they create for the others around them. Once chronically disruptive and abusive students can be expelled and sent to special environments that have specially trained teachers, public education will continue to deteriorate. The public needs to fully understand that educators have been stripped of the tools to maintain calm environments conducive to education...with no consequences to disruptive students.

The failure is in the School System in your Town or State. Disruptive kids CAN be expelled or removed from class if disturbing the learning environment. Everyone DOES deserve an education. We just need to make a learning environment that inspires and encourages all kids. There are always a few bad apples in the barrel but if they are allowed to disrupt the learning process for their entire class, the problem lies more with the Teachers and Administrators who tolerate the bad behavior.
 
 
0 # hobbesian 2013-05-06 16:42
Rubbish.
 
 
+44 # myungbluth 2013-05-05 05:48
My understanding is that "civics" or something like it has ceased to be taught in schools long ago. No wonder why we now have a nation of dummies, who not only know nothing about how a democracy functions, but are increasingly susceptible to right-wing lies, and historical re-writes.
 
 
+29 # julillywk 2013-05-05 08:48
Many people do not understand that the voucher concept was thought up by Michael Joyce the former head of the Bradley Foundation. In an exit interview of him as he left Milwaukee for Washington DC, he was asked about vouchers and how he came up with them. He said it was because public schools were another example of America's pervasive "socialism" and that they needed to be replaced by the free market.
So, for years people have been arguing about charters, vouchers vs public schools, not realizing the basic nature of this dispute (whether there should be a profit motive in the education of children), but also not talking about what we really should be discussing: how to educate poor children.
 
 
+23 # Regina 2013-05-05 13:27
But there's more -- they want a population of "believers" who will parrot all the rot they'd be fed in place of real education, so that as adults they would continue to be suckers for Joyce and his wealth-rakers. They don't want thinkers -- that might derail their profits.
 
 
+14 # Jdkahler 2013-05-05 15:02
What's being missed is the significant influence of the Catholic Church, which has sen it's influence decline precipitously as it can no longer support it's private, religious schools, and wants public money via vouchers to support it's ideology. Even in Pennsylvania, where the state constitution has clear separation of church and state requirements thanks to its founding by William Penn, there have been numerous efforts to bring public funds to religious schools, and those dollars have been sneaking in, bit by bit. The profit motive is just a part. It's ideological control that is the overall goal.
 
 
+36 # RMDC 2013-05-05 08:48
The Bradley Foundation's Mission

"The Bradley brothers were committed to preserving and defending the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise that has enabled the American nation and, in a larger sense, the entire Western world to flourish intellectually and economically. The Bradleys believed that the good society is a free society. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is likewise devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nurture it. Its programs support limited, competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense, at home and abroad, of American ideas and institutions. In addition, recognizing that responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens and informed public opinion, the Foundation supports scholarly studies and academic achievement."

I always wonder if right wingers really do believe or understand what they say in their mission statements. None of the organization they fund have any interest in "freedom," "good society," "enlightened citizens," and the rest. They fund fascist organizations. David Horowitz is a fascist and a racist. He supports war and extermination. Same with Heritage and Hoover.

Are they just lying or do they really think that "freedom" and the "good society" are the goals of fascism?
 
 
-24 # jwb110 2013-05-05 12:20
If a privatized educational system is what they want why use any public funds at all? An education is not guaranteed Constitutionall y so let the schools run like businesses and run themselves like any other businesses in America.
There should be no tax dollars involved at all. Why should the tax payer pay for the infrastructure of a private business!? It flies in the face of reason!
 
 
+16 # Regina 2013-05-05 13:30
Why in hell should we provide their private profit-driven business with a total-sucker patronage? We need REAL public education, turning out thinkers and analysts and critics to stave off this takeover and any other that they might dream up.
 
 
+18 # Jdkahler 2013-05-05 15:13
Education is not a federal issue, but is written into state constitutions (I know it is in my state). Sorry jeb, it is very much a government responsibility. How that flies into the face of reason I have know idea, in the US is would be a response to the inequality that many of those experienced who founded our great nation and it's states. Education is - ideally - an equalizer essential to a democracy. A free, public education should be the ideal of a free nation. The where all citizens are well equipped to be full citizens. Our republic is not libertarian, so don't apply the libertarian definition of reason to it. Just remember, the Constitution begins with three simple words, "We the people" - not me the independent capitalist. Or were the founders fundamentally flawed in the nation they built, and which has endured for centuries?
 
 
+6 # tonywicher 2013-05-07 18:43
What these idiot Birchers call "socialism" is actually the very essence of the United States as a nation. Once you privatize everything, you have no country left. There is supposed to be a government that harmonizes the private interests in the interest of the general welfare. If that is gone what you have is pure fascism.
 
 
+2 # mim 2013-05-07 23:09
The Koch brothers' cover was blown before that phone prank; by Jane Mayer's exposé in the New Yorker.
 

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