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Saturday, May 06, 2017


Tentacles of Rage revisited

by Tom Sullivan

How many times, Dear Reader, have you been in conversations about the lack of progressive infrastructure for pushing back against the conservative octopus? All we have is poor George Soros. As conservative propaganda mills tell it, he does it all himself. After the Tax Day protests by people Soros supposedly paid, I offered via Twitter $100 for a cancelled Soros check. I'm still waiting.

Movement conservatives and their progeny have no such funding issues. Frank Rich listed 25 (and counting) million-dollar-plus conservative PAC donors during the 2012 campaign. In September 2004, Lewis Lapham spelled out in Harper's the networks of think tanks ("Tentacles of Rage") supporting conservative activism. These are just the larger ones:

The Bradley Foundation was right there at the top then. Today their assets are somewhat larger, explains Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, "With $835 million in assets as of June 2016, the Bradley Foundation is as large as the three Koch family foundations combined..."

The length of Milwaukee-based Bradley's tentacles has just been revealed thanks to 56,000 internal documents released by international hackers (Anonymous Poland, purportedly). The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Bradley is "working to duplicate its success in Wisconsin under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, focusing on such swing states as North Carolina and Colorado." The paper's review concludes:

The records make clear the Bradley Foundation no longer simply favors groups promoting its signature issues: taxpayer-funded school choice and increased work requirements for welfare recipients. It now regularly funds nonprofits that are, among other things, hostile to labor unions, skeptical of climate change or critical of the loosening of sexual mores in American culture.

More important, the foundation has found success by changing its fundamental approach to putting policies into reality.
Washington is now passe. Bradley is focusing on building infrastructure and influence in the states.

The report continues:
The internal records show the new dollars have already been spent in several states, including:
  • Starting in 2016, the foundation put $575,000 into five groups in Colorado, a key swing state. One group uses the money to recruit and train conservative activists and candidates while two others have the stated goal "to defund teachers unions."
  • Bradley Foundation officials are giving $1.5 million over three years to two organizations in North Carolina, another swing state, to "create a comprehensive communications infrastructure around four primary elements: radio, online content aggregation, mobile applications and an AP-style news service for local newspapers." One group has acquired a Drudge Report-style website called Carolina Plott Hound.
  • In the states of Washington and Oregon, a group called the Freedom Foundation was awarded $1.5 million over three years to "educate union workers themselves about their rights — which, if and when exercised, would defund Big Labor."
Mary Bottari elaborates in her report, "Weaponized Philanthropy":
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 Barder Fund, August 18, 2015). A Bradley video geared toward enticing other funders to join the cause puts it more bluntly: “Together we can help keep our Great Lakes blue and our states red.”

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 trial attorneys and Big Labor” are the “two principal funding pillars of the left,” the Bradley documents claim on multiple occasions (Center for America, Grant Proposal Record, 8/19/214) (NRWLDF, Grant Proposal Record, 11/12/2013).
CMD made Bradley's "enemies list."

So don't expect Bradley's tax status to receive review under any Republican administration.

What makes such groups successful at moving forward their agendas is not simply money or smarts. It is tenacity, as I wrote here:
I used to describe George W. Bush as a Jack Russell terrier playing tug of war with a knotted rope. Once he sank his teeth into something, he simply would not let go. You could lift him bodily off the ground and watch his butt cut circles in the air as he wrestled with his end of it. But in the end you would tire of the game first, let go, and he'd retire triumphantly to his doggy bed with his prize. I was never sure myself whether I meant that as a cut or a compliment.
Liberals think in election cycles. Conservatives build infrastructure because they play the long game with patience and discipline. The impact of their positions on the general welfare, as the founders phrased it, has little to do with their success. They just don't quit. Lapham wrote over a decade ago:
As long ago as 1964 even William F. Buckley understood that the thunder on the conservative right amounted to little else except the sound and fury of middle-aged infants banging silver spoons, demanding to know why they didn't have more—more toys, more time, more soup; when Buckley was asked that year what the country could expect if it so happened that Goldwater was elected president, he said, "That might be a serious problem." So it has proved, if not under the baton of the senator from Arizona then under the direction of his ideologically correct heirs and assigns. An opinion poll taken in 1964 showed 62 percent of the respondents trusting the government to do the right thing; by 1994 the number had dwindled to 19 percent. The measure can be taken as a tribute to the success of the Republican propaganda mill that for the last forty years has been grinding out the news that all government is bad, and that the word "public," in all its uses and declensions (public service, citizenship, public health, community, public park, commonwealth, public school, etc.), connotes inefficiency and waste.
The Journal-Sentinel account echoes that assessment:
"The word I would use is grit," said Mike Tate, a former state Democratic Party chairman who works with liberal nonprofits and candidates. "They have a 15- or 20-year vision, and they are executing it. They have their eyes on the horizon the whole time. That is not something seen in a substantial way in the progressive movement."
Republicans know that. It is why they will try to wear out the #Resistance . Because they know they can.