Conservatives Say Philanthropic Groups Leave Them 'Out in the Cold'

July 7, 2008 - 8:20 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Conservative groups charge that the nation's largest philanthropic foundations have a "left-wing bias" that leaves conservative causes "out in the cold" with few other places to look for money.

"Regrettably, none of the top five foundations support conservative causes in any way," said Terry Scanlon, president of the Capital Research Center, a conservative philanthropic watchdog. "This is a problem with philanthropy in America today. Most of the well endowed foundations support basically liberal causes," Scanlon said.

Those causes, according to research conducted by CNSNews.com, include advocating abortion and population control in the United States as well as overseas. The State Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China, responsible for enforcing China's controversial one child policy, received a $215,000 grant from the Ford Foundation in 2000 and $640,000 in grants from the same agency in 2001.

More recently, in January 2002, Ford Foundation President Susan Berresford told the Chinese State Family Planning Commission that "the Ford Foundation would continue [to] strengthen its cooperation in the population, development and family planning field," according to the Family Planning Commission website.

Liberal groups, meanwhile, insist that "conservative philanthropic foundations, financed by a handful of the nation's wealthiest people," are enjoying "unmatched success in advocating for their right-wing political agenda." The National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy (NCRP) also states that as a result of liberal funders "standing on the sidelines," government and non-profit social programs are being "dismantled."

So who is telling the truth?

CNSNews.com looked at the Ford Foundation, the nation's third largest philanthropic group, after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Getty Foundation. Documents taken from the foundation's on-line grant database show that the Ford Foundation gave $680 million in 2000 to fund those very causes the NCRP claims were being "dismantled." Information about the total amount given in 2001 is not yet available.

Auto baron Henry Ford established the $10.3 billion Ford Foundation in 1936, as an "initially conservative" organization, according to Scanlon. But the foundation has gradually shifted to the left over the past fifty years, he said.

"Almost everything they do is left-wing. They have a very avant-garde liberal agenda," stressing "diversity" issues and "population control," Scanlon said.

Ford Foundation documents show the group has actively promoted feminism, affirmative action, the defense of illegal immigrants and homosexual rights through its grants.

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), a group that defends illegal immigrants from Mexico and promotes in-state tuition for illegals in California, received $8.58 million in both 2000 and 2001 -- the most money awarded to any individual group.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) received the second highest amount in each of those years -- $6.8 million.

Feminist groups such as the Feminist Majority received $2.8 million in grants in each of those years, while a collection of 13 homosexual activist groups, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force received $2.2 million in both 2000 and 2001.

The foundation continues to be heavily involved with population control, according to Scanlon, evidenced by the $40.8 million it gave to countless population control groups in 2001.

Three population control groups were among the largest Ford Foundation grant recipients last year. The National Black Women's Health Project, a Washington, D.C. based abortion rights advocate received $1.5 million. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, one of the nation's strongest advocates of abortion rights, got $1 million in 2001 and its research affiliate, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, received $1.5 million.

Research by CNSNews.com also indicates the Ford Foundation has ignored conservative organizations or movements in recent years.

Conservative groups such as the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the research arm of Concerned Women For America (CWA) say they face a difficult time raising money because of the narrow and liberal bent at the Ford Foundation and other large philanthropic organizations.

"I think there definitely is a bias toward more liberal causes that leaves the conservative groups out in the cold when it comes to going to the foundations for money," said Dr. Janice Crouse, executive director of the LaHaye Institute.

"Unless you have a very specific religious purpose; then you strike out there (getting money from the Ford Foundation, etc.)," Crouse said. "There are very few foundations that ... conservative groups can go to, and as a consequence we all go to the same well ... and there is only so much money there."

Liberal groups like the National Education Association (NEA), however, have latched onto a five-year-old report by the NCRP to tell a different story.

The 1997 report, focusing on grants awarded between 1992 and 1994, accused conservative groups such as the Bradley, Scaife and Olin foundations of "depart[ing] from grant-making norms in the philanthropic sector by funding extremely aggressive and ideological institutions routinely committed to influencing budget and policy priorities."

According to the NCRP, it looked at 12 conservative foundations in all that controlled assets of $1.1 billion and awarded $300 million in grants.

"While the size of their grant-making programs may pale in comparison to some of the nation's largest foundations, conservative funders have unmatched success in advocating for their right-wing political agenda," the report stated.

"In the absence of similar efforts by liberal organizations and funders, communications campaigns like these have contributed to the current climate, where right-wing ideas, sometimes based on inaccurate information, go unchallenged," NCRP charged.

According to the NCRP's website, "liberal and mainstream funders remain ... on the sidelines of public policy debate while government and non-profit social programs -- many foundation-created -- are dismantled."

A spokesman for the Ford Foundation refused to explain the group's rationale for awarding the grants except to refer to the group's mission statement. That statement, listed on the foundation's website, claims all of its funding decisions are based on a "desire to promote democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, and advance human achievement."

The NCRP was unable to comment.

E-mail a news tip to John Rossomando.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.