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The goal was to connect wealthy individualswith progressive values to the important, butoften invisible, work going on in their owncommunities and also around the country.”The FEX self-described mission is “changenot charity”; its agenda is “structural eco-nomic change.” Leftwing politics, not philan-thropy, inspires its leadership.FEX members are located in liberal citiessuch as San Francisco and Boston and col-lege towns like Madison, Wisconsin. How-ever, there are also FEX member groups in places not known for radical activism: Knox-ville, Tennessee, has the Appalachian Com-munity Fund and the Fund for Santa Barbarais in a wealthy California coastal resort town.In size the foundations range from the LibertyHill Foundation in Los Angeles, which had2004 assets of $7 million and revenues of almost $5.7 million, and the Headwaters Foun-dation for Justice in Minneapolis with 2005revenues of $2.1 million, to the $254,000 re-ceived in 2003 by the Three Rivers Commu-nity Foundation of Pittsburgh.While their funding priorities differ, thefoundations endorse similar political goals,including coercive environmental regulation,single-payer health care, anti-war protest,opposition to the Administration’s “war onterror,” opposition to free trade and restric-tions on immigration, support for abolition of the death penalty, abortion rights, and“GLBT” (gay, lesbian, bisexual, andtransgender) advocacy.The foundations also share a commonrhetoric emphasizing the claim that, to quoteone activist, “Wealth disparity in the U.S.,the history of exploiting human and naturalresources, and the undue influence of wealthon our political system, perpetuate andstrengthen a destructive dynamic within our country and abroad.” That “destructive dy-namic” is what mainstream America cel-ebrates as economic liberty and individualrights.Because FEX members insist thatAmerica’s wealth is the product of exploita-tion and the abuse of privilege, one wouldexpect them to have a low opinion of philan-thropy. After all, the old Marxist Left de-spised philanthropy; it considered charity away for the rich to salve their consciencesabout human misery and avoid facing its rolein creating economic inequality. But the oldLeft has collapsed. These days radicals needhelp wherever they can find it, and they arewilling to rehabilitate the idle rich if they willuse their wealth for activist ends. That’s the point of
Robin Hood was Right: A Guide toGiving Your Money for Social Change
, a book published by the Vanguard Public Foun-dation, the FEX foundation in San Francisco.
Robin Hood was Right
raises the issuethis way:During the last decade, blackshave become beautiful, gays havecome out, women have becomeliberated—but who could imag-ine publicly celebrating inheritedwealth? Its very existence was proof of injustice...In other words, heirs as a group are typi-cally depicted as young, idle and irrespon-sible. They live off their wealth, contributingnothing to society. How can anyone cel-ebrate inherited wealth?The Funding Exchange answers that evenheirs can be liberated, and the book
Robin Hood was Right
is their manifesto. It is “acollection of anonymous anecdotes docu-menting the alienation that resulted when achildhood of wealth collided with the idealis-tic, egalitarian world view circa 1970s activ-ism”—i.e. when poor little rich boys and girlshated their parents and wanted to do good.
The Funding Exchangelinks radical projectswith wealthy donors,leveraging privatewealth to achieveegalitarian and collectivist political and social goals.