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IS FOR SHILL
INSIDE THE BRADLEY FOUNDATION'S ATTACK ON PUBLIC EDUCATION
ONE WISCONSIN NOW | BRADLEYWATCH.ORG
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY IT ALL BEGINS WITH BRADLEY
Creating the “Science” for Vouchers Bradley Funding to WPRI and MacIver
WISCONSIN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: REPUBLICAN RESEARCH ARM
Right-Wing Funding WPRI Connections to the National Right-Wing Network Political Giving by the WPRI Board MacIver Institute: Republican Communications Arm Right-Wing Funding Political Giving by the MacIver Board Connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch Brothers, and the National Right-Wing Network
10 10 11 12 12 13
OTHER MACIVER FUNDERS SUPPORT EDUCATION PRIVATIZATION
Walton Family Foundation The Randolph Foundation The Franklin Center
MACIVER, WPRI, AND & ALEC: A COORDINATED RIGHT-WING AGENDA IN WISCONSIN CONCLUSION
For the last two decades, there has been an assault on public education in the state of Wisconsin. The fuel for the shift of tax dollars from public education and into unaccountable private education entities has come from a relentless propaganda campaign to discredit public schools and promote privatization schemes as the “solution.” These attacks on public education are part of a national network of funding and right wing non-profit organizations that includes Wisconsin-based groups, most notably the Bradley Foundation, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and the MacIver Institute. Both WPRI and MacIver are members of the State Policy Network (SPN), a vast collection of conservative “think tanks” in states across the country. The State Policy Network is also closely aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its well-documented anti-middle class economic agenda. The following report sheds light on the network of Wisconsin-based and outside organizations working to steer even more dollars from the state’s public school children in favor of privatized school operations. The research shows: 1. MacIver and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute benefit financially from the nation’s preeminent anti-public education funding sources. 2. On the boards of directors of both organizations are long-time established Republican donors and political operatives. 3. While the Bradley Foundation provides substantial support to both groups, they are part of a coordinated, nationwide effort by the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council to advance anti-public education propaganda and promote privatization. With the financial backing of Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation, two Wisconsin-based conservative ”think tanks," the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and the MacIver Institute, have led the charge, as part of the SPN web, to expand private school vouchers and charters, while insulating these schools from the accountability measures required of the state’s public schools. The result has been a 2013-14 state budget that expands taxpayer-supported private schools statewide, despite objective evidence showing that taxpayer-supporter private schools perform no better and, in some cases, worse than public schools. In the meantime, these private operations are able to pick and choose the students they enroll without fear of reprisal for refusing students based on their economics, race, sexual orientation or disability. With the state of Wisconsin having endured the largest cuts to public education in its history as a result of the 2011-12 state budget of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature, public education dollars have become even more scarce, leaving the ability of public school students to enjoy a quality education that can help lift them out of poverty and ensure a middle class lifestyle at risk. The public school children of Wisconsin face a propaganda campaign of unprecedented resources and relentlessness with the single-minded purpose of shifting as much of the state’s shared tax dollars as possible from public schools to private operations – and providing air and comfort to the elected officials willing to aid and abet this historic attack on public education. This report focuses on the major players and organizations at the heart of this campaign, most notably the Bradley Foundation, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and the MacIver Institute.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH BRADLEY
“With more than $600 million in assets, the Bradley Foundation provides a cornerstone for the U.S. conservative movement. It has been the financial backer behind public-policy experiments that started in Wisconsin and spread across the nation -- including a welfare overhaul, public vouchers for private schools and, this year, cutbacks in public-employee benefits and collective bargaining. ”
(THE SEATTLE TIMES, 11/28/11) Michael Grebe is the Chief Executive Officer of the Bradley Foundation, a Milwaukee-based 501(c)(3) organization with assets of over $550 million. Since 2000, the Bradley Foundation has handed out over $500 million,1 making it one of the largest pipelines for conservative money in the nation, surpassing even the foundation giving of David and Charles Koch. In building this right-wing empire, Grebe has also been instrumental in the rise to power of Wisconsin’s most prominent national Republican players -Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, and Reince Priebus -- and helping build the strength of the state’s conservative infrastructure.2 With hundreds of millions of dollars available to them, Grebe and the Bradley Foundation advance an agenda of less corporate accountability, lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations, and privatization of public schools. These unmatched funds finance right-wing junk science across the country to make the case for their radical “solutions.” In turn, it also finances studies on the backend, which “prove” these policies, where enacted, are somehow working.3
This report examines the campaign to discredit Wisconsin and Milwaukee public schools by two Bradleyfunded right-wing groups, the MacIver Institute and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. 4
Creating the “Science” for Vouchers
“…the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is the polling arm of the right-wing Bradley Foundation, inventors of Milwaukee’s private school voucher program.” (The Capital Times, 09/02/03) The Bradley Foundation’s infrastructure has been engaged in a systematic and relentless campaign to turn public opinion against the public school system in Wisconsin and its ability to educate our state’s children. Milwaukee Public Schools were the first target, and the Bradley-funded Wisconsin Policy Research Institute was the launch pad. In order to justify the need for the private voucher schools in Milwaukee, the existing public school system was purposely and consistently attacked. According to an April 2008 guest column by Greg Anrig in The Washington Monthly, “One of the strategies that the Bradley Foundation initially used to lay the groundwork for vouchers in Milwaukee was to create a think tank called the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, which churned out studies trashing public schools.” While purporting to be measuring public opinion on education in Milwaukee, Bradley-funded voucher advocates were in fact stacking the deck. This was most dramatically revealed in 2010 when it was uncovered that the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute pressured the University of Wisconsin professor they had retained to downplay results showing opposition to the voucher program from a survey he conducted for them, and instead feature only favorable results.4 The election of Gov. Walker, again whose campaign is co-chaired by Bradley chief Michael Grebe, resulted in an uptick in anti-public school rhetoric and the implementation of a school “report card” system now being utilized by the pro-voucher campaign as they offer their “solution” to a largely manufactured problem.
“One of the strategies that the Bradley Foundation initially used to lay the groundwork for vouchers in Milwaukee was to create a think tank called the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, which churned out studies trashing public schools.”
THE WASHINGTON MONTHLY
For example, Gov. Walker, despite strong evidence to the contrary, declared Wisconsin public schools are “failing” and even claimed that up to one-third of Wisconsin fourth graders were unable to read at a basic level.5 After having aggressively promoted the “public schools, especially those in Milwaukee, are failing” meme, the next step in the Bradley campaign was to identify the enemy.
Shared Board Members and Leadership Instead of working to directly address what is widely regarded as the single largest variable in student’s academic achievement, poverty, the Bradley machine targeted public school teachers, unions, and “education bureaucrats.” At their disposal were Bradley funded research and communication vehicles like longstanding partner Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and more recently, the more radical anti-teacher, anti-organized labor MacIver Institute, Media Trackers and Education Action Group. From the MacIver Institute touting a “study” alleging Wisconsin has overspent in excess of $300 million on school administrative staff,6 to the Education Action Group’s reference to teachers as “union thugs,”7 there has been a concerted effort by the Bradley machine to denigrate the people who run our schools and teach our children. The demonization of education stakeholders like teachers, along with legal changes to cripple their unions, appeared to be a strategic effort to neutralize, if not eliminate, the most likely sources of organized resistance to privatization. The Bradley Foundation efforts are by no means isolated to public policy propaganda. A joint investigation by One Wisconsin Now and theGrio.com proved that racist, voter intimidation billboards, which were placed in and around Milwaukee in 2010 in advance of the November election, were paid for by the Bradley Foundation. Those billboards resurfaced in the 2012 elections in both Milwaukee and Ohio. Community pressure caused Clear Channel, owners of the billboards, to remove them.8
Since the start of WPRI and MacIver, there has been a revolving door between their leadership and board members with the Bradley Foundation. Michael W. Grebe. Grebe currently serves as the President and CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a position he took over in 2002. Grebe, according to a November 2001 National Review article, was “a director of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute” and had “served on the Bradley board for five years when the Bradley Institute announced he would “become the next president” of the Foundation. The December 2011 One Wisconsin Institute report ‘D Is for Dismantle’ notes that Michael Grebe, CEO of the Bradley Foundation, headed Walker’s campaign and his transition into the Office of Governor. In addition major conservative advocacy groups, the MacIver Institute, Americans for Prosperity and the Wisconsin Policy Institute receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from the Bradley Foundation. Allen Taylor. Taylor, as of November 26, 2001, was described by National Review as the “Bradley Foundation chairman” and was listed as an “Emeritus Director for WPRI” in a 2005 IRS tax document. Michael Joyce. The late Michael Joyce, who helped launch WPRI, “came to Milwaukee in the mid-1980s to lead the Bradley Foundation. When he and others decided to start the institute as a way to push changes they wanted to see, Joyce played an important role in recruiting [James] Miller,” tells a February 2009 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. James Miller. Miller was “the president of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute since it was founded in 1987” until he retired in January 2009. A January 2009 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reported under “Miller’s leadership, the conservative think tank has played an important role in shaping state policies in areas including welfare reform, the rise of the private school voucher program in Milwaukee, other education reforms and economic development.” Dennis Kuester. Kuester sat on the Board of Directors for the MacIver Institute from 2002 until 2005 and has sat on the Board of Directors for the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation since June of 2006. Sam Orr, Jr. Orr sat on the Board of Directors for the MacIver Institute from 2002 until 2005 and has sat on the Board of Directors for the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation since June of 2006.
Bradley Funding to WPRI and MacIver
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s “central funder from the start has been the Bradley Foundation.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 02/02/09) The Bradley Foundation is by far WPRI’s largest known donor, giving over $16.5 million since 1987. In comparison, WPRI’s second largest known donor, the Olin Foundation, has given them just $292,500.9 Bradley is also a significant donor to the American Legislative Exchange Council, giving $290,000 between 2001 and 2012, according to a review of the Bradley Foundation’s own reports, IRS forms 990 and from a database of Bradley giving created by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ALEC has worked hand-in-hand with WPRI and Bradley from the very beginning of the Milwaukee voucher program, helping “transform the image of voucher programs from a desultory privatization scheme to a “progressive” policy that gives students from low-income families a chance to get a better education,” according to The Wisconsinite.10
MacIver and WPRI are also affiliates of the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN is a web of what conservative commentator Michelle Malkin called “‘do’ tank”s11 across the United States, founded in 1992 by Thomas Roe (of the Roe Foundation and South Carolina Policy Council), according to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).12 In addition to its state think tank affiliates, many other national right-wing organizations are associate members of SPN, including ALEC, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, organizations that receive funding from Bradley.13 SPN has played a major role in supporting ALEC, serving as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference and participating in at least three of ALEC’s “task forces,” according to CMD, which publishes ALECexposed.org.14 Since its founding, SPN has been funded by conservative organizations including the Bradley Foundation, the Koch-funded DonorsTrust/Donors Capital Fund, the Roe Foundation, and the Kochs’ Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.15 SPN has been the recipient of $150,000 from Bradley 20052012.16 In 2012, SPN awarded the MacIver Institute a “Network Award” for “its excellent work in defense of free markets.”17 Between 2008 (previous to the organization’s official founding in 2009) and 2012, Bradley has given $635,000 to MacIver.18
Source: Bradley Foundation 2012 Funding Report; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Inside the Bradley Foundation" database, 8/6/2011; Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation 2011 Grantees Report Circled organizations are members of the State Policy Network
WISCONSIN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: REPUBLICAN RESEARCH ARM
To protect and promote the voucher program and tout the results of the analysis it funded, the Bradley Foundation built communications infrastructure. WPRI is deployed and a slew of “Bradley Intellectuals” are consistently engaged in promoting their internal, biased analysis of the voucher program and aggressively attacking independent analysis suggesting serious flaws in the voucher program. Multi-platform Bradley Intellectual Charlie Sykes leads the pack. In addition to serving as editor of the print publication of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Sykes hosts a three and a half hour radio talk show Monday through Friday, a Sunday morning local issue television talk show and curates a webbased news service, underwritten by the Journal Broadcast Group (which owns the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). The Bradley Foundation even employs Sykes’ current wife as its communications director. The influence of WPRI on the public policy debate and in the media is long-standing and extensive. Not only does former WPRI senior staffer Christian Schneider have multiple weekly columns in the state’s largest newspaper, but the latest head of WPRI was also a long-time columnist in the same newspaper. At least five regularly featured contributors to the same newspaper have been contributors to WPRI propaganda publications. WPRI has also faced accusations that it has essentially served as a campaign and research extension to Scott Walker’s agenda.19 In 2011, WPRI was accused of funding polls and timing the release of the information in a way that would deliberately boost Governor Walker’s position.20 They have also been accused of failing to publicize the results of those polls in a manner that would accurately reflect their true results.21 In February 2011, Schneider wrote a pro-Walker piece in The New York Times praising Walker's effort to strip public employee collective bargaining rights as “politically bold.”22 In 2010, through an open records request, One Wisconsin Now showed that WPRI’s then-President “George Lightbourn… had urged” Ken Goldstein, the University of Wisconsin professor hired to do the polling, “to downplay the statewide opposition to vouchers in his summary of the results.”23 Email records show Lightbourn lobbied and pressured Goldstein to publicize data from a WPRI-funded study in a manner that was favorable to school voucher programs. The study found that a majority of Wisconsin residents opposed the use of government funding for school vouchers, but that a majority of residents in Milwaukee County supported them. The University’s press release headline read: “School choice remains popular in Milwaukee.”24 In addition, a later email from Lightbourn “thanked” Goldstein for cooperating in his “correspondence with the board and other consumers of WPRI material.” WPRI Board Members’ Connections to School Privatization and Gov. Walker
James Klauser. According to WPRI’s website, Klauser is the Chairman of the Board of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Klauser is also the “Advisory Chairman” of the Hispanics for School Choice Advisory Board. Klauser served as a longtime advisor and campaign chairman to former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who established the nation’s first public education privatization program and was an early supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council. When Klauser endorsed Scott Walker for Governor in 2010, his reasoning was in part because “The Doyle-Barrett team is hostile to school choice and charter schools.” Timothy Sheehy. Sheehy serves on the board of the Milwaukee College Preparatory School (central city charter school) and School Choice Wisconsin. Sheehy serves as the head of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which has donated nearly $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association to assist the campaigns of Scott Walker. Ave Bie. Bie currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees of Edgewood Campus School, a private Catholic elementary school in Madison, WI.
In a 2012 report on conservative organizations starting their own news outlets, The Capital Times reported that WPRI and its magazine, Wisconsin Interest, have strong connections to the Republican 9
Party and the national conservative movement.25 The report detailed WPRI’s links to former GOP Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), along with funding from the conservative Bradley Foundation. The Capital Times’ report also called WPRI board chairman Jim Klauser a “kingmaker” in Wisconsin GOP races. Republican Ron Johnson’s U.S. Senate campaign gave “sole access” to Schneider to control the campaign’s message in 2010. The Capital Times noted that Schneider’s then-employer (WPRI) had views “closely aligned with those of Johnson.”26
While the vast majority of WPRI’s known funding has come from the Bradley foundation, it has also received contributions from a variety of other rightwing foundations and other organizations. More recently, WPRI received $25,000 from DonorsTrust, the Koch brothers-backed fund Mother Jones recently called “the dark money ATM of the conservative movement,” as well as significant funding from the John M. Olin Foundation and the State Policy Network. Donors
Donors Trust Charlotte and Walter Kohler Charitable Trust JM Foundation Jacqueline Hume Foundation John M. Olin Foundation
$25,000 $277,267 $25,000 $49,475 $292,500 $11,145,000 $176,000 $25,000 $61,055
2007 2003 -2006 2003 1999 1988-1995, 1997 - 1999 1987-2010 1998-2010 2001 2007
WPRI Connections to the National Right-Wing Network
While WPRI claims to be Wisconsin-focused, the institute takes cues from national conservative organizations. Among the institute's right-wing connections is the Heartland Institute, whose research WPRI features on its website. The known donors to WPRI include right-wing organizations and foundations such as the State Policy Network, the Roe Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and the JM Foundation.
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Roe Foundation Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation State Policy Network
(AMERICAN BRIDGE CONSERVATIVE TRANSPARENCY)
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) through Wisconsin state senator Leah Vukmir, who is an ALEC board member and was the Public Chair of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force.27 Vukmir is a Wisconsin state senator representing the 5th district since 2011. Prior to serving in the Wisconsin Senate, Sen. Vukmir was a representative in the Wisconsin Assembly for Wisconsin's 14th assembly district from 2002-2011. Sen. Vukmir has been a contributing author as well as an Institute Research Fellow at WPRI. Conservative radio show host Charlie Sykes is an editor for WPRI. Heartland features WPRI’s research on its website.28
Charlie Sykes Heartland Institute
Beacon Hill Institute
The Institute partnered with the Beacon Hill Institute29 (BHI) on a report critiquing the recommendations from a 2007 state clean energy task force, including the state's renewable portfolio standards (RPS).30 Board Chairman James R. Klauser was a consultant from 1992 to 1996 for the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association. Board Chairman James R. Klauser served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration from 1986 – 1996 and as special counsel to the Governor from 1994 – 1996. Board Member Tim Sheehy, who is also the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Milwaukee affiliate, is on the Board of School Choice Wisconsin. A 2010 WPRI blog post declares that the Tea Party movement is “wonderful” and that “they are on their way to being the most important movement for conservatism (or libertarianism, in some cases) in the past twenty years.”
Republican National Committee & Republican Governors Association Former Governor Tommy Thompson
School Choice Wisconsin
In 2012, Wisconsin journalist Bruce Murphy wrote a piece for Urban Milwaukee exposing the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute connections to the right-wing Bradley Foundation and the think tank’s political activities. Included in Murphy's criticism of the group is WPRI’s bankrolling of newspaper columnists. Both Mike Nichols and Christian Schneider (a former Republican operative) have worked for WPRI and have been columnists with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, using their columns to promote a conservative or libertarian message supported by WPRI. Nichols has now succeeded George Lightbourn as head of WPRI, and has given up his newspaper column as part of his expanded role at the right wing organization. Schneider, as noted previously, has left WPRI and become a regular, paid columnist for the Journal Sentinel. While in the past, media would cite material from WPRI without accurately identifying its conservative ideology, this has changed over the past decade. Despite its nonpartisan posturing, WPRI leadership is closely connected to the Republican Party, both in Wisconsin and nationally. Board Chairman James R. Klauser. Klauser was a consultant for the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association from 1992 to 1996, and also served on George W. Bush's Wisconsin campaign committee in 2000 and 2004 (chairman in 2004).
WPRI Board Member
James Klauser David Baumgarten Catherine Dellin David Lubar Maureen Oster Timothy Sheehy Gerald Whitburn Edward Zore Ave Bie Jon Hammes Thomas Howatt Michael Jones Tim Sheehy George Lightbourn TOTAL
Total Right Wing Contributions
$216,961 $5,750 $31,300 $18,600 $5,625 $17,950 $42,415 $131,663 $4,535 $92,275 $13,875 $63,930 $16,800 $3,000 $281,363
Political Giving by the WPRI Board
(WISCONSIN DEMOCRACY CAMPAIGN, WISCONSIN GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY BOARD, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION)
Board Chairman James R. Klauser, along with the rest of the board, have donated nearly $300,000 to Republican federal candidates and Republican and conservative Wisconsin state political candidates31
MacIver Institute: Republican Communications Arm
Bradley-funded MacIver Institute has been an aggressive re-packager and distributor of Bradley funded research in response to concerns about the efficacy of the voucher program raised by education professionals. Using many of the same tactics employed by WPRI, MacIver issues reports that manipulate or omit data for favorable outcomes, conduct “pseudo-journalism,” aggressively protect policy makers who share their privatization agenda and attack public school advocates. In November 2012, The Capital Times reported that the MacIver Institute, which was described as an organization run by “former GOP operatives,” was among a number of conservative organizations that had created their own news outlets.32 The report described MacIver’s “news stories” as seeking “to celebrate Republican policy, discredit Democrats and — in particular — to sound an alarm about alleged voter fraud.” During the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, MacIver spent an estimated $3.7 million on joint ads with Americans for Prosperity Foundation touting Walker’s policies with the “It’s working” message. These ads, paid for the 501(c)3 funding, were the first television ads in the Walker recall when they began airing in October 2011.33 In March 2012, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a complaint with the IRS against the MacIver Institute, along with Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Heartland Institute, for violating their tax-exempt status by “sponsoring advertising and other political activities to help Republican Governor Scott Walker” in his recall election.34 WDC director Mike McCabe said the groups were “gaming the tax code to play electoral politics while masquerading as charitable organizations” and that “ordinary taxpayers end up subsidizing the political donations of the millionaires and billionaires who are funding these operations.” In the lead up to the introduction of Governor Walker’s proposed education privatization, media events were staged by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in communities across the state that the proposed education privatization would impact first. Staff of the MacIver Institute — along with right-wing luminaries like Fox News analyst Juan Williams, talk show host Tony Katz and panelists Kristi LaCroix (of Walker recall television ad fame), School Choice Wisconsin and the American Federation for Children — conducted “town halls” in Beloit, Kenosha and Green Bay.35 In addition to their attempts to shore up Walker’s policy agenda with the public, MacIver has promoted false information, saying that the Government Accountability Board (GAB) would accept fake signatures on recall petitions—names like “Hitler” or “Mickey Mouse” — to be valid. The Capital Times charged that MacIver’s ultra-partisan behavior drastically contradicts the values of the Institute’s namesake, John MacIver.36 Lastly, in 2009, the Wisconsin State Journal reported accusations that a former television reporter newlyemployed by MacIver had obtained an interview with liberal Congressman Dave Obey under false pretenses because he failed to disclose that he worked for the MacIver Institute.37 Donors
Donors Capital Fund Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation State Policy Network
IRS records show the MacIver Institute has received significant funding from the Koch-funded DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. In 2009 alone, grants from
(MEDIA MATTERS; PRWATCH; AMERICAN BRIDGE CONSERVATIVE TRANSPARENCY)
the two Donors organizations made up 79 percent of the total grants MacIver received in that year. The MacIver Institute has released several reports and studies advocating for policies that would directly benefit the Koch brothers’ corporate interests, including calling for lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations and opposing clean energy and renewable energy sources. Among the most generous of donors to MacIver has been Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation, which has given $550,000. This early and sustained financial support has not only given MacIver the ability to continue its operations, but also have the conservative “seal of approval” because of Bradley’s reputation and the might it wields in the conservative infrastructure both inside and outside of Wisconsin. This is also seen in the regular cross-posting of MacIver materials by other organizations supported financially by Bradley.
Political Giving by the MacIver Board
The board members of MacIver have given $292,709 to Republican federal candidates and Republican and conservative Wisconsin state political candidates, led by Fred Luber, who gave $220,483; followed by Jim Troupis with $45,034, Gerardo Gonzalez with $25,002, Steve Fettig with $2,175, and Laurie McCallum with $15.38
Connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch Brothers, and the National Right-Wing Network
MacIver is closely associated with the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. MacIver’s former Treasurer, Mark Block, was the state director for Wisconsin’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Block also founded Prosperity USA and the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, two pro-Tea Party groups related to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. MacIver and AFP-Wisconsin also share two board members, David Fettig and Fred Luber, and teamed up to run ads in Wisconsin in 2012, prompting questions about the groups’ IRS status.39 A June 2012 post on the MacIver Institute’s website described the MacIver Institute’s June 2012 trip to Las Vegas for the RightOnline conference sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, held just a few weeks after the 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election.40 The MacIver Institute and other representatives from Wisconsin were “talked to like heroes” for the work they did with AFP. At the conference, representatives from the MacIver Institute and Americans for Prosperity got to “tell the story” of how they “won” the 2011 public policy debate that spurred the 2012 recall elections. Their presentation included how the two organizations jointly launched a paid media campaign through television ads and ItsWorkingWisconsin.com to “educate” the public about Act 10. Their presentation also pointed out how it was the MacIver Institute that showed “that it wasn't just the sweet little school librarians doing the protesting and agitating in Madison.” Instead, according to the MacIver presenter, it was “idle students, the homeless, leftist radicals, anarchists, former hippies, would-be hippies and outside agitators from groups affiliated with Big Labor who provided the front lines in the infamous Wisconsin Capitol Occupation of 2011.” Both AFP and MacIver claimed they did not use Governor Walker in their campaign because they wanted to “transcend politics.” According to MacIver Institute’s public tax documents, Mark Block served as the Treasurer for the MacIver Institute in 2008 and 2009, while he was the state director of AFP-Wisconsin. And according to the AFP-Wisconsin website, in January of 2010, Block sat on the State Board of Directors for the MacIver Institute.41
In 2001, Block paid $15,000 and was banned from running Wisconsin political campaigns for three years for his part in the Supreme Court race collusion scandal.
In 2001, Block paid $15,000 and was banned from running Wisconsin political campaigns for three years for his part in the Supreme Court race collusion scandal.42 In 2011, Block managed the short-lived campaign of presidential candidate Herman Cain. Cain famously called himself a “Koch brother from another mother and proud of it,” in a speech he was giving at the 2011 “Defending the American Dream” AFP Foundation conference. His and Block’s close ties to the Kochs were noted in a New York Times story: “Mr. Cain was hired [by AFP] in 2005 to lead its ‘Prosperity Expansion Project’ to seed more state groups, using his gift for public speaking to advance goals like lowering taxes, slashing government regulations and curtailing unions…Because the Cain campaign’s core staff members are veterans of Americans for Prosperity — Mr. Block, his deputy manager, the senior economic adviser — some critics on the left suggest that despite Mr. Cain’s image as an outsider, his candidacy is in effect a mouthpiece for the corporate interests of the Koch brothers.”43 MacIver received $469,500 from the Koch-funded groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2008 and 2011.44 The MacIver Institute also participates in the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellowship Program, through which it can receive funding for summer interns. Meanwhile, MacIver has pushed for policies in Wisconsin that would benefit the billionaire brothers, including lower taxes on millionaires and corporations and barriers to development of green and clean energy. MacIver is also connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) through former MacIver Director of Communications Brian Fraley, who was previously the Senior VP for State Affairs at America’s Health Insurance Plans in D.C. and the Private Sector Chairman of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force. He has since been hired to assist right-wing radio host and WPRI Interest magazine editor Charlie Sykes’s RightWisconsin.com, a conservative propaganda website financially supported by the Journal Broadcast Group, owner of WTMJ-AM radio and WTMJ television in Milwaukee. MacIver has been an affiliate of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a conservative investigative reporting organization that focuses on the state legislature.45 The Franklin Center has similar affiliates in most states across the country,46 and many of the center’s affiliates have been accused of faulty reporting and manufacturing news coverage to benefit its conservative interests.47 The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, using a sliding scale of highly ideological, somewhat ideological and non-ideological, ranked the "Watchdog.org" franchise (the Franklin Center’s website in many states) "highly ideological." 48 Since its founding, the Franklin Center has been funded by conservative organizations including the Koch-funded DonorsTrust/Donors Capital Fund and the Bradley Foundation.49
MacIver received $469,500 from the Koch-funded Donors groups between 2008 and 2011.
OTHER MACIVER FUNDERS SUPPORT EDUCATION PRIVATIZATION
Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation Gave At Least $101,800 To The MacIver Institute. An American Bridge Foundation review of Internal Revenue Service, Federal Election Commission filings, and state level sources found that the Walton Family Foundation gave $101,800 to the MacIver Institute in 2010. As contributions can be distributed in a variety of ways, and through organizations with varying disclosure requirements, publicly reporting of direct contributions may not represent the full scope of financial involvement between organizations and their donors.50 Milwaukee, Wisconsin Is A Walton Family Foundation K-12 Education Reform Investment Site. “Milwaukee, Wis. In our Investment Sites, we hope to show that parental choice can inspire meaningful improvements in the education system and higher academic achievement for all students. Here is the Milwaukee Investment Site, by the numbers, as of the 2010-2011 school year: Public school district students: 78,480 [;] Public charter school students: 9,281 [;] Publicly funded scholarship students: 20,189 [;] Total number of publicly funded students: 107,950”51 The Walton Family Foundation Was Among The First Donors To StudentsFirst, An Organization Founded By Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee As A Counterweight To Teachers’ Unions. According to the Los Angeles Times, “StudentsFirst, the advocacy group [former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle] Rhee founded in California’s capital, where she lives with her husband, Mayor Kevin Johnson, is positioning itself as the political counterweight to teachers unions. Funded by entrepreneurs and philanthropists, it’s pushing to elect candidates and rewrite policies on charter schools, teacher assessment and other charged issues in at least 17 states, including California. Teachers unions and other critics say the group, which spent $250,000 to boost three candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education in the March 5 election, promotes unproven policy proposals with cash from sources whose main goal is crushing organized labor. Among StudentsFirst’s major donors is the Walton Family Foundation, funded by heirs to the fortune generated by Wal-Mart, which has vigorously opposed unions.”52
The Randolph Foundation
The Randolph Foundation is a conservative foundation based in New York City, and contributes to Ivy League universities, hospitals, medical foundations and conservative think tanks. Among those who have received funding from Randolph are Americans for Prosperity, Alliance for School Choice, American Enterprise Institute, and DonorsTrust.53 The Randolph Foundation Gave At Least $15,000 To The MacIver Institute In 2011. An American Bridge Foundation review of Internal Revenue Service, Federal Election Commission filings, and state level sources found that The Randolph Foundation gave $15,000 to the MacIver Institute in 2011. As contributions can be distributed in a variety of ways, and through organizations with varying disclosure requirements, publicly reporting of direct contributions may not represent the full scope of financial involvement between organizations and their donors.54 The Randolph Foundation Gave $50,000 To The Kennesaw State College Foundation To Fund A “Renewing American Civilization” Course Developed By Then- Congressman Newt Gingrich. According to the Washington Post, “House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) used a political organization he heads to help plan, solicit donations for, and market to Republican groups a college course he will teach this fall. The relationship has faculty at Kennesaw State College questioning whether the course is political science or pure politics. Documents show that officials from GOPAC, a Republican political action committee, told the dean of the business school at the college in Marietta, Ga., 15
how to raise tax-deductible donations for the course -- which will be beamed by satellite to 133 sites around the country -- from foundations and Gingrich supporters. …Gingrich, in an interview yesterday, defended the course he calls ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ …The course, to be held 10 consecutive Saturday mornings starting later this month, is designed to find ways to replace the welfare state in America, Gingrich said. …The several hundred documents [Stephen F.] Bruning obtained from the college show planning for the course began early this year. The first large donation was $ 50,000 from the Randolph Foundation, a contributor to conservative think tanks.”55 Congressman Newt Gingrich Told GOPAC Donors That The “Renewing American Civilization” Course Was Part Of A Structure To Help Build A Republican Majority In The U.S. House. According to the Washington Post, “Mid-1993: GOPAC sends letters signed by Gingrich stating that the Kennesaw State College course on “Renewing American Civilization” ‘will provide the structure to build an offense so that Republicans can break through dramatically in 1996.’ Another letter states that ‘if we can reach Americans through my course, independent expenditures, GOPAC and other strategies, we just might unseat the Democratic majority in the House in 1994 and make government accountable again.’”56
The Franklin Center
The Franklin Center is a right-wing media outlet started in 2009 with state affiliates across the country. The Franklin Center currently lists two Wisconsin affiliates: the MacIver Institute and the Wisconsin 57 Reporter. (However, an organizational document obtained in May 2013 by the Center for Media and Democracy does not list MacIver.)58 Supports Education Privatization in its ‘News Coverage’: Like the MacIver Institute, the Wisconsin Reporter has published several articles specifically covering and supporting education privatization in Wisconsin. In 2013 alone, the Wisconsin Reporter has published at least seven articles giving favorable coverage, or in some cases out-right support, to education privatization. Funded By The Bradley Foundation: Given the Franklin Center’s track record of supporting education privatization in Wisconsin and around the country through their media coverage, it should be no surprise that the Franklin Center has received significant funding from the Bradley Foundation. In 2010 and 2011, the Bradley Foundation has contributed at least $242,500 to the Franklin Center, according to documents filed with the IRS by the Bradley Foundation.59
MACIVER, WPRI, AND & ALEC: A COORDINATED RIGHTWING AGENDA IN WISCONSIN
ALEC drafts legislation, WPRI and MacIver manufacture reports to validate the need for the legislation, ALEC works through its legislative members to get the bills introduced in state legislatures and WPRI and MacIver support those legislators’ efforts through additional reports and newspaper columns. In addition, their board members pour contributions into those legislators’ campaign coffers. Bradley funds each organization, along with additional right-wing media efforts in Wisconsin, and there is a rotating door between these organizations’ staff and board members and Bradley.
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI)
WPRI, a longtime supporter of education privatization, promotes education privatization measures such as school voucher and charter school expansion in its May 2013 report, “Understanding School Finance in Wisconsin: A Primer,”
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Education privatization is also a key component in ALEC’s extreme agenda. ALEC’s school voucher “models” include the Special Needs Scholarship Program Act, and the School Choice Directory Act. ALEC’s charter school models include the Charter Schools Act and the Next Generation Charter Schools Act. ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act” repeals renewable energy standards and is an attack on states with plans requiring companies to get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. ALEC’s new “Market Power Renewables Act” and “Renewable Energy Credit Act” is another tactic to attack renewable energy standards and provide hollow replacements.
Americans For Prosperity (AFP)
In May 2013, AFPWisconsin launched a campaign to support Governor Scott Walker’s plan to further privatize public education in Wisconsin, asking citizens to call the legislators to support Walker’s plan.
Privatizing Public Education
The MacIver Institute has supported education privatization measures, including the expansion of school vouchers and charter schools, in several reports, articles, and ‘studies’, including in their recent report, “Debunking Five Common Myths About School Choice” (May 2013).
Attacking Renewable Energy
The MacIver Institute has released several reports and articles attacking clean and renewable energy, and has specifically opposed Wisconsin’s renewable energy portfolio.
WPRI’s March 2013 report, “Law Mandating Use of Renewable Energy Costing Wisconsinites Hundreds of Millions,” attacks Wisconsin’s renewable energy portfolio.
AFP is well known for its support of the fossil fuel industry and denying the science behind climate change. Like ALEC and the SPN think tanks in Wisconsin, it has been an aggressive opponent of renewable portfolio standards.
Supermajority for Tax Increases
The MacIver Institute has supported a ‘supermajority’ amendment for tax increases in the past, including in its January 2011 report, “Use Every Measure to Limit State's Ability to Hike Taxes.”
WPRI calls for a supermajority requirement to raise any taxes in its January 2011 report, “Why Wisconsin Should Require A Supermajority To Raise Taxes.”
ALEC’s “Super-Majority Act” would amend the state constitution to require all tax and “license fee” increases or impositions be approved by two-thirds of all member s of each house of the legislature, expect when there is insufficient revenue to pay interest on the state’s debt. ALEC’s “Voter ID Act” makes it more difficult for American citizens to vote. It would change ID rules so that citizens who have been registered to vote for decades must show certain kinds of ID in order to vote. This bill disenfranchises many low-income, minority, college students and elderly Americans who do not have driver’s licenses but have typically used other forms of ID.
AFP has supported supermajority acts in at least Michigan, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Washington.
Several of MacIver ‘News’ Services article promote and support voter suppression measures, including “GAB Directive Could Undermine Voter ID Protections” (August 2011), “Racine Irregularities Renew Calls for Voter ID” (July 2012), and “Voter ID Law Upheld by Court of Appeals” (May 2013).
WPRI Mike Nichols supported Voter ID and voter suppression in the January 2011 WPRI post “Voter ID? How About Candidate ID?”
AFP has taken part in its own version of voter suppression. During the 2011 recall elections, AFPWisconsin sent many Democratic voters a mailing that gave an incorrect deadline for absentee ballots. AFP is also known for hosting events featuring Catherine Englebrecht, a voter suppression activist. In North Carolina, AFP bused suppression activists to the state capitol to sit in on hearings on voter ID bills.
Opposing Healthcare Reform & Medicaid Expansion
The MacIver Institute has released several reports against the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, including “Rejection of Medicaid Expansion Will Save Federal Taxpayers Money” (June 2013), “Chart of the Day - Wisconsin's Medicaid Options” (June 2013), and “More Voters Support Scott Walker's Rejection of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion” (May 2013). The MacIver Institute is well known for supporting Gov. Walker in his 2012 recall, spurred by Walker stripping collective bargaining rights, by spending $3.7 million with Americans for Prosperity to promote Walker’s policies. MacIver was an initial supporter of Act 10, the bill that stripped collective bargaining rights, and has released several reports supporting the measure since it became law. In April 2011, Mother Jones reported MacIver even cut a video that dismissed the pro-labor protesters at the Wisconsin capital as radicalized communists and socialists.
WPRI speaks out against Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act in a July 2012 post: “Medicaid Expansion: A Tough Sell for Governors of Both Parties”
ALEC has issued several “model” bills against the 2010 Affordable Care Act, including the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act and the Resolution Opposing Employer-Paid Health Care Mandates. ALEC’s Guide to Repeal Obamacare is a guide for state legislators to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and urges them to reject Medicaid expansion and federal grants for Medicaid. ALEC’s “Right to Work Act” is an attack on working families across the state as this bill takes away workers’ ability to negotiate fair contracts. ALEC’s “Employee Rights Reform Act” limits revenue streams for public employee unions and imposes new reporting burdens on union activities. ALEC’s “Paycheck Protection Act” is an attack on workers and attempts to make it difficult for unions to raise funds.
AFP, both nationally and in Wisconsin, is well known for its efforts opposing the Affordable Care Act, including spending at least $1.7 million on TV ads around the country denouncing the reform.
Supporting Scott Walkers’ Attacks on Workers’ Rights
WPRI is an outspoken opponent of collective bargaining rights, noting in one Wisconsin Interest Magazine article that unions are the “barrier to innovation.”
AFP was one of the most active organizations supporting Walker’s repeal of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin throughout 2011 and 2012, and continues to support the legislation – Act 10 – today.
As “S is for Shill” documents, the right wing assault on public education is coordinated, calculated and continuous. The breadth of junk science to make the right wing case for school privatization “solutions” is as expansive as it is suspect, and would not be possible without the deep pockets of the Bradley Foundation and other conservative donors. Nor would it be possible if the propaganda campaign was not relentless and sustained – never veering from the premise that only privatization can “save” our public schools. With privatization champion Scott Walker in the Governor’s Office and a Republican-controlled leadership that believes in privatization and has seen its members benefit at campaign time from both donors and outside spending by the privatization cartel, Wisconsin’s public school students will remain at risk for seeing public schools and public school teachers attacked by this propaganda network. Already, the state legislature has upped its investment in privatization. The 2013-14 state budget expands privatization statewide, albeit with caps. It also provides an unconscionable $30 million tax credit for parents already sending their students to private schools. It includes no income limit, meaning millionaires sending their children to private schools will get a break on their taxes paid for by the rest of Wisconsin. The Department of Public Instruction reported that 75 percent of the students who have applied for enrollment in the expanded statewide privatization program were already not attending public schools. Not only does this show that Gov. Walker’s insistence that this expansion would help many new students access the program was a falsehood, but it also shows strong support for public schools in Wisconsin by the parents of public school students. The forces of privatization continue to use their limitless resources and powerful elected allies to advance an agenda that, if fully implemented, will break the social contract that America’s students deserve the best public schools. And Wisconsin is left to ask: Will public education remain a public good that is supported by our public officials?
Bradley Foundation 2011 & 2010 IRS Form 990; Bradley Foundation 2011 Grantees Report; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Inside the Bradley Foundation" database, 8/6/11 2 http://progressive.org/bradley-foundation-spearheading-assault-on-public-schools 3 http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/p-is-for-payoff.pdf 4 La Crosse Tribune, 3/7/10, http://lacrossetribune.com/news/state-and-regional/wi/uw-madison-faces-liberal-backlash-in-pollingdeal/article_459ca1a8-2a19-11df-b349-001cc4c002e0.html 5 Scott Walker for Governor campaign website; retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20101230060653/http://www.scottwalker.org/issues/education 6 http://www.maciverinstitute.com/2013/03/wisconsin-public-schools-spend-330-million-on-bloated-administrative-costs/ 7 eagnews.org, 4/2/13 8 theGrio.com, 10/29/2012: http://thegrio.com/2012/10/29/web-of-dark-money-behind-wisconsin-voter-suppression/#49579389 9 http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/purple-wisconsin/150827735.html#!page=1&pageSize=10&sort=newestfirst. 10 The Wisconsinite, 3/2/2004, http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/07/10911/alec-activity-wisconsin-circa-2004 11 Idaho Spokesman-Review, 9/15/2013, http://m.spokesman.com/stories/2013/sep/15/idaho-freedom-foundations-charitablestatus/ 12 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=State_Policy_Network 13 http://www.spn.org/directory/organizations.asp 14 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=State_Policy_Network 15 http://bridgeproject.com/?organization&id=275641 16 Bradley IRS 990’s 2010 & 2011, Bradley 2012 Annual Report; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Bradley Grants database 17 http://www.maciverinstitute.com/2012/11/maciver-institute-receives-first-ever-national-think-tank-award/ 18 Center for Media and Democracy, Contributions of the Bradley Foundation, SourceWatch.org, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Contributions_of_the_Bradley_Foundation; Bradley Foundation 2012 Annual Report, http://www.bradleyfdn.org/pdfs/Reports2012/2012AnnualReport.pdf 19 http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/02/21/145492/zombie-johnbirch-walker/ 20 http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/02/21/145492/zombie-johnbirch-walker/ 21 http://bdgrdemocracy.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/conservative-think-tank-wisconsin-policy-research-institute-releases-newpoll-and-puts-itself-in-spin-mode/ 22 http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/02/18/the-first-blow-against-public-employees/wisconsins-governor-is-fiscallymodest-politically-bold 23 The Capital Times, 11/28/12 24 Associated Press, “UW-Madison faces liberal backlash in polling deal,” March 7, 2010 25 http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/politiscope/conservative-groups-create-own-news-outlets-to-counteralleged-liberal/article_e5c01972-38cf-11e2-ad6a-0019bb2963f4.html 26 Capital Times, November 9, 2012 27 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Leah_Vukmir; http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Health_and_Human_Services_Task_Force 28 http://heartland.org/policy-documents/wisconsins-state-budget-outlook-worst-yet-come 29 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Beacon_Hill_Institute 30 http://www.wpri.org/Reports/Volume22/Vol22No7/Vol22No7.html; http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Renewable_portfolio_standards 31 Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Federal Election Commission 32 http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/politiscope/conservative-groups-create-own-news-outlets-to-counteralleged-liberal/article_e5c01972-38cf-11e2-ad6a-0019bb2963f4.html 33 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/25/2012, http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/recall-race-cost-record-801-million-finaltally-shows-go68b2k-163702916.html 34 http://www.wisdc.org/pr031312.php 35 Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin press release 3/20/13 36 The Capital Times, January 21, 2012, http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/editorial/john-maciver-would-not-approve-ofthe-distortions-being-made/article_ffed9605-5e89-5055-afba-075116a09a11.html 37 http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt_and_politics/article_43751011-0980-527f-be38-63ee4a4530bf.html 38 Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Federal Election Commission 39 http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/11/11114/cmds-quick-guide-mark-block-blocktopus 40 http://www.maciverinstitute.com/2012/06/what-happened-in-vegas-on-wisconsin/
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