Contrary to popular belief, conservative organizations are not the ones with the deep pockets, says conservative author David Horowitz. The 115 progressive foundations in the country have about $100 billion in assets, while conservative foundations total about $10 billion. In The New Leviathan: How the Left-Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America's Future, Horowitz, a bestselling author, and Jacob Laksin, managing editor of the FrontPage Magazine website, argue that the large amount of money these groups wield has changed the nature of the political system in the United States. Horowitz recently spoke with U.S. News about the sources of this wealth and the groups that hold it. Excerpts:
Why did you write this book?
I publish a website, called discoverthenetworks.org, which is an encyclopedia of the left, and there's a section of it called "Funders" and it lists all the congressional foundations and their assets. I was aware, once we constructed that list, that progressive foundations had over $100 billion in assets. The conservative foundations only had somewhere around $10 billion in assets. And yet, there were articles and books that argued that conservatives had an overwhelming advantage in funding, which was not only false, it was ridiculously false, since the left had a 10 to 1 advantage.
Has this always been the case?
No. The Pew Trusts, for example, which are huge charitable trusts and named after the Pew family, which is a conservative right-wing family, is now a left-wing foundation. The money that created the MacArthur Foundation all came from Charles MacArthur, a very conservative Republican. His children are very radical, so it's a radical foundation now. So this is a development within the last 20 or 30 years that the major foundations have moved to the left.
Why is the public perception different?
All the national debates that go on between elections that shape elections and their outcomes are conducted by tax-exempt organizations because the IRS has a very narrow definition of what is political. To be political you have to support a particular candidate or a particular political party, but obviously if you're advocating for cap and trade policy that's political. The Ford Foundation is $10 billion. That's a huge amount of possible discretionary spending that influences politics, and it's accountable to no one. It has a self-perpetuating board, it has no constituency that it has to please or appeal to, and it could go on forever. So this is a tremendous distortion of our democratic process, and it disenfranchises voters.
Where are these organizations getting the money?
The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund was a tiny, tax-exempt, civil rights organization in El Paso, Texas, in 1970. Along came the Ford Foundation and poured $25 million into this little civil rights organization and totally transformed its agendas. It had been an organization to defend the civil rights of legal immigrants from Mexico. Under the Ford influence, it is now an organization that promotes citizen rights for illegal aliens. It wasn't the Mexican-American community that created all of this and that changed its policies, it was the bureaucrats of Ford. It's like a bank, it just has the money and it gives it out to left-wing causes.
Is there one major player people should know about?
The Ford Foundation is the major player. If you read articles by liberal journalists, they'll be warning about the dangers of the Koch brothers. The Koch Foundation has $239 million. Ford is 40 times as big as Koch.
Is this affecting the presidential election?
You could walk into a polling booth and tell them that you're Eric Holder or that you're Hillary Clinton. They will register you to vote and they will not ask for an ID. The Ford Foundation and these other foundations have created an army of lawyers, the ACLU, which is funded by Ford and Rockefeller and the Tides foundations and other foundations. And they say if you ask someone to show an ID, that's racist. This is lunatic, and it's having a big impact on our elections. We don't know what percentage of votes are fraudulent, but it's significant. That's one way. The second way is the Obama policies. Think of Obamacare. When Hillary Clinton tried universal healthcare, it failed. It was in such bad odor that [Vice President Al] Gore said he was against it when he ran in 2000, as did all the Democratic candidates. But it became the centerpiece of Obama's administration. Why is that? It's because of the push of these giant foundations.
What are possible implications for the future of American politics?
I think that the more these foundations are allowed to continue, the more our democracy is diminished. Because they are permanent institutions, they are accountable to no one, and they have the enormous weight in shaping the political debate.