Charities Funding Liberal Causes Accused of Straying From Founders' Visions

Evan Moore | July 7, 2008 | 8:06pm EDT
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( - Prominent charitable foundations are advancing a liberal policy agenda at odds with the intentions of their founders, according to the author of a new book on the subject.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation late last week, Phil Kent, author of "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal $uper-Rich Undermine America," said foundations formed by what he called "the captains of capitalism" - including Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller - have strayed far from their original missions.

Today they comprise an "invisible government" that is undermining the United States by "altering our culture," he charged.

Kent singled out the Ford Foundation, calling it "the most radical and ideologically driven" of the charities.

After the death of automaker and charity founder Henry Ford in 1947, the foundation's board of trustees appointed H. Rowan Gaither Jr., to investigate how its assets could be used. According to Kent, Gaither began to move the foundation's giving in a direction away from Ford's original intent.

Thirty years after his father's death, Ford's son, Henry Ford II, resigned from the foundation and in a letter to its board of trustees expressed disgust with its new direction. "[T]he foundation is a creature of capitalism," Kent quoted Ford as writing.

"It is hard to discern recognition of this fact in anything the foundation does. It is even more difficult to find an understanding of this in many of the institutions, particularly the universities, that are the chief beneficiaries of the foundation's grant programs."

In 2005, the Ford Foundation's assets were valued at over $11.5 billion. Its annual grant budget was listed at $622 million.

A review of its profile at the Capital Research Center reveals that Ford has continued donating to foundations and organizations associated with liberal ideology.

Millions of dollars in recent years have been donated to organizations such as the Tides Foundation, the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood of New York City, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the AFL-CIO, the ACLU, the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Federalist Movement, the New America Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, and the National Resources Defense Council.

Ford Foundation spokeswoman Fiona Guthrie on Friday defended the organization's work.

"For more than 50 years, the Ford Foundation has created opportunities for people to live freer, better, more prosperous lives," she told Cybercast News Service.

"We funded those who built the legal foundations of the civil rights movement and the renewal of poor neighborhoods across the country. Today we are the largest philanthropic funder of efforts to help low-income U.S. families get into the mainstream economy by becoming home owners, savers, and small businesses owners," Guthrie said.

She said the recipients of the foundation's grants "express core American values of fairness and respect for the dignity and worth of every human being."

"Our mission is clear and consistent: to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement," she said. "These nonpartisan values guide every aspect of our grant making."

The last major congressional inquiry into the funding activities of charitable foundations took place in 1954.

Norman Dodd, chief investigator of what was known as the Reece Committee, reported that "foundations have used their wealth to change American culture to one of collectivism ...wealth, improperly used, has altered the culture of the nation and led it to the left."

Kent recommended that when establishing foundations, founders should develop strict guidelines for how their money is to be spent and demand that the funds be spent within a few years of their passing.

He also urged state attorney generals to adopt a more forceful oversight role and expose abuse whenever possible.

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