Liberal hegemony over public policy spending
New study shows Liberals spend almost four to one more than Conservatives on political nonprofits.
Conventional evidence suggests that conservatives, traditionally the partners of big money lenders and dark money funds, still have enormous sources of wealth to use to fund their politicians and think tank networks. Liberals, on the other hand, are mostly grassroots organizers and activists who constantly have to fight against money in politics. In addition to big names like George Soros, the American left lacks a wide variety of philanthropists and nonprofit networks with great financial backing.
Today this conventional wisdom couldn’t be further from the truth. It is based on an outdated thought stemming from the days of Reagan and the Bushes, when conservatives and libertarians created numerous think tanks in the form of the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, while liberals lag far behind in the arms race for control public policy research industry.
Even a cursory glance at the ever-growing list of Washington think tanks and advocacy groups shows that social liberalism is by far the dominant ideology in the public order universe. A recent update of a 2014 report by the Capital Research Center on this issue found that liberal nonprofits have only increased their financial advantage over their conservative counterparts since then.
Public Policy 501 (c) (3) Issues
Between the 2014 and 2018 election cycles, Liberal Scholars increased their donations to 501 (c) (3) public order groups from $ 7.4 billion to $ 8.1 billion, a 10 percent increase. Over the same period, conservative donations barely moved from $ 2.18 billion to $ 2.2 billion, increasing the imbalance from about 3.4 to 1 in 2014 to 3.7 to 1 in 2018.
The method of calculating these numbers is not complicated. We looked at the Form 990 tax returns for 2018 from five of the richest Liberal and five of the richest Conservative private foundations. We have written down the names of the public groups that have received grants from the foundations and excluded the grants for museums, schools and organizations of this type. We did this to create sample lists of nonprofits from both political camps.
The five liberal foundations we looked at were the Ford Foundation, the Soros Foundation for the Advancement of Open Society, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundations, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur- Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The five conservative foundations were the Mercer Family Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, and the Donor’s Trust. The Liberal foundations had 906 non-profit grantees, while the Conservative foundations had only 298.
Private foundations are upstream of non-profit organizations, but the individual grant foundations granted to non-profit organizations do not provide an indication of the total annual income of these political groups. Nonprofits receive money from many other private foundations as well as individuals. To get our financial results, we looked up and totaled the income of the relevant nonprofits for 2018 (and, if unavailable, 2017).
“Dark Money” Elections and Spending
Our study focused on funding stream 501 (c) (3) as it is by far the largest, and an analysis of this shows the larger monetary landscape in politics more clearly. Other major political groups such as Issue One and the Center for Responsive Politics have published comprehensive reports on the 2018 election spending and funding of 527 political party / PAC and 501 (c) (4) groups.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org, total election spending in 2018 was more than $ 5.7 billion, making it the most expensive Middle Ages ever. Democrats spent over $ 450 million on Republicans on party committees, outside groups, Senate candidate campaigns, and house candidate campaigns. The biggest inequality in spending was found in the House of Representatives’ candidate races, in which Democrats spent $ 300 million more than Republicans.
So-called dark money spending – funding super PACs and 501 (c) (4) stakeholders – went from a conservative advantage of 3.6 to 1 in the 2014 elections to an advantage of almost 2 to 1 for liberals in 2018 above. Liberal “dark money groups spent $ 81 million in the 2018 election, compared to $ 42 million spent by conservatives. This is in stark contrast to the $ 140 million Conservatives spent and the $ 39 million Liberals spent in 2014.
Spending by the liberal 501 (c) (4) group Majority Forward was $ 41 million, more than half the total in 2018. In the meantime, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has pulled back from its conservative recipients, and only 12 in 2018 Millions of US dollars spent, compared to 35 million US dollars in 2014. This follows a broader trend in the behavior of the chamber, whose leadership has expressly stated its intention to withdraw from the increasingly populist members of the GOP. After the uprising at the Capitol on January 6th, many companies followed suit.
What that means
Such a revelation should turn the entire discourse about money in politics on its head – but not expect it. Democratic politicians like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are still hammering armies of billionaire-funded conservative groups that dominate the political landscape, labeling this historical specter as a major right-wing conspiracy pursuing Washington’s politics. The truth is that Washington’s policies are still being dictated by corporations and wealthy financial capitalists, but this is now largely facilitated by the institutional left.
The center of power lies directly with progressive liberal foundations, which shape our national discourse through the financing of think tanks and lobby groups, decide on which foreign policy goals the Congress and the media will concentrate and which economic system the country will maintain. Gone are the days of cigar-consuming industrialists who finance a capitalist free market regime. Today’s scene consists of technical executives and hedge fund managers building a new aristocracy of monopolies upheld by economic regulations and obscured by the traps of progressive rhetoric. Wherever the money goes, mainstream opinion and culture will follow.
Shane Devine is an investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center.