Will US plans to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein be derailed by his agreement this week to accept the return of UN weapons inspectors? Not if US neoconservatives—well-placed in President George W. Bush's cabinet, and in the State and Defense Departments—have anything to do with it. But where do the main conservative think-tanks get their funding? Energy Compass looks at some of the key foundations that back them, as well as the highly convoluted relationships between foundations, think-tanks, and the administration.
The influence of neoconservatives on US policy has been on the rise for the past two decades (EC Aug.30,p5). Nurtured in the Reagan administration, their influence is again flourishing, courtesy, in part, of conservative think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Hudson Institute, Hoover Institute, and the more libertarian Cato Institute—all of which are funded by a select but loyal group of like-minded foundations and corporate sponsors. But the build-up to war on Iraq is where neocons have really come into their own, and where their ideas—barring Bush's reluctant decision to seek a new resolution from the UN last month—appear to have been adopted lock, stock, and barrel. A book written in 1999 by David Wurmser, now special assistant to John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control—the man responsible for labeling Syria, Libya, and Cuba as a secondary "axis of evil" earlier this year—appears to lay out the rationale for war on Iraq, as well as the pressing need to reassert US influence in the Middle East.
In Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, Wurmser—whose previous homes have included the AEI and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, founded in part with money from the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), which describes itself as "America's pro-Israel lobby"—wrote: "Recognizing that sanctions cannot be permanently imposed on Iraq and lacking a plan to overthrow Saddam's regime, many of our Middle Eastern allies and other, global powers have determined that Saddam will eventually prevail in this conflict. Consequently they have reversed their policy, seeking now to nurture ties with Baghdad."
In other words, if Saddam stays, the Middle East will tilt toward him, and away from the US. For the neocons, with their strong ties to Israel, that is not a good thing. Neither would it be good for the US arms industry, nor for the oil or chemical companies that in some cases help fund the neocons.
But how have neocons come to have such influence on US policy? How have they been able to bring about the return of the Reagan-era "good" and "evil" ideology, the attempt to align US domestic and foreign policy more firmly on a Judaeo-Christian axis, and the momentous policy shift from containment and deterrence to preemption, which all coalesce in the looming US-led war for regime change in Iraq?
Part of the answer lies in the core group of conservative foundations that have been funding organizations like AEI, Heritage, Hudson, Hoover, and Cato. These include, among others, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation (and the Scaife-affiliated Carthage and Allegheny Foundations), the Earhart Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Koch Industries-affiliated Charles G. Koch Foundation, David H. Koch Foundation, and Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Between them, they have assets of about $1.2 billion, with only two of them, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation, managing to make it on the US-based Foundation Center's list of the top 100 charitable foundations by asset size. The former ranks 86th with nearly $580 million in assets in 2001, and the latter 96th, with around $540 million in assets in 2000.
Dwarfing them are more centrist outfits like the Ford Foundation, ranked third with $10.8 billion in assets, and the Rockefeller Foundation, ranked 14th with $3.2 billion. But whereas Ford and Rockefeller concentrate on projects like global food security, economic development, and human rights, the conservative foundations focus largely on channeling money to like-minded organizations whose research, publications, and outreach programs are designed specifically to influence US policy and the media. Of the top 25 think-tanks listed by media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting in terms of media visibility in 2001, the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation ranked second and third—each with more than 2,000 separate media citations—and AEI fifth. The centrist Brookings Institution was first.
The overlap among members of foundations, think tanks and, increasingly, the Bush team, borders on the incestuous. The Smith Richardson Foundation, funded by Vicks VapoRub money, gave $1.16 million to AEI in 2000, of which $125,000 went toward a study on US foreign entanglement led by none other than the State Department's John Bolton. AEI fellows include Richard Perle, head of the quasi-government Defense Policy Board, Irving Kristol, the grand-daddy of neocons, and Michael Ledeen, a fellow Reagan appointee and the first executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Ledeen has been leading the call for putting Iran next on the US's hit list. Former AEI fellow Michael Rubin, who was also affiliated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, joined the Pentagon this month to help shape a post-Saddam Iraq policy. AEI's board includes Lee Raymond, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, and William Stavropoulos, chairman of Dow Chemical Co.
The current president of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Michael Grebe, also sits on the board of overseers of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, where National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was formerly provost. Of the $101 million-plus that had been raised in a funding drive by August 2000, nearly 70% came from its well-heeled Board of Overseers, which boasts among its members Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon family's industrial, oil and banking fortune.
During the Reagan and Bush Senior administrations, Richard Scaife sat on the US Advisory Commission for Public Diplomacy, which oversees the US Information Agency—which cynics have long regarded as the acceptable face of the CIA. He helped found the Heritage Foundation in 1973, and now heads three of four Scaife family foundations. The largest, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, has assets of $322 million. In 2001, it extended grants to, among others, the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation (FCF) -- which focuses on returning American culture to its Judaeo-Christian roots—AEI, Hudson, and Cato.
Boasting both a fat wallet—assets of $107 million last year—and a prized location near the US Capitol, the Heritage Foundation has close links to other key financial backers. One is the Castle Rock Foundation, supported by the right-wing Coors family, of Coors Brewing Co. Joseph Coors was an initial founder of Heritage and is now an honorary trustee; Holland Coors, his wife, now sits on its board. Castle Rock also funds AEI, as well as the Cato and Hudson Institutes. Another Heritage trustee, Frank Shakespeare—a former director of the US Information Agency and ex-head of the television network CBS—is also a trustee of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Other well-placed Heritage corporate trustees include Steve Forbes, head of Forbes Inc., and Jay Van Andel, co-founder of Amway Corp. Former Heritage visiting fellow Alvin Felzenberg is now working with Rumsfeld at the Department of Defense.
Koch Industries—the family-owned energy conglomerate whose assets are estimated at $20 billion-$25 billion—is behind three foundations that back a range of institutes churning out policy papers, including the Cato Institute, which caused ripples in the libertarian movement when its director, Ted Galen Carpenter, backed Bush's war plans on Iraq. The David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch Foundations, along with the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, dole out grants to Heritage and the Hudson Institute, carrying on the tradition of their benefactor, Fred Koch, who has stellar right-wing credentials: in 1958 he co-founded the John Birch Society, which is currently running a "Get US out!" (of the UN) campaign.
The Indiana-based Hudson Institute is in the same funding loop. Its board is headed by Walter Stern, also a vice president of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Trustees include Richard Perle and Conrad Black, publisher of the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and the Spectator. The director of its center for Middle East policy is Meryav Wurmser, wife of David Wurmser and co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri), which translates and distributes stories from the Arab press that invariably portray Arabs in a bad light. A Hudson colleague is Kenneth Weinstein, who previously headed the Jerusalem- and Washington-based Shalem Center, which has led the charge against the Israeli left. The Shalem Center's current director is Yoram Hazony, a former adviser to ex-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The creeping emphasis on Judaeo-Christian values in US policy might be traced in the moves of Michael Joyce, former president of both the Bradley and John M. Olin Foundations—the latter of which funds AEI, Cato, Heritage, and Hudson—and Paul Weyrich, the Heritage Foundation's first president. Joyce, who previously worked for Irving Kristol, last year set up Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise at the behest of Bush and his top adviser, Karl Rove. Since 1977, Weyrich has headed the FCF. Jeffrey Coors, another Coors family member, sits on FCF's board, while Castle Rock is a funder.
Other institutes of note are JINSA and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy—both seen as strongly tied to the Israel lobby—and the Middle East Forum (MEF). Though their budgets—mostly funded through private donations—do not come close to those of their bigger brothers, they hit above their weight when it comes to influence.
Former JINSA board members include Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and Douglas Feith, now undersecretary of policy at the Defense Department. Feith, who served as special counsel to Richard Perle, also a JINSA board member, during the Reagan administration, has consistently and vociferously opposed the idea of Israel's trading land for peace. The institute recently honored Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
The Washington Institute, which held some $11 million in assets in 2000, meanwhile convenes a presidential study group every four years "charged with drafting the next administration's Middle East policy." Its conferences and retreats attract big-name players, and its research staff blanket both the mainstream and conservative media with articles.The MEF, which "believes in strong ties with Israel," draws its experts from the Washington and Hudson institutes, and the AEI, among others. As well as publishing the Middle East Quarterly, it boasts a project called Campus Watch that monitors the state of Middle East studies at US universities, naming and shaming academics whose analyses it views as "biased." The problem, as MEF sees it, is that "American scholars of the Middle East, to varying degrees, reject the views of most Americans and the enduring policies of the US government about the Middle East."