Magazine article Common Cause Magazine

Do as We Say

Magazine article Common Cause Magazine

Do as We Say

Article excerpt

Though talk of private charities, rather than government, supporting the social safety net has gotten a lot of press lately, one wealthy foundation that promotes the theory falls short in practice.

The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation gives millions of dollars each year to conservative think tanks around the country, including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the American Spectator's foundation. One of its mantras is to have the government do less and the private sector do more to help the poor. But the Bradley Foundation, endowed with $425.7 million, invested less than 30 percent of its yearly grants in Wisconsin charities in 1993.

The foundation awarded $60.2 million in grants in 1993, according to its own report. The only local recipient of the five largest grants was the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The other four included conservative Washington think tanks AEI and Heritage, as well as Bradley fellowships and projects at the University of Chicago and Harvard. Also in the top 10 are Boston College, Johns Hopkins University and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, local grants for Marquette University and the school-choice program Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE).

The foundation's general program interests state that "in light of our emphasis on decentralization, and considering the foundation's deep roots in Milwaukee and Wisconsin ... community and state projects will be of particular interest to us." But Milwaukee and Wisconsin's share of money has only dwindled, from half the grant money awarded in the late 1980s to less than a third from mid-1990 through 1993.

Take Milwaukee's Sojourner Truth House, for example. A battered women's shelter almost always filled to capacity, it received $3,000 from the foundation in '93, less than one-quarter of 1 percent of what Bradley bestowed on AEI during the same period.

"There is a resignation on the part of some [local] groups that they would never get funded by the Bradley Foundation," says Jean Tyler, who recently retired from her post as executive director of Milwaukee's Public Policy Forum, a group that studies local policy issues such as education, economic development and housing. If the Bradley Foundation gave more to local groups that provide food and housing, for example, Tyler says, "they could make a very big difference."

Instead, a prime example of Bradley money in action is leading Republican gum William Kristol. …

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