Capitalists Who Pay Their Enemies
"The capitalists will sell us the rope by which we hang them," V.I. Lenin once declared. These days, they are giving away the rope for free.
While liberal advocacy groups are rarely Leninist, U.S. companies do finance many left-of-center non-profit institutions. This corporate philanthropy helps these organizations pressure policy-makers to increase regulations, taxes and public expenditures. In short, American industry feeds the mouth that bites it.
As senior managers offer their company contributions in this season of giving, they would be wise to look for the Capital Research Center's "Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy." This book illustrates how the Forbes 250 companies subsidize their own headaches. Consider these migraines from 1995, the latest year CRC has analyzed:
* Chevron awarded the Audubon Society $10,000 while Atlantic Richfield handed it $1,000. Audubon is fighting to prevent petroleum exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge even as it extracts natural gas from its own Louisiana bird sanctuary.
* NBC's owner, General Electric, provided the NAACP $50,000 while ABC's parent, Walt Disney, donated $5,000 to the liberal civil rights group. Last summer, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume announced plans to boycott the TV networks "because none of the 26 new shows slated for the fall season have a minority in a leading or starring role." The NAACP also threatened to sue under the 1934 federal Communications Act unless the networks reversed what Mr. Mfume called a "virtual whitewash in programming" and placed more minority actors on-air.
* BankAmerica contributed $75,000 to the Greenlining Institute. Last year, it led 35 other groups in filing a protest with the Federal Reserve against Bank-America's merger with Nations Bank. Greenlining demanded greater diversity among the corporation's management and board.
* Chase Manhattan Bank gave $158,750 to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). PNC Bank furnished another $97,000. ACORN lobbies Congress for tighter lending regulations and limits on bank mergers and acquisitions. ACORN also wields the federal Community Reinvestment Act to dragoon banks into offering low-interest and minority-targeted loans. First Union chairman Edward Crutchfield calls this practice "pure blackmail." ACORN's website concurs: "ACORN, unlike most social service non-profits, scorns charity. Their goal is to help poor people seize power."
Left-wing corporate check-writing is just half the problem. Most American companies are stingy in funding think tanks and other non-profits that persuade lawmakers to cut taxes, reduce public spending, liberate trade, deregulate and otherwise foster free enterprise. In 1995, CRC reports, American companies donated $25. …