Better Angels

"...all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." ---Abraham Lincoln, First Innaugural Address

Saturday, July 10, 2004

More on the Lilly Endowment

A commenter below mentioned that I might have been too harsh in my desription of the Lilly Endowment at "right wing," mentioning that they funded quite a lot of programs, including enviromental ones. So I took a look. What I found is curious.

The Lilly Endowment is one of the largest, if not the largest non-profit foundation in America. I has a three pronged approach to grantmaking, funding organizations and programs in community development, education and religion. Grant preference goes to groups in the Indianapolis area or Indiana as a whole. Some of the grants are quite astonishing: In 2003 the Endowment gave 12 million dollars to the American Red Cross, over 8 million dollars to the Indiana Zoological Society and over 20 million to the United Way of Central Indiana. I want to acknowledge that this organization does yeoman's work in making Indiana a better, safer place to live.

That said, there is a strange subset of gifts that seem at odds with the Endowment's overall mission. In 2003, Lilly gave grants to the following organizations, all of which have ties to the Right:
American Enterprise Institute - 100,000.00
Atlas Economic Research Foundation - 500,000.00
Federalist Society - 150,000.00
Foundation for Research in Economics and the Enviroment - 100,000.00
Fraser Institute - 300,000.00
Freedom House - 100,000.00
George Mason University Foundation - 100,000.00
Hoover Institution at Stanford University - 125,000.00
Hudson Institute - 650,000.00
Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation - 85,000.00
Intercollegiate Studies Institute - 125,000.00
Manhattan Institute - 200,000.00
National Center for Policy Analysis - 150,000.00
Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy - 175,000.00
Political Economy Research Center - 50,000.00
Reason Foundation - 225,000.00
Social Philiosophy and Public Policy - 100,000.00
That's 3,235,000.00 all together, which is small potatoes in terms of the money Lilly gives out annually, but still a significant amount in the grand scheme of philanthropy.

These grants are listed in the Endowment's 2003 annual report under "Community Development." The "guidelines" section of the Endowment's website states: "Our community development grantmaking focuses primarily on the quality of life in Indianapolis and Indiana, and we grant funds for human service needs, central-city and neighborhood revitalization, low-income housing, and arts and culture in Indianapolis. We also support facilities and programs that help advance the city's economic revitalization and community recreational opportunities. On a statewide level, we provide major support for the development of the endowments of community foundations and the advancement of United Ways." The above organizations certainly do not fit that description.

Moreover, the website states that "Outside Indianapolis. Requests usually are declined for building campaigns, elementary/secondary education, arts and culture, human service projects, general operating funds (emphasis mine)and neighborhood projects (except as part of invitational grant programs)." 16 of the above grants are listed as "general operating support" for organizations outside Indianapolis.

The bulk of these organizations have a libertarian/free market/anti-enviromental regulations slant. The three "enviromental" organizations listed, Political Economy Research Center, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Enviroment and Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy are actually "free-market environmental" groups with ties to the oil industry. Another thing these groups have in common is the fact that in addition to monies from Lilly, they have all recieved funding from the Bradley, Olin, Scaife and Koch foundations.

There were no grants made to left-leaning think tanks or legitimate enviromental groups, which leads me to conclude that in matters of humanitarian assistance, the arts and education the Lilly Endowment does fine work. In matter of national policy, however, they make grants to neo-conservative and libertarian organizations that are part of the right-wing infrastructure. What does this mean in terms of the Barbara Bradley-Hagerty speaking engagement? Not much, I suppose, except that she was compensated by an organization that does have a politically partisan slant. Unethical? Probably not. Ill-considered? Defintely.