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Commentary By Howard Husock

The Right Is Disarming in Philanthropy's War of Ideas

Culture Philanthropy

In an interview last year to promote Dark Money, her book-length polemic against Charles and David Koch, the New Yorker writer Jane Mayer characterizes the billionaire brothers and their philanthropic network as part of an outsize and unchecked force aimed at influencing public policy.

"Foundations are weird creatures in American politics — they’re perpetual forces of unaccountable money and influence," Ms. Mayer told Rolling Stone. "And they’ve got tremendous private foundations on the right that have been built up purposely to try to change American politics, starting in about 1970. The Kochs’ foundations are among them, but they’re not the only ones, by any means. They’re funding think tanks, they’re funding university programs."

Ms. Mayer is either unaware of or willfully ignoring the full picture of American philanthropy aimed at influencing public policy — brigades in what the political scientist Andrew Rich, author of Think Tanks, Public Policy and the Politics of Expertise, has termed the "war of ideas."

And contrary to what Ms. Mayer asserts, it is a war in which the right is vastly outgunned....

Read the entire piece here at The Chronicle of Philanthropy


Howard Husock is the Vice President of Research and Publications at the Manhattan Institute. From 1987 through 2006, he was director of case studies in public policy and management at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. This piece is based on a new report, "When Policy-Oriented Foundations Sunset."

This piece originally appeared in The Chronicle of Philanthropy