Sociation Today

Sociation Today

ISSN 1542-6300

The Official Journal of the
North Carolina Sociological Association

A Peer-Reviewed
Refereed Web-Based 

Spring/Summer 2015
Volume 13, Issue 1

Funding the Tea Parties*


Thomas J. Keil

      Arizona State University


Jacqueline M. Keil

Kean University

    In 2009, the Tea Party movement burst upon the American political scene. It portrayed itself as a spontaneous, grass-roots movement composed of people who were frustrated, angered, and resentful toward the Obama administration and its public policies. According to an April 2010 national poll conducted by the New York Times (Zernike 2010: 197-227), 88% of Tea Party Supporters did not approve of the way President Obama was performing his job and 92% thought the country was heading in the wrong direction, compared to 59% of all respondents.  Tea Party Supporters also believed that President Obama had expanded government to a greater degree than did other respondents. The Tea Party Supporters also believed, more than other respondents, that the President's policies favored the poor more so than others and favored racial minorities more than whites. Tea Party Supporters self-identified as being very conservative and "very angry" with the federal government. Their anger is directed at three things: 1.) the health care bill, 2) excessive government spending, and a belief that their political positions are not being adequately represented in Washington. Demographically, Tea Party Supporters were more likely to be Protestant, Evangelical Christians, Republicans,  over age 64, a college graduate, white, make over $100,000 per year, and to be male than were all respondents to the survey.

    Overall, the supporters' politics is one of class, status, and racial resentment.  Such politics are a long-time feature of the American political system. They tend to percolate to the surface during times of economic and social dislocations and crisis, when formerly dominant groups see their social and political capital being devalued by the rise of new class, social, and racial forces.

    Tea Party supporters have been helped financially and/or organizationally by five major groups: The Competitive Enterprise Institute; Freedom Works, which is run by Dick Armey; Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch; the Heartland Institute, and Americans for Tax Reform. Also important to the Tea Party Movement has been Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the owner of Fox News.  These organizations have contributed to the success of one or more of the Tea Party Federations: The Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, and the Tea Party Express. In turn, the groups that provide critical support to the Tea Party movement, with the exception of the News Corporation, are supported by a network of 33 right-wing, corporate foundations, the most important of which have been the Bradley Foundation, the Olin Foundation, three Scaife Foundations, and three Koch family foundations (connections have been mapped using data from Conservative Transparency Media Matters Action Network, accessed in June, July, and August, 2010. The mapping procedure was carried out using Borgatti's (2002) Netdraw Network Visualization). The above foundations, plus the following provide financial support for an array of 75 right wing foundations, think tanks, and policy organizations, most of which support part or all of the Tea Party agenda.

     We have identified thirty-two foundations and one corporation (Exxon Mobile) that have supplied funds to the five organizations involved in actively mobilizing tea party activists. One of the most highly engaged foundations is the Armstrong Foundation. The president is Thomas K. Armstrong, a supporter of various right-wing organizations and causes.  The graphic shows the interrelationships which we have discovered.

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    The Barbara and Barry Seid Foundation's founder and president is Barre Seid, who also founded the Chamber Opera of Chicago, for which his wife, Barbara, serves as the Artistic Director. He owns a number of manufacturing companies in the Chicago area, defines himself as a Republican, and is an intellectual disciple of Friedrich Von Hayek of the London School of Economics who wrote the classic The Road to Serfdom and the Constitution of Liberty (,
 accessed August 12, 2010).

     The Carthage Foundation is one of the Scaife Foundations, along with the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Allegheny Foundation. These foundations serve as instruments of Richard Mellon Scaife, a reclusive billionaire, who supports right wing causes and organizations. Scaife's money comes from his family's ownership of the Gulf Oil Corporation, Alcoa, Alcan, other corporations, banking interests, and their involvement in the uranium cartel
accessed August 10, 2010). Richard Mellon Scaife is the exclusive contributor to the Carthage and Allegheny Foundations. He founded both of these and has served as chairman of each
accessed June18, 2010).  He assumed control of the Sarah Scaife Foundation when his mother died in 1965
accessed June18, 2010). In the early 2000s, the Scaife Family Foundation, under Richard's daughter Jennie, broke with the other foundations and began funding organizations dealing with a broad range of foci, including Planned Parenthood; however, it continued to support restrictions on immigration and organizations dedicated to ending affirmative action (,
 accessed June18, 2010).

     The Koch Foundations consist of the following: the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation. Money for these foundations comes from the Koch Family Industries one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. "According to Forbes, in 2007 Koch Industries generated $98 billion in revenue and had 80,000 employees. The company began in 1927 when Fred C. Koch developed a better way to convert heavy oil into gasoline. .. in 1940, Fred Koch founded the Wood River Oil and Refining Company. After Fred Koch's death in 1967, his son Charles took control of  the company. In 1968 Charles renamed the company Koch Industries, Inc. His brother David H. Koch joined the company in 1970 and became president in 1978…. In recent years Koch Industries has diversified its business holdings to include more than oil and gas"

 accessed August 21, 2010).
The foundations primarily fund libertarian organizations and, on occasion, conservative organizations. They are one of the larger sources of foundation funding on the right. Fred C. Koch, the family patriarch, was one of the founders of the John Birch Society. In 1980, David Koch was a Vice-Presidential Candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation was established in 1980. "The mission of the Foundation is to advance social progress and well being through the development, application, and dissemination of the Science of LibertyTM. History has shown that societies with greater economic freedom have more prosperity and an enhanced quality of life. This observation that a free society is uniquely suited to creating, fostering, and sustaining peace and prosperity is fundamental to the Science of Liberty… the Foundation strives to develop market-based tools that enable individuals, institutions, and societies to survive and prosper
 accessed August 10, 2010). Charles G. Koch was one of the founders of the Cato Institute and his brother David was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which later became Freedom Works. Describing the goal of his foundation's contributions, David H. Koch has said "…my overall concept is to minimize the role of government, to maximize the role of private economy and to maximize personal freedom," quoted in,
accessed August 21, 2010.

     The Earhart Foundation was founded in 1929 by Harry B. Earhart with the money he made from the Whitestar Oil Company. He contributed to the support of Frederich Von Hayek. The foundation provides funding for free-market organizations and for individuals who support free market ideas. It, along with other right-wing foundations contributed to establishing conservative newspapers on college campuses in the early 1980s (,
accessed June 16, 2010).

     The Exxon Mobile Corporation, which markets EXXON, ESSO, and Mobile products is a key player in funding right-wing organizations, including those that have been active in mobilizing tea party groups. It claims to be the world's "… largest publicly traded international oil and gas company…."(,
 accessed August 12, 2010).

     The Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation was founded in 1988, with the purpose of supporting "… local education, social and health projects, as well as public policy groups with limited-government, free-market orientation" (, accessed August 12, 2010). Cain made his fortune in petrochemicals, electronics, and biotechnology  (, accessed August 12, 2010).

     In 1924 Jeremiah Milbank founded the JM Foundation in order to foster the integration of people with disabilities into public life. "He was also an ardent champion of individual liberty and limited government. To realize his vision, The JM Foundation Directors support activities that foster self-sufficiency, personal responsibility, and private initiative. The Foundation's current philanthropic goals are to encourage market-oriented public policy solutions;  to enhance America's unique system of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, private property ownership, and voluntarism; and to strengthen American families"
 accessed August 12, 2010). Mr. Milbank was a republican activist engaged in party fundraising. He was a strong backer of Senator Goldwater's campaign for the presidency in 1964. Following Goldwater's defeat he used his foundation to contribute to "…promoting private enterprise and self-help," according to his son

 accessed August 12, 2010). The family fortune was derived from the processing of condensed milk, which led to the founding of Borden, Inc. (,
 accessed August 12, 2010).

     Jacquelin "Jack" Hume, founder of the Jacquelin Hume Foundation, developed Basic American Foods into an international leader in the production and distribution of dehydrated foods. He funded a large number of conservative causes and was a member of President Reagan's so-called "kitchen cabinet." Hume was particularly interested in promoting the cause of free enterprise
accessed August 6, 2010).

     The John M. Olin Foundation, which ceased operation in 2005, was founded by John Olin in 1953. Olin had made his fortune in chemicals and munitions manufacturing. "Olin was committed to the preservation of the principles of political and economic liberty as they have been expressed in American thought, institutions, and practice…. Accordingly, the general purpose of the John M. Olin Foundation is to provide support for projects that reflect or are intended to strengthen the economic, political, and cultural institutions upon which the American heritage of constitutional government and private enterprise is based. The foundation also seeks to promote a general understanding of these institutions by encouraging the thoughtful study of the connections between economic and political freedoms, and the cultural heritage that sustains them" (,
accessed August 6, 2010) quoted in,
 accessed August 6, 2010). The John M. Olin Foundation closed its doors at the end of 1985, having made a substantial contribution to the right. According to Debra England, the Foundation, whose wealth came from chemicals and munitions, had an impact far in excess of its assets, which never totaled more than $120 million in any given year
 (  England claims that the foundation "Revered as the leading architect of the conservative philanthropy movement over the past 25 years, the Olin Foundation leaves behind a network of conservative grantee institutions, organizations, scholars, and opinion-shapers that have been on the front-lines of what Olin staffers described as a fiercely competitive 'battle for men's minds" (  

     The John Templeton Foundation was established by the investor John Templeton, who made a large part of his fortune in mutual funds. His foundation defines its mission as follows: "The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will …."
 accessed August 6, 2010). On a more particular level, the Templeton Foundation is a key player in the funding of right-wing organizations, including two that have served as active agents of mobilization for the tea party movement.

     Lynde and Harry Bradley were two entrepreneurs from Milwaukee. They established a foundation that has come to be one of the largest and most powerful on the economic and political right. According to the statement on their foundation web site: "The Bradley brothers were committed to preserving and defending the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise that has enabled the American nation and, in a larger sense, the entire Western world to flourish intellectually and economically. The Bradleys believed that a good society is a free society. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is likewise devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nurture it. Its programs support limited, competent government, a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense, at home and abroad, of American ideas and institutions. In addition, recognizing that responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens and informed public opinion, the Foundation supports scholarly studies and academic achievement"
accessed August 6, 2010).

     According to the Society for Nonprofit Organizations, the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation of Latrobe, PA "… is guided by the philosophical orientation and public life of its founder and works primarily in the fields of public policy and education. The Foundation's purpose is to support the advancement of a free, prosperous, and well-ordered society, based upon American civic principles, private enterprise, and the cultural heritage of Western civilization. The Foundation is committed to limited constitutional government, free market economics, and moral virtue…." (

     The Randolph Foundation, a significant donor to conservative causes from the right, has a difficult to understand recent history. According to Media Transparency
accessed August 12, 2010), the Randolph Foundation reached an almost inexplicable deal with The Smith Richardson Foundation. The agreement between the two foundations created  a " … new The Randolph Foundation, transferred all of the old The Randolph Foundation assets - $49 million – to the new entity, renamed the old The Randolph Foundation to the H. Smith Richardson Charitable Trust (HSRCT), and transferred $48 million from the Smith Richardson Foundation to HSRCT (essentially replacing the money given to the new The Randolph Foundation). The agreement set up a deal whereby the HSRCT gave money to the Smith Richardson Foundation each year the the SRF would then disburse…."
 accessed August 12, 2010).

     The Rodney Fund has no web site, so there is little information available about its history, purpose, philosophy, and mission. Scanning its donor list, however, indicates that it heavily gives to libertarian and conservative organizations, as will be shown in detail later.

     The Roe Foundation was founded by Thomas Anderson Roe, Jr., who also founded the State Policy Network, which we describe later. He was an advocate of freedom, free enterprise and free-market policies, which his foundation supported both in the United States and abroad. He was a Republican Party activist and was an advisor to President Reagan. He also was a Trustee of the Heritage Foundation
 accessed August 11, 2010).

     The William Cullom Davis Foundation has ceased operations after more than 40 years of donating to conservative and libertarian causes. It was named after its founder, who was a banker and U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland
accessed August 13, 2010). It defined its mission as follows: "The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation espouses the values upon which our nation was founded: duty, honor, freedom, individual responsibility, and the work ethic. The mission of the Foundation is to promote entrepreneurship, self-reliance, global understanding, free enterprise, and to enhance the quality of life by supporting the arts, education, health advancements, and preservation of the environment"
 accessed August 13, 2010).
The William H. Donner Foundation funds conservative organizations in the United States and a Canadian foundation founded by Donner does the same there. Donner was an entrepreneur who made money in the grain business, real estate, the tin plate business, and the rod, wire, and nail business, where he was a partner of Henry Clay Frick and the Mellon Brothers (,
accessed August 11, 2010).

     The Castle Rock Foundation is funded by money from the Coors family, owners of Coors Brewing Company. The Coors family has a long history of funding right-wing causes. Joseph Coors gave Paul Weyrich, a co-founder of the Moral Majority, $250,000 to start the Heritage Foundation in 1973. Joseph also assisted Weyrich in starting the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, which later morphed into the Free Congress Foundation. Joseph Coors also worked with Phyllis Schlafly to block the Equal Rights Movement and with Pat Robertson to establish Regent University and contributed to the John Birch Society and the Nicaraguan contras
 accessed August 11, 2010). Coors anti-labor policy and its funding of anti-gay, anti-environmentalist, and anti-women's right groups damaged the company's reputation. In reaction to criticism, Coors began providing support to African-American and Latino/a organizations. In addition in 1995 it became one of the largest American corporations to provide health benefits to the domestic partners of gay employees
accessed August 11, 2010).  In order to disassociate the Coors name from foundation support of right-wing groups, in 1993, the family created the Castle Rock Foundation with a $36,596,253 transfer of unrestricted funds from the Adolph Coors Foundation, which had been created in 1975 (,
accessed August 11, 2010). From that point on, the Adolph Coors Foundation exclusively contributed to causes and organizations in Colorado, while Castle Rock contributed to libertarian organizations and causes.

     The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation defines its mission as follows: "The mission of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation is to serve as faithful stewards of God's blessings through a focus on 1) Christian Evangelism through church building, family building, and youth programming; 2) Education through programs that provide support for parental choices in determining where their elementary and secondary school-aged children attend school; 3) Public Policy that results in a freer, more virtuous, more prosperous society…." (The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation web site, accessed August 13, 2010). Dick DeVos' fortune comes from being the son of Richard DeVos, a co-founder of Amway and as having been CEO of that company between 1993 and 2002, after having served in a number of positions in Amway. Between 1991 and 1993, Mr. DeVos served as president of the Orlando Magic, an NBA team his family owned. He was the Republican candidate for governor of Michigan in 2006, a race he lost to Jennifer Granholm.
     Incorporated in 1970, the Richard and Helen DeVos foundation is the largest and oldest of the DeVos Foundations, which include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, founded in 1990, discussed above, the Daniel and Pamela DeVos Foundation, founded in 1992, and the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, which was established in 1992. In addition to his involvement with Amway and the Orlando Magic, Richard DeVos was the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee
accessed July 16, 2010).
Richard DeVos stands among the richest Americans and his foundation funds a variety of Christian and conservative economic organizations. It is a self-defined warrior in America's cultural wars, supporting what it sees as traditional American values and ideals.
  According to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation web site (,
accessed August 11, 2010):
"The Bradley brothers were committed to preserving and defending the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise that has enabled the American nation and, in a larger sense, the entire Western world to flourish intellectually and economically. The Bradleys believed that the good society is a free society. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is likewise devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nourish it. Its programs support limited, competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense, at home and abroad, of American ideas and institutions. In addition, recognizing that responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens and informed public opinion, the Foundation supports scholarly studies and academic achievement."  Elsewhere on the web site
accessed August 11, 2010), it is stated that: "The free society so central to the convictions and success of the Bradley brothers rests upon and is intended to nurture a solid foundation of competent, self-governing citizens, who are understood to be fully capable of and personally responsible for making the major political, economic, and moral decisions that shape their own lives, and the lives of their children. Such decisions are made on the basis of common sense, received wisdom, traditional values, and everyday moral understandings, which are in turn nurtured and passed on to future generations by healthy families, churches, neighborhoods, voluntary associations, schools, and other value-generating 'mediating structures.' This expansive understanding of citizenship is being challenged today, however, by contemporary forces and ideas that regard individuals more as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces than as personally responsible self-governing citizens, and that foster a deep skepticism about citizenly values and mediating structures. Consequently, authority and accountability tend to flow away from citizens toward centralized, bureaucratic, 'service providing' institutions that claim to be peculiarly equipped to cope with those external forces on behalf of their "clients." This systematic disenfranchisement of the citizen and the consequent erosion of citizenly mediating structures pose grave threats to the free society that the Bradley brothers cherished. In light of these considerations, projects likely to be supported by the Foundation will generally share these assumptions:

  • They will treat free men and women as genuinely self-governing, personally responsible citizens, not as victims or clients.
  • They will aim to restore the intellectual and cultural legitimacy of citizenly common sense, the received wisdom of experience, everyday morality, and personal character, refurbishing their roles as reliable guideposts of everyday life.
  • They will seek to reinvigorate and reempower the traditional local institutions – families, schools, churches, and neighborhoods, that pass on everyday morality to the next generation, and that cultivate personal character.
  • They will encourage decentralization of power and accountability away from centralized, bureaucratic, national institutions back to the states, localities, and revitalized mediating structures where citizenship is more fully realized."
     The web site sketches out the background of the Bradley brothers (,asp,
 accessed August 11, 2010). The foundation is located in Milwaukee, where the brothers made their fortunes. They were inventors and entrepreneurs. They sold their company, which was founded with Dr. Stanton Allen, to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion in 1985. The purchase increased the assets of the Foundation from $14 million to more than $290 million, turning it into one of the largest foundations on the right and in the United States, in general. 

     The Gilder Foundation was established by the Republican stockbroker Richard Gilder, who was a strong supporter of George W. Bush and was active in helping lay the foundations for the Club for Growth. He was a backer of Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics, helped fund the so-called "Gingrich Revolution," backed Steve Forbes' candidacies for president, and once chaired the Manhattan Institute. The Foundation supports a variety of conservative causes
accessed August 13, 2010).

     The Walton Family Foundation was established with the profits from Wal-Mart, the giant discount merchandising corporation, and Sam's Club, a warehousing merchandiser. Reading the foundation's web site (,
accessed August 13, 2010), one would never realize that the foundation is inextricably bound together with the right-wing bloc of foundations we have identified. Instead, one comes away with a completely different picture of the foundation and its activities. According to the web site  (,
 accessed August 13, 2010), "Sam and Helen Walton's philosophy of giving is based on life-long experiences in small town Northwest Arkansas that teach the value of personal engagement and involvement, the power of engagement in society, and that making philanthropic investments should make an appreciable difference in communities." Nowhere mentioned is the foundation's pattern of giving to right-wing, conservative causes.

     The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, founded by Lloyd Noble, a successful oil driller whose business operations were in the United States and Canada, like the Walton Foundation does not mention its links to the Tea Party organizers or to other right wing groups. Instead its web site (, accessed
August 22, 2010) discusses the foundations involvement in applying science to the improvement of agriculture, especially in Oklahoma, where the drilling business started.

     According to the web site of the William E. Simon Foundation (,
accessed August 22, 2010), the foundation "Named after its principal benefactor … supports programs that are intended to strengthen the free enterprise system and the spiritual values on which it rests: individual freedom, initiative, thrift, self-discipline and faith in God… the Foundation seeks to fund programs which are effective in promoting independence and personal responsibility among those in need." Simon had a highly successful political and business career. In 1973 he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, in 1974 he was the first administrator of the Federal Energy Office, and President Nixon appointed him as Secretary of the Treasury. He was reappointed to that office by President Ford and served until 1977 (,
accessed August 22, 2010). Immediately before entering public life, Mr. Simon was a senior partner at Salmon Brothers, where he served on the firm's executive committee. After he left government service he founded a number of companies, including founding, in 1988, a global merchant bank – William E. Simon and Sons
accessed August 22, 2010). He was "…committed to the American heritage of constitutional  government and private enterprise. He sought to strengthen this heritage during his 23-year tenure as President of the Jon M. Olin Foundation and as a trustee of several think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution."

     The Charlotte and Walter Kohler Charitable Trust is named after a former Republican governor of Wisconsin. The Kohler family had two members who served as governors of that state. They made their family fortune in bathroom plumbing and kitchen supplies and fixtures.

     The Hickory Foundation, which is headquartered in New Jersey, has as one of its principal interests the privatization of public schools. In addition it funds a number of other conservative causes and organizations.

     The Armstrong Foundation is headed by Thomas K. Armstrong. We have been unable to obtain detailed information of the foundation's goals and purposes and the source of Mr. Armstrong's wealth. Also, we could find little information on the Ruth and Peter Lovett Foundation, other than that the family money comes from Proctor and Gamble, which is headquartered in Ohio.


     The foundations we have listed, 32 of them, have in common the fact that they all fund one or more active agents in mobilizing Tea Party activists. They are only a limited subset of the funding sources, we have not included direct, corporate funders, except in the case of Exxon Mobile. In the These foundations also fund a number of other right-wing organizations that, together with the tea party groups, constitute a right-wing bloc of organizations that exert tremendous influence in the war of ideas and the struggles for position in American society and politics.
     Given the indirect link between the various Tea Party groups and these right wing foundations, it is evident that the Tea Party, in part, is carrying forth the agenda of the traditional right: small government, weak regulation of business, low taxes, and low expenditures, especially for "entitlement" programs. The hard right foundations, acting as a partly self-organizing bloc, have been able to fund seemingly grass-roots organizations to oppose changes being proposed by the Obama administration, just as they had tried with the New Deal, the Truman, Carter, and with the Clinton Administration. All of these administrations, and, to a lesser degree, the Eisenhower administration, raised the ire of the radical right. Center right administrations are unacceptable to the radical right, they want nothing less than the politics represented in and by the Reagan administration, anything else smacks of socialism or, even, communism.

     In creating these foundations, within the spaces opened for them by the state and the tax subsidies they receive, and employing their resources in the way they have done, capital on the extreme political right has made explicit and overt its war of position (Gramsci 1989) within the United States, both within the structures of the state and the structures of the society in general. This struggle for hegemony represents a war among reformist oriented capitalists on the liberal side of the political spectrum, as well as their allies who penetrated the state following the activism of various movements of the 1960s and 1970s (e.g. the civil rights and feminist movements, and more recently the GLBT movement), and hard-line capitalists on the right and their allies and minions, including forces on the religious right, social and values conservatives, educational conservatives, and the like. In the 1970s there were a number of right-wing think tanks created in direct response to the emerging legitimacy deficit of the state and the seeming abandonment of bourgeois ideology among significant strata of intellectuals, especially among those working in elite academic institutions in the humanities and the social sciences. Those controlling the foundations understood the importance of using their funds to create think tanks and other propaganda organs to defend their hegemony against the potential "disaster" coming from the left. They also invested heavily in developing their own young leaders and cadres of intellectuals to formulate bourgeois ideas and ideals in ways that would be palatable to large segments of the American population: which they did. 

     The capitalists behind the foundations realized the importance of maintaining structures of consciousness in the American population and an ideology that preserved and advanced laissez-faire capitalism and the core values that supported it – individual responsibility, the work-ethic, anti-union sentiment, and anti-collectivism of any type. These values once were generated on the shop-floor in America's factories, but with the decline of industrial production they no longer could be so closely anchored in the society's production processes: hence the need for supplementary apparati  to anchor and to reproduce a political consciousness aligned with bourgeois needs and interests.  Among the means to achieve this is to obscure the linkage between political and economic stances and the class interests of the bourgeoisie so that bourgeois needs and interests appear to be the needs and interests of all humanity for all time.

     Intellectuals organized into right-wing think tanks have played a critical role in structuring and maintaining this pro-bourgeois consciousness among the masses by contributing in major ways to the structuring of consent. The think-tanks have worked to control the terrain of ideological, political, and economic contestation so as to engineer consent to the most archaic forms of capitalist accumulation: a capitalism that would operate without social responsibility and without state constraint. They helped prepare the way for the Reagan "revolution," with its emphasis on deregulation and unfettered markets and the shrinkage of the welfare state and for its aftermath in the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as inheritors of the Reagan mantle.

     The foundations and their recipient organizations discovered and developed fertile ground to mobilize cadres of right-wing activists in the mass Tea Party movements, as well as in other organizations, following the capture of the two houses of congress and the presidency by a center-right Democratic Party. The ground for right-wing mobilization was made richer in part because the president is an African-American, who many on the right see as someone who was not born in the United States and someone who is a practicing Muslim, despite the attacks during the campaign from many of the same people because of his ties to a supposedly "radical" Black pastor. The right, in general, and Newt Gingrich in particular, have taken explicit steps to radically "other" the president, going so far as to claim that his, the president's, ideology is that of a Kenyan anti-colonialist.

     In the ebb and flow of the war of position that characterizes ideological struggle in the United States, the right appears to be on ascent for the moment. It has been able to produce an ideology that has become decoupled, on the surface, from the class interests of the bourgeoisie and made to appear as the ideology of an historic bloc that includes the interests of economically and politically dominated subaltern classes. Part of being a member of a subaltern class is to possess a bourgeois' consciousness, unless one belongs to one or more groups that actively contests bourgeois' ideological hegemony. The bourgeoisie that have continued to resist the New Deal and progressive forces that have penetrated the state have successfully united a portion of the petty bourgeoisie and the working classes behind an agenda to unfetter capital from any regulatory constraints and to beat back progressive forces from maintaining and expanding their influence over state policies.

     To accomplish this, the bourgeois foundations created their own ideological network of think-tanks, policy organizations, and the like that are staffed with its own intellectuals who have been carefully trained to unite the right-wing bourgeoisie and to advance the hegemony of this faction of capital in the ideological, political, and economic spheres. The goal is to engineer consent to a reestablishment of pre-New Deal capitalism and the ideology and the class alliances that sustained it as hegemonic. The intellectuals are as much an effect of the bourgeoisie as it finds itself in a particular historical condition as they are a producer of the unity of significant parts of the bourgeoisie. Mass ideological preparation by the bourgeoisie's intellectuals was necessary to the consolidation of that class' vision among potions of the electorate and the rank-and-file citizenry.

     The foundations and think-tanks we have studied are the heirs to the right-wing bourgeois resistance movements to the New Deal and progressive politics that appeared between the 1930s and the 1960s, which culminated in the failed Goldwater campaign of 1964 and reemerged in the two successful Reagan electoral campaigns in 1980 and 1984. For example, we can see the rhetoric of the anti-New Deal forces of the 1930s reproduced in the Tea Party movements and in their sources of financial and organizational support. The Liberty League, formed to defend the ideals of pre-New Deal capitalism, advanced the idea that the New Deal was a usurpation of state power in favor of centralized government and, hence, was unconstitutional (Phillips-Fein 2009: 11), a position still voiced by tea party activists and backers.  The Liberty League was a strong opponent of Social Security, seeing it as a wealth redistribution program (Phillips-Fein 2009:12).  The Liberty League claimed it was a cross-class organization, despite the fact that its funding came from a handful of wealthy businessmen.

     Another major opponent of the New Deal, especially its labor provisions, was the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM made no pretense of being a cross-class organization. Instead it portrayed itself as an organization designed to protect capitalism and the rights of owners and managers vis-à-vis the power of the government and labor unions (Phillips-Fein 2009: 12-15).
     The Republican Party's Industrial Division, headed by Sterling Morton, an executive with the family company, Morton Salt, tried to persuade employers to encourage their workers to support Alf Landon in his presidential race against Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 election. The Industrial Division of the GOP had tried, unsuccessfully, to build a cross-class movement in opposition to the New Deal, especially to Social Security (Phillips-Fein 2009: 20-21).

     Shortly after the end of World War II, Leonard Read, a conservative intellectual and activist, together with David Goodrich, president of the BF Goodrich Company, started the first free-market think-tank, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) (Phillips-Fein 2009: 27) , which continues to the present day and is funded by several of the 33 foundations we have considered. FEE sought to build a defense of the free market not because of its benefit to the bourgeoisie, but because of its supposed role as a bastion of freedom and liberty, as opposed to collectivism  and regulation of markets, which only served to undermine freedom in Read's view. By taking such a stand, FEE helped build an ideology that broke the link between the interests of capital and the defense of free markets, creating a foundation for building a cross-class movement in defense of capitalist ideals.
     Also important in building such cross-class linkages in defense of capitalism has been the work of two Austrian economists: Ludwig von Mises and Frederich von Hayek. Especially important was von Hayek's seminal work The Road to Serfdom, which served as the intellectual foundation for opposition to the expansion of the federal government, particularly its regulatory powers, and resistance to unions throughout the post-war period and beyond to the present day (Phillips-Fein 2009: 41). The two Austrians built an argument that, even more than democracy, freedom's defense and expansion was guaranteed by the free-market. The destruction of freedom would come with the collectivist and regulatory impulses of the New Deal. Therefore, it was in everyone's interest to defend free enterprise, not just in the interests of capitalists who profited from the system to resist the state and its encroachment on markets. This is a key idea of the various tea party movements and their funders and supporters (Armey and Kibbe: 2010), thus masking the linkage between free market ideology and the class interests of the bourgeoisie.

     Robert Welch, a candy manufacturer, along with eleven others, one of whom was the father of the Koch brothers, founded the John Birch Society, an ardent defender of unrestricted, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism, in 1958. The John Birch Society argued that President Eisenhower was a communist agent, a belief not promoted by all on the right, although there was strong sentiment on the right that he, Eisenhower, was excessive in his acceptance of the principles and practices of the New Deal.

     The American Enterprise Association, later to become the American Enterprise Institute, was formed in 1943. It played two important roles on the right. First, it worked to create intellectuals on the right who worked independently of capitalism's more progressive intellectuals who were supportive of the New Deal and, second, it, along with other think tanks and organizations on the right, worked to organize the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie to resist the New Deal.

     As with the present day right-wing, there was a strong reliance on Christianity to defend capitalism and the free market from the 1930s onward (Phillips-Fein 2010: 68 ff). The drive to reconcile Christianity with capitalism was expressed organizationally in groups such as Spiritual Mobilization (Phillips-Fein 2010: 68 ff.) and other efforts to demonstrate a basic harmony between Christianity and economic philosophies such as libertarianism.

     A large sector of capitalism still pursues the agenda of doing away with the New Deal in the name of freedom and liberty. Now the battle to expand support for the market is fought in part by large foundations and corporations, of which we have identified a mere 32 foundations (and one corporation) from a larger universe of donors to right wing causes. As we have been able to demonstrate, the Tea Party movements are but one part of the larger strategy on the right to advance the capitalist agenda, without seeming to be acting in the interests of a particular class, thereby expanding the hegemony of the bourgeoisie over subaltern classes and integrating the subaltern classes into a cohesive bloc backing capitalism and its political agenda and economic agenda.

     As the tea party candidates pressure the state to cut a large number of domestic programs and to reduce taxes, they are preparing for an assault on "entitlement" programs such as Medicare,  Medicaid, and Social Security, as manifest in Congressman Ryan's proposed budget for 2012. Being put on the agenda of the tea party politicos are reduced benefits for future retirees, higher co-payments for health insurance, elimination or sharply reducing eligibility for Medicaid, and a raised age for retirement.

     Those at the grassroots level who support the tea party agenda have been playing the role of "useful idiots" working on behalf of the corporate, capitalist agenda. Grass roots supporters of the tea party serve as "useful idiots" of the capitalist class, insofar as they stand behind policies serving bourgeois and corporate interests that run counter to their own class interests. The bourgeois/corporate agenda serves only to intensify the economic exploitation and the political and social degradation of the various tea party organizations' rank-and-file membership. This being the case, we need to explain how the tea party is able to appeal to the disadvantaged, to workers and to the lower middle classes who comprise a significant part of its activist base, despite the movement's obvious class bias. Following Aronowitz, in his introduction to Max Horkheimer's Critical Theory: Selected Essays (1968), we may begin by noting that there has been a loss of critical intelligence both in bourgeois liberalism and in the workers' movement, as thought has come to be reduced to the cash nexus, with all that implies. Under monopolistic capitalism, thought, transformed into ideology, seeks to mask the conflict between independent and dependent classes in society. In part, this is a result of the fact that as Horkheimer (1968:13) notes, "The monopolistic phase … (of capitalism) … goes even further …(than bourgeois society ) …in denying class conflicts."  Under such conditions, the connections of thought to class interests and class power relationships are obfuscated and bourgeois ideas class content  and link to coercion are mystified (Horkheimer: 1968:56-57). Coercion becomes interiorized and, thus, part of the self.  Thus, the ideology of corporate interests not only dominates and shapes institutional life, but also "private" psychic life, including our so-called "common sense" understandings of the world around us and the everyday behaviors associated with it.

Additional References

Note:  These are references not cited directly with web URLs in the text of the article.  In order to preserve formatting, each URL must begin with a separate line.

Armey, Dick and Matt Kibbee. 2010. Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto. New York: William Morrow.

Borgatti, S.P. 2002. Netdraw Network Visualization. Harvard, MA: Analytic Technologies.

Caldwell, Bruce (ed.). 2007. The Road to Serfdom. F.A. Hayek. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Forgacs, David (ed.). 1989. An Antonio Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935. New York: Pendulum Press.

Horkheimer, Max. 1968. Critical Theory: Selected Essays. NY,NY: Seabury Press.

Phillips-Fein, Kim.  2009. Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative  Movement From the New Deal to Reagan. New York: Norton

Zernike, Kate 2010. Inside the Tea Party Movement: Boiling Mad. New York: Times Books, Henry Holt.


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 North Carolina
 Central University

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 North Carolina
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 North Carolina
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 Wake Forest

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 State University

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 Duke University

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