The Leftist Leviathan

The New Leviathan, by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin, overturns conventional wisdom about money and power in American politics, attacking the well-known myth that conservative lobby groups wield unparalleled clout. The myth holds that the relatively small “grass-roots” organizations on the side of the Democratic Party, putatively the party of the “the people,” are dwarfed by pro-Republican organizations speaking for Wall Street and the corporate elite. Allowing Democrats to claim moral legitimacy, this David-and-Goliath story has held sway for a long time, regardless of the massive wealth and old-money connections of many individual Democratic politicians: presidential nominee John Kerry’s jaw-dropping opulence went almost unmentioned by the mainstream media, as did the fact that Wall Street leaders raised 100 million dollars to support Barack Obama’s populist “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” White House bid.

Subtitled “How the Left-Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America’s Future,” Horowitz and Laksin’s new book demonstrates the reality behind the myth in this impressively documented study of the left-wing money machine. As they substantiate with riveting detail, a plethora of left-wing organizations, philanthropies, unions, and think tanks, the majority tax-exempt and government-funded, now make up a unique power bloc that in the past decade has undergone explosive growth. At a time when soft funding for political parties has been curtailed, this network now effectively controls Democratic candidates and the party agenda, having amassed a war chest far exceeding both the money in conservative coffers and that held by the Democratic Party itself.

The aim of this network, as the authors show with many examples, is not only to influence elections through indirect means such as Media Matters, which continuously campaigns against conservative ideas, but also to transform the fabric of American society through education initiatives, community organizing projects, lawsuits, harassment campaigns, and tireless attacks on conservative figures. Its over-riding purpose, following the Marcusean strategy of revolution by stealth, is to move radical ideas “from the political margins to the political mainstream” until they become official Democratic policy as well as an accepted part of public debate. Ideas that were once thought risibly extreme—that Islamists bent on America’s destruction are actually victims of American aggression, that unlimited access to abortion is a woman’s right—become respectable through repetition. Although the various Democrat-friendly foundations claim to seek an expanded democracy, many of them are hard-left rather than liberal-democratic in their orientation, and represent a dangerously determined alliance bent on fomenting class division, hobbling the capitalist system, and weakening American power.

Co-written by two of the most highly respected conservative commentators on the political scene today, The New Leviathan is a groundbreaking portrait of the left’s “tax-exempt resources,” with nearly a hundred pages of appendices identifying the comparative assets of conservative and progressivist groups. The authors show in hard figures how left-wing foundations financially outstrip the right by a factor of ten to one. In 2009, progressivist funds totaled a hefty 104.56 billion dollars. A single left-leaning philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had an endowment of over 33 billion, which alone is three times the total of funds accessible to the 75 viable conservative groups. Leftist foundations, the authors show, are both dramatically richer and better organized than those on the right, with groups such as the Tides Foundation existing precisely to coordinate and support the phalanx of left-wing organizations. Tides has received money from the most venerable of American philanthropies, including the Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, and Kellogg. When campaigning on individual public issues, the left swamps its opponents: for example, 117 progressivist organizations devoted more than 50% of their programs to supporting open borders and citizens’ rights for illegal aliens, with a total of 306.1 million dollars. They are opposed by only nine conservative organizations that address the illegal immigration agenda, with a comparatively small financial base of 13.8 million.

As they develop their thesis, Horowitz and Laksin focus on different aspects of the left-wing political machine, showing the depth and pervasiveness of foundations’ role—for example, in nurturing and funding Obama, first when he was a community organizer and then as a presidential candidate. Those who have had doubts about Obama’s formation as a creature of the left will almost certainly be convinced by the evidence amassed here. Organizations such as Project Vote, a registration drive targeting black voters for which Obama served as director, and the Annenberg Challenge, a Chicago school initiative focused on African-centered curricula for which he was chairman of the board, not only introduced him to the ideology and tactics of Saul Alinsky-style radicals, but also put him in contact with many of the extremists who would later assist him on his ascent to the White House and would become key policy advisors. These include the academic power couple associated with the Midwest Academy training center for radicals, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorists.

The authors show how the culture of philanthropy has in only a few decades shifted markedly to the left, with traditional foundations such as the Pew Charitable Trusts taken over by hardened anti-capitalists. Ironically, many charitable trusts set up by business tycoons, once propelled by a neutral helping philosophy, are now overtly pledged to destroy the system that enabled the founders to make their money in the first place. Pew Trusts, Horowitz and Laksin note, “is now the largest funder of the left-wing Tides Center” and also finances extremist organizations such as the Institute for Policy Studies, a pro-Castro think tank, Earth Justice, a radical environmentalist organization, and the Ruckus Society, a violent anarchist assembly.

The same story, of leftist radicals transforming the original mandate of helping organizations, has played out across the spectrum, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Kroc Foundation to the Howard Heinz Endowments and the increasingly fringe-militant Ford Foundation, which has come under criticism for funding anti-Israel terrorist groups. Horowitz and Laksin are not the first to reveal such a betrayal. Peter Schweizer’s Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy tracks how left-wing plutocrats such as George Soros, Nancy Pelosi, Michael Moore, and Noam Chomsky have profited massively from the economic system they are attempting to smash, but Horowitz and Laksin have pursued the subject with remarkable precision and breadth.

Moreover, as the authors explain, these foundations are “unique ideological autocracies at the heart of American society.” Unlike government agencies and profit-making corporations, they are almost entirely unrestrained, answering to no one but themselves and free from market imperatives. “Absent checks on their power and influence, they can and do disenfranchise larger and larger segments of the population,” the authors warn.

These foundations are working in concert to reshape America through every legal, educational, and community channel available: by funding legal-action groups to sue police and fire departments with claims that their entry tests are racist; by pushing multiculturalist and victim-group agendas in the public schools; by spending millions of dollars on advertising campaigns promoting disarmament and supporting international organizations to constrain the U.S. while giving free rein to hostile regimes; by organizing teams of activists to oppose states’ attempts to stop the budget-bursting flood of illegal immigrants onto their welfare rolls; by financing armies of lawyers to free Guantanamo detainees and to oppose measures to protect America from terrorist attack; by funding community forums, media blitzes, and television programming in support of socialized health care; by supporting opposition to measures for preventing voter fraud; by financing centers to indoctrinate and train future left-wing activists; by setting up radical environmental organizations to whip up public fervor over scientifically dubious threats to public health, and so on. The extent of their reach into all aspects of public debate and government policy is indeed alarming.

It is a cliché to call a book a “must read,” but this one is: all who care about the democratic process, whatever their ideological leanings, will find much worth knowing in its compulsively readable pages. I am curious to see whether and how the book will be reviewed by left-wing critics, who will surely dislike its demythologizing revelations. Probably its arguments will be either ignored or denied, following the same tactic employed by those who took such satisfaction in asserting that Wisconsin’s union-busting Scott Walker was bankrolled into victory by right-wing millionaires, when campaign records show, on the contrary, that his pro-union opponents commanded far greater resources. Media Matters claims to have found ten (mainly disputable) “errors” in The New Leviathan, but tellingly refrains from addressing its figures. To launch a credible counter-attack, critics would have to show the numbers to be wrong, a hard task given that they have been taken straight from the annual reports of the foundations themselves. Those numbers speak as eloquently as Horowitz and Laksin have done in this stunning and indispensable piece of investigative scholarship.