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Letter to the Editor: Partisan Politics Could Pose ‘Toxic Threat’ to Foundations

Resource type: News

The Chronicle of Philanthropy | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

To the Editor:

William Schambra is a friend and my foundation supports his Bradley Center’s stimulating series of philanthropy forums, but he is at it again (“Grant Makers’ Support of Obama May Haunt Them After Midterm Polls,” October 21).

His attack on Grantmakers in Health for its efforts to assure the successful implementation of the recent health-care legislation is troubling in one respect and wrong in another.

What is troubling is the barely veiled threat that if Republicans regain control of one or both houses of Congress, progressive foundations working to advance public-policy goals like health care and immigration reform might find themselves in the cross-hairs of investigating committees. That would be a disturbing extension of the toxic political environment, and, if it comes to pass, hypocritically partisan, as some of the best examples we have of legitimate foundation support for public-policy change come out of the conservative side of philanthropy—as, for instance, the Bradley Foundation’s promotion of school-voucher programs.

What is wrong is that Mr. Schambra saddles up again on his favorite hobby horse, the ostensibly elitist “progressive” movement. That attack is over 100 years old, but to the extent he portrays the recent health-care reform as a triumph of unaccountable experts over ordinary people, Mr. Schambra puts populism on the wrong side of the argument.

Powerful financial interests poured many millions of dollars into stopping comprehensive health-care reform, but only the power of ordinary people was able to overcome them and achieve an expansion of the social safety net.

Atlantic was proud to support the leading organizing effort of this kind, Health Care for America Now, which brought together more than 1,000 associations and millions of individuals, from churches to labor unions to civil-rights and minority groups, in a bottom-up effort to bring about vital change. Such change is consistent with voters’ preferences: Polls indicate that, despite a sustained misinformation campaign, after learning about the actual benefits, a majority of voters supports the important reforms that will make coverage more secure and more affordable.

If Mr. Schambra isn’t aware of the grass-roots nature of the health-care effort, it may be that he is spending too much time watching Fox News. The Tea Party protesters at town-hall meetings were often outnumbered by health-care supporters, but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage.

Gara LaMarche
Atlantic Philanthropies
New York

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