If there was a Hall of Fame for right wing philanthropists and their facilitators -- and who knows, the Heritage Foundation just might establish such an institution some day -- one of its first inductees would undoubtedly be Michael Joyce.
In 1986, Joyce was named in an Atlantic Monthly article as "one of the three people most responsible for the triumph of the conservative political movement." Waldemar Nielson, in his book on the foundation movement, Golden Donors, said Joyce was "pretty close to being the central figure [in conservative philanthropy]." He was once called "the godfather of modern philanthropy" by noted neo-conservative Irving Kristol.
Shortly after the first inauguration of President George W. Bush, Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal wrote in that newspaper that "Michael Joyce is the closest thing to the original source for what Mr. Bush is trying to accomplish."
When Joyce retired from the Bradley Foundation, Bradley Board Chairman Allen M. Taylor pointed out that he had made "extraordinary contributions to the Foundation and to the world of philanthropy." Joyce "built a start-up into a nationally respected institution and leaves a durable record of remarkable accomplishment. His work will be remembered with pride, not only in Milwaukee and Wisconsin but throughout the nation. We all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude and wish him well in his future endeavors. He still has much to give."
Joyce, who died Friday, February 24, at age 63 from liver illness, earned his well-deserved reputation as a major shaker of the right wing money-tree during his 16-year reign (1985-2001) as head of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. He was a pioneering force behind the privatization of welfare -- funding initiatives that led to the Wisconsin Works program in Wisconsin -- and private school vouchers -- which is experiencing a rebirth through the Bush Administration's recently proposed budget.
During his tenure at Bradley he helped it become one of the nation's most influential conservative philanthropic institutions. Steadfast in its pursuit of a conservative agenda, Joyce recognized the importance of creating and sustaining a broad infrastructure of right wing think tanks -- with its well-funded stable of researchers and academics -- a host of publications, chairs at academic institutions, and smaller local advocacy groups.
On the local level, Bradley money was "earmarked for civic concerns... a first-rate museum, music and theatre, and above all for Mike, several million to keep the Brewers in town," Peter Collier wrote in his tribute to Joyce posted at David Horowitz's FrontPage website.
"But he also believed that the Bradley Foundation had to play a national role. It seemed improbable: At $600 million or so, Bradley was small by comparison with Ford, Rockefeller, and other of the other liberal foundations that were postmodernizing America. But Mike felt that by leveraging its money with the neo conservative worldview, he could multiply the effect of the Foundation's smaller resources and make it a player. And this was what happened during his 15 years at Bradley. The Foundation, a mere David in comparison to the leftish philanthropic Goliaths, hit them squarely in the forehead with programs that countered their far more expensive own."
More than Giving Other People's Money Away
After working as a high school teacher and football coach, Joyce took his first job in philanthropy at the Morris Goldseker Foundation in Baltimore. He later joined the Bradley Foundation after working with the New York-based Institute for Education Affairs (IEA) and The John M. Olin Foundation (1979-1985). The IEA was described by Barbara Miner in the Spring 1994 issue of Rethinking Schools, as "a neoconservative organization started by right wing trailblazer Irving Kristol and William Simon, secretary of the treasury for Presidents Nixon and Ford." The John M. Olin Foundation, which recently funded itself out of business, was for years, one of the ideological mainstays of conservative foundations.
According to the National Review's John J. Miller, "At the John M. Olin Foundation, he played a part in launching the Federalist Society, starting The New Criterion, and providing Allan Bloom with the financial support that eventually would allow him to write The Closing of the American Mind (which in its initial form was an essay in National Review)."
Joyce also served on President Ronald Reagan's transition team in 1980, and on several Reagan-Bush advisory boards and task forces. Joyce joined Bradley at a propitious moment; the foundation received an infusion of $280 million from the sale of Allen-Bradley Co. to Rockwell International. Almost overnight, Bradley became a major player to be reckoned with.
The Bradley Foundation was where Joyce solidified his national reputation as a philanthropic facilitator par excellence. According to Media Transparency, a website tracking the money behind the right wing movement, from 1985 (the start of the Joyce period) until 2003 (two years after he left the organization), the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation spread its money about liberally -- both nationally and within the state of Wisconsin -- giving nearly $500 million. The top five recipients were Partners Advancing Values in Education, Inc. -- $17,536,419; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research -- $15,892,797; The Heritage Foundation -- $13,283,702; Milwaukee School of Engineering -- $10,794,119; and Marquette University -- $10,102,102.
The list of right wing think tanks and public policy institutes that received money from Bradley reads like a who's who of the modern conservative movement, and includes Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, The Hudson Institute, the San Francisco, California-based Institute for Contemporary Studies, David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Robert Woodson's National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, the Institute for Justice, the Philanthropy Round Table (a network of conservative foundations).
Pushing the conservative movement forward meant relying on and supporting a distasteful stable of controversial figures. According to a June 2001 piece published by TomPaine.com, in October 1996, Kathleen Biddick, Associate Professor in the History Department and the Director of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Notre Dame, spoke at the Gender Studies' Critical Issues Roundtable. In her talk, 'What Price Does It Cost To Silence Queers At U.N.D.?' she described some of the Bradley Foundation's grants to individuals:
Grants to conservative writers included: Dinesh D'Souza for The End of Racism, a revisionist view of the history of slavery and racism in America; Charles Murray for The Bell Curve, an argument for the genetic inferiority of blacks [According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Joyce said the foundation never specifically funded the book and did not endorse its conclusions"]; David Brock for The Real Anita Hill "which characterized Anita Hill as 'slightly nutty slightly slutty'" [Brock, who currently heads the liberal watchdog group, Media Matters for America, has since repudiated the book]; and Christina Hoff Sommers for Who Stole Feminism."
Biddick said: "I think you get the drift here -- the Bradley Fund and its cross-linked affiliates at the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Olin Foundation ... seem to derive special pleasure in targeting blacks, especially black women."
According to a Right Web profile, Joyce also had his hands firmly planted in foreign policy issues as well: "He helped establish two of William Kristol's outfits, PNAC and the Project for the Republic Future, which helped spearhead the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994."
Shortly after leaving Bradley, Joyce was called upon by President Bush to help rescue the president's then-floundering faith-based initiative. Joyce, an experienced supporter issues related to "charitable choice," was brought on board "to undertake a private initiative to help get this legislation through," Karl Rove told the Washington Post.
Joyce quickly founded two new organizations and set out to raise millions of dollars. He set up the Washington, DC-based Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise (ACFE) to "advocate an expansion of charitable choice, tax credits, and other means of bringing faith-centered and community solutions to social ills." US Newswire reported that the second organization, the Phoenix-based Foundation for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise (FCFE), was intended to "study and promote policies that encourage corporations, philanthropies, private foundations and individuals to provide resources to faith-centered and community groups... [and] encourage the full recognition and the vital role such groups must play in American life and culture." (Although no comprehensive faith-based legislation has yet materialized, the president's faith-based initiative nevertheless has had some significant successes.)
The right clearly admired Joyce not only as a disciplined facilitator of funds, but also as a visionary who was willing to speak his mind freely and play hardball politics. In "On Self-Government," an article published in the Heritage Foundation's Policy Review that was adopted from a speech he gave as part of the foundation's 25th anniversary lecture series in 1998, Joyce placed America's moral decline squarely at the feet of "progressive liberalism and its ambitious quest over the past century to build a great 'national community.'"
He possessed a bulldog-like intensity: He once told the Milwaukee told the Sentinel Journal that "my style was the style of the toddler and the adolescent: fight, fight, fight, rest, get up, fight, fight, fight. No one ever accused me of being pleasant. I made a difference. It was acknowledged by friends and foe."
Shortly after he retired from Bradley, Joyce told an audience at Georgetown University that "At Olin and later at Bradley, our overarching purpose was to use philanthropy to support a war of ideas to defend and help recover the political imagination of the [nation's] founders... the self-evident truth that rights and worth are a legacy of the creator... not the result of some endless revaluing of values."
Peter Collier pointed out that Joyce "hated the Left and what it had done to this country." According to Collier, when he and Horowitz made their mid-1980s conversion to conservatism and were "looking for funding to start a Second Thoughts Movement to bring together the handful of others who were also refugees from the '60s Left, we stopped in Milwaukee to see Mike, who had just recently begun at Bradley. He supported the Second Thoughts movement and kept supporting us without hesitation in endeavors like the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and Encounter Books."
It was Joyce's vision that pushed the Bradley Foundation, and the conservative movement, forward. In the end, Collier noted, rather than wanting to be known as a philanthropist, Joyce would have liked "to be remembered as an artist (perhaps a trapeze artist, because he worked, ultimately to his peril, without a net) of social change."
Joyce the ideological workhorse, privatization maven, and "artist" without a net, left his mark on the political landscape. But the "godfather of modern philanthropy," also left many of his fellow citizens barely hanging on to a tattered social safety net.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
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