Local and Michigan Headlines: Film Looks at Philanthropy in Grand Rapids; Family Research Council Candidate for Hoekstra’s Seat

Here are some interesting articles published elsewhere in the past 24 hours covering Grand Rapids and Michigan:

Advertisements

Holland’s Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation Major Local and National Supporter of the Religious Right

Holland’s Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation is a major supporter of the religious right, providing signficant money to organizations in West Michigan, statewide, and at the national level. The Foundation has provided money to many of the leading organizations in the religious right and has been a long time benefactor of the Family Research Council.

The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, formed by auto parts manufacturer Edgar Prince and his wife Elsa Prince (now Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen), is a major financial backer of the religious right in West Michigan and at the national level. While locally the Ada, Michigan based DeVos family and their foundations are more well-known, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation has been bankrolling the religious right for years. Formed with money from Edgar Prince’s Holland, Michigan based company Prince Automotive, the Foundation has supported a variety of religious right entities according to a review of grant data performed by Media Mouse for the years 2003 to 2005, as well as research Media Mouse has done into the Foundation’s giving over the past decade. In the corporate media, the Prince family’s philanthropy has primarily been described as being civic-minded and targeted towards the improvement of the Holland community, despite the fact that a thorough examination of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation’s grants show that the family has also used a considerable portion of its money to support its ideological and political goals.

The Foundation was formed by Edgar and his wife Elsa, both of whom have been major involved in the religious right in an organizing capacity beyond just giving money. Edgar Prince was heavily involved in the Family Research Council and was a board member of the organization at the time of his death in 1995. Edgar Prince and his family’s foundation played an important role in the formation of the organization, with the Prince family providing much of the seed money needed to start the organization in 1988 and later serving as a founding board member when the organization became independent of Focus on the Family in 1992. Elsa Prince is currently on the board of the organization, and because of the large amount of money given to the organization by the Prince family, the Family Research Council runs its mail order operations out of a building in Holland. When Edgar Prince died in 1995, he was eulogized by Gary Bauer, who praised Prince’s Christian ethic and his dedication to the religious right movement. The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation has also been a major supporter of Focus on the Family, supporting the organization with a $5 million contribution to the organization’s “Welcome Center” at its headquarters while also giving it ongoing support over the years. Elsa Prince is on the board of Focus on the Family and Edgar and Elsa have both served as leaders in the Council for National Policy, a secretive organization linking religious right organizers and financial benefactors for the purpose of coordinating activity. Elsa also serves as a trustee at Grand Rapids’ Calvin College and in 2004 was the top individual contributor to the anti-gay marriage initiative in Michigan.

The family’s children–Emilie, Betsy, Eileen, and Erik–have are also active in the religious right, with all of them joining their mother as directors of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Of the children, Betsy and Erik have been particularly active in the religious right, with Betsy Prince marrying Dick DeVos and financially supporting the religious right through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and becoming nationally known activist in the Republican Party and within the religious right, while Erik Prince formed the private mercenary army Blackwater with the assistance of his family’s fortune and political connections. Elsa Prince also remarried in 2000, marrying Ren Broekhuizen, a retired pastor at Holland’s Ridge Point Community Church. Broekhuizen has his own roots in the religious right and has served on the board of the Grand Rapids, Michigan based Acton Institute and as a trustee at the Russian-American Christian University.

When reviewing the grants awarded by the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, one sees a foundation that has given to a wide array of organizations making up the religious right and has supported the multi-faceted approach used by the religious right. That organizing approach has consisted of grassroots organizing, political action, legal action, and support for evangelical ministries. The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, as mentioned earlier, has been a major supporter of the Family Research Council. In 2003 and 2004, the Foundation gave the Family Research Council a little over a million dollars. The Family Research Council has become one of the leading religious right organizations, and has been active in organizing against gay rights and gay marriage and has promoted state-sponsored prayer, vouchers for religious schools, and abstinence -only education. Between 2003 and 2005, the Foundation also gave a little over a million dollars to Focus on the Family, another major organization in the anti-gay movement and the religious right. Michigan’s Focus on the Family affiliate, the Michigan Family Forum, received $50,000 from the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation from 2004 to 2005, while their daughter, Emilie Wierda, sat on the board. The foundation gave $5,000 in 2005 to the California Family Council, a religious right organization in California working to “protect and foster Judeo-Christian principles in California’s laws” as an associate organization with Focus on the Family. The California Family Council’s three “foundation pillars” include opposition to abortion rights through the “protection of the unborn,” opposition to gay marriage through its “plan for marriage” that sees marriage between a man and a woman as the “building block of a stable society,” and the “authority of parents” to allow parents to raise children according to their worldview. Support for the anti-gay movement was also given through $25,000 in contributions to the Free Congress Federation, a major organization in the New Right of the 1970s and a leader in the development of using anti-gay initiatives as a tool to build political power and infrastructure. The Focus on the Family-linked National Day of Prayer Taskforce, headed by James Dobson’s wife Shirley, received $60,000 from the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation from 2003 to 2005. The Foundation has also supported organizations that have promoted a patriarchal view of women and marriage, including the Promise Keepers who received $55,000 from 2003 to 2005, Concerned Women of America who received $3,000, and the Eagle Forum, while the media monitoring Media Research Center received $1,000 in 2005.

The Foundation has also supported the local and Michigan religious right. Aside from the previously mentioned Michigan Family Forum, the Foundation has supported Grand Rapids’ Dove Foundation which works to promote “family-friendly” Christian entertainment with $35,000 and the similar American Decency Association that has organized at the state and national level to oppose “indecency” in popular culture. The Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute, a think-tank seeking a religious justification for free-market capitalism, received over $300,000 from the Foundation. Compass Arts, an organization that trains film students by having them produce advertisements for Christian organizations–including anti-abortion organizations–received $10,000 in 2004. Gospel Communications International, an evangelical organization on which Edgar Prince was a former board member, received $1.25 million from 2003 to 2005. Life International, an anti-abortion organization based in Grand Rapids but organizing to stop abortion outside of the United States, received $30,000. Grand Rapids’ Education Freedom Foundation, on whose board Edgar and Elsa Prince’s daughter Betsy DeVos serves, received over $200,000.

In addition to supporting the organizations detailed above, many of which provide the grassroots and organizing arm of the religious right, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation funds organizations that work to train the leaders of the grassroots religious right. The Foundation has given $15,000 to the Leadership Institute, an organization that has trained more than 40,000 youth in the past twenty years to become effective organizers and activists. A similar organization in Michigan, the Student Statesmanship Institute, received $3,000. The Foundation gave $20,000 to Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization that has a presence on over a thousand different college campuses around the world where it defends “family values” and attacks “secular humanism.” The organization advocates a Christian government and openly organizes to “Christianize America.” Another evangelical campus organization, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has received $95,000 from the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation.

While the aforementioned organizations oppose abortion, the Foundation has also given to organizations that organize specifically to oppose abortion. Right to Life Michigan’s Educational Foundation received $40,000, while the National Right to Life Committee received $3,000. Organizations offering services to pregnant women from a Christian and anti-abortion perspective have also been funded. The Pregnancy Resource Center in Grand Rapids has received $35,000 and a similar organization in Lansing, Pregnancy Services of Greater Lansing, received $10,000. The Holland-based Lakeshore Pregnancy Center received $25,000 from the Foundation. Studies have shown that such centers often place ideology and theology above medical science, with a study by Representative Henry Waxman showing that 87% of the centers studied provided false or misleading information about abortion.

The Foundation has also provided support to the legal arm of the religious right, which has been using the courts to challenge the separation of state for the past thirty-five years. In addition to working to break down the barriers separating church and state, the religious right’s legal apparatus has defended the gains of the movement in the courts. The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation gave $105,000 to the Alliance Defense Fund, one of the major organizations taking on this role in the religious right. The Alliance Defense Fund works in three major areas–“guarding the sanctity of human life,” “the protection of family values,” and “defending religious freedom.” In practical terms, this has meant attacking abortion rights through the courts and defending anti-abortion protestors, working to prevent same-sex marriage, and filing lawsuits to prevent the removal of religious symbols from government buildings. The Foundation has also provided $75,000 to the Rutherford Institute, an organization that has sought to advance the religious right’s ideology through the courts. The Rutherford Institute has been associated with the Christian Reconstructionist movement, which has sought to replace the law and government with principles from the Bible. Judicial Watch, a right-wing legal organization most well-known for filing a barrage of lawsuits against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, received $1,000 from the Foundation. The American Civil Rights Union, an organization that started as a conservative counter to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), received $500. In addition to having its own legal agenda, the American Civil Rights Union acts as a “watchdog” of the ACLU and regularly issues updates on what it calls “ACLU Outrages.” The Edgar and Elsa Prince also provided a nominal amount of money to the National Right to Work Foundation, an organization that files lawsuits to protect workers’ “right” not to join unions. Perhaps not surprisingly, much of its funding comes from foundations operated by wealthy businessmen.

Educational entities, ranging from colleges to Christian schools, have been heavily funded by the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. The Calvin Theological Seminary, where Elsa Prince is a trustee and where her current husband Ren Broekhuizen is an alumnus, received $800,000. The Russian-American Christian University, where Broekhuizen is a trustee, received more than $1.3 million from the Foundation. Hope College, where the Prince’s daughter Emilie Wierda has been a trustee, received $1.25 million from the Foundation. Christian schools have also been extensively supported by the Foundation, with Holland Christian Schools receiving $202,500, Ada Christian School receiving $255,000, and Potter’s House in Grand Rapids receiving $359,500. Christian schools around the country have been supported by the Foundation, most notably Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico, which has received $550,000 from the Foundation.

In addition to the organizations detailed above, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation has also provided considerable support to evangelical Christian organizations seeking to spread Christianity around the world. Beyond the $1.25 million given to Gospel Communications International on whose board Edgar Prince was a member, the Foundation has given over $2.5 million to the Haggai Institute on whose board Emilie Wierda sits. The Foundation has supported a range of missionary organizations around the world, all of which are detailed in Media Mouse’s list of grants awarded by the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. The Foundation has also supported evangelical organizations working within the United States prison system, including Watergate felon Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries ($130,000) and the Grand Rapids-based Crossroads Bible Institute ($20,000).

Perhaps most surprising of all, the Foundation has supported a variety of organizations concerned with United States foreign policy or the military. The Livonia, Michigan-based Center for Military Readiness received $5,000 from the group from 2004 to 2005. It advocates for a “stronger” military, responding to what it sees as an attack on the military by radical feminists and gay rights activists. Its board contains many prominent conservatives and religious right activists including David Horowitz, Linda Chavez, Beverly Lahaye, and Phyllis Schafly. The Foundation also supported the Citizens United Foundation with a $2,500 grant in 2003. The Citizens United Foundation supports a United States withdrawal from the United Nations and a rejection of the International Criminal Court, arguing that they are inconsistent with “the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.” Oliver North’s Freedom Alliance, an entity that “supports” the military also received $1,500. The Foundation gave $15,000 to the Institute for World Politics a graduate school in Washington DC offering training in “statecraft” by examining diplomacy, military strategy, the formation of opinion, and other such topics taught by former government officials from the Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, and other such agencies as well as private institutions such as the American Enterprise Institute. Like the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for World Politics promotes a foreign policy in line with that of the Bush administration–a policy that has functioned to help Blackwater–run by Edgar and Elsa Prince’s son Erik–earn government contracts and to increase the family’s fortune. Additionally, the Foundation has funded International Aid in Spring Lake ($75,000), a Christian relief organization that in the 1980s was connected to the support of paramilitaries in Central America.

Dick and Betsy DeVos Funding the Far Right through Foundation Grants

Dick and Betsy DeVos, through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, are funding the far right according to a review of grant data performed by Media Mouse. The couple has funded a variety of organizations of the religious and economic right as they have used philanthropy to advocate their political agenda.

A review of grant data for the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, compiled as part of the Media Mouse’s Far Right in West Michigan database, reveals that the couple are major funders of far right organizations. The grant data, covering the years 2002 to 2004, shows that the couple has supported a variety of organizations of the religious and economic right, as well as conservative churches. The Grand Rapids-based couple, both of whom are children of prominent funders of the religious right in West Michigan and nationally (Dick DeVos is the child of Richard and Helen DeVos; Betsy DeVos is the child of Edgar and Elsa Prince), have given millions of dollars to organizations that are working to promote rightwing policy through a network of organizations doing advocacy, educational, and legal work.

In addition to simply funding the far right, Dick and Betsy DeVos are personally involved with several organizations of the far right, most often through board appointments. While serving on the boards of several organizations, the couple has often generously funded these organizations through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation. An example is the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute, a rightwing think-tank that seeks to blend free-market ideology with religion. As such, the organization has opposed environmentalists using religion as an organizing tool, has supported biotechnology, opposed the Kyoto Protocol, and taken several other positions designed to promote the supremacy of the free-market system. The organization, in addition to being funded by prominent rightwing families in the area, has also received a money from corporate sources, most notably receiving $160,000 from Exxon-Mobil since 1998. Betsy DeVos was a member of the Institute’s board for several years and the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation has contributed $107,000 in the years surveyed. The couple also operates the Education Freedom Fund, an organization designed to give scholarships to low-income students in order to help them attend private schools. Their foundation has given the organization $978,000. Similar organizations across the United States have been used by the right to generate support for voucher programs and other means of privatizing public schools. In continuing their work against public schools, the Foundation gave $101,000 to the American Education Reform Council, Choices for Children, and Children First America all of which Betsy DeVos was involved with, as well as $25,000 to the Children’s Scholarship Fund on whose board Dick DeVos serves. The couple has also given over $60,000 to the James Madison Center for Free Speech, an organization fighting campaign finance laws for religious conservatives and on whose board Betsy DeVos serves.

As shown through the organizations that the couple is involved, they place a particular emphasis on funding organizations working to either privatize the public school system through charter schools or to render it obsolete via voucher systems. Aside from the aforementioned organizations, the couple has given substantially to Christian schools, with $125,000 going to Ada Christian School, $88,000 to the Grand Rapids Christian School Association, and $36,000 to Holland Christian Schools. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation has funded the charter school movement as well, providing $25,000 to the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a group supporting the charter schools movement, and $179,000 to New Urban Learning, a charter school management nonprofit in Detroit. They have also given $50,000 to Grove City College, a college that has received national attention for its refusal to abide by Title IX of the Civil Rights Act and now refuses students who receive federal tuition assistance. In addition to funding nonprofits through their foundation, the couple has funded and taken active roles in political advocacy groups around the country as well as organizing the failed Kids First! Yes! ballot proposal in 2000 that would have provided partial tuition vouchers to all parents sending their children to private or religious schools, regardless of income.

The couple’s funding of efforts to privatize schools must also be seen within the context of their funding of the economic right. In addition to funding the Acton Institute, the couple has funded a variety think-tanks promoting free-market economics and the privatization of public services. Here in Michigan, the couple has provided $30,000 to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an organization that has aggressively attacked national health insurance, welfare, unions, and the minimum wage, while promoting unrestricted free-market economics. It is also worth noting that Dick DeVos served on the Mackinac Center’s board in the 1990s. The couple has given several thousand dollars to nationally recognized think-tanks promoting similar positions, with the couple giving $30,000 to the Heritage Foundation and $5,000 to the American Enterprise Institute. The Heritage Foundation is an influential new right think-tank that aggressively promotes conservative public policy based on the principles of “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense” while the American Enterprise Institute is an influential pro-business think-tank that promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism. Dick and Betsy DeVos have also funded the Hudson Institute, a think-tank heavily subsidized by corporate money that has attacked critics of biotechnology and issued reports expressing confusion over the health effects of using tobacco.

The couple’s funding of the economic right—specifically through the Acton Institute’s work promoting a union of free-market economics and religion and their funding of organizations working to bring children into religious schools through vouchers and private scholarship programs—ties in with their funding of the religious right. The group has given $150,000 to the Institute for Marriage Policy, an organization taking up the popular religious right cause of attacking same-sex marriage. The Michigan Family Forum, connected to the national Focus on the Family organization, received $6,000 from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, while also organizing against same-sex marriage and making other anti-gay attacks. The DeVoses have also funded the local Dove Foundation that has organized to promote “family-friendly” (from a conservative religious perspective) entertainment and the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an organization that has organized to use the National Day of Prayer as a tool for mobilizing evangelical Christians. Similarly, they have given the Michigan-based Foundation for Traditional Values $70,000. The Foundation for Traditional Values works to promote the idea that the United States is a Christian nation and that it is the responsibility of Christians to return the country to this Christian foundation via political action. Dick and Betsy DeVos have funded other organizations promoting the need for Christian civic participation—long a tactic of the religious right—including the Student Statesmanship Institute and the Family Resource Network. The couple has also funded a variety of anti-abortion organizations, including Baptists for Life, the Pregnancy Resource Center, Right to Life, and the Justice Foundation who has been fighting to overturn Roe vs. Wade in the courts. They also have provided $194,000 to Compass Arts, on whose board Betsy DeVos serves (Compass Arts offers internships to students to make promotional materials for anti-abortion groups such as Right to Life).

The couple has also funded a variety of other far right organizations including those that use the courts to advance the far right’s agenda and evangelical missionary organizations that engage in activities both in the United States and around the world. The couple has funded the Federalist Society ($10,000), a conservative legal organization that has organized to promote individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law through the courts. The organization counts several prominent conservatives, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and former Senator and Attorney General John Ashcroft as past members. They have also provided funding to Ann Arbor’s Thomas More Law Center, which offers legal support to the religious right by challenging laws restricting what the religious right has termed as attacks on Christians such as “banning Christmas,” in addition to funding the previously discussed Justice Foundation and the James Madison Center for Free Speech. The Foundation has also funded missionary organizations such as InterDev out of Seattle, International Aid in Spring Lake, the Haggai Institute, and Kids Hope USA, a program that essentially inserts pastors in the public schools as means of providing religious recruitment. A compelling argument could be made that funding such organizations, some of whom, like International Aid, have had relationships with the United States government to advocate a particular foreign policy goal or Rehoboth Christian School, founded in the early 1900s and operating out of the context of the effort to assimilate the indigenous population of North America through forced removal into boarding schools in an act of cultural genocide), serve a function of cultural imperialism, which like Manifest Destiny in the 1800s, promotes the notion that Christianity is a superior form of religious expression and evangelizes for it by undertaking aggressive missionary activities.

Even as Dick DeVos has undertaken a campaign to become the next governor of Michigan, his financial ties to the far right have received scant attention. Aside from a few articles mentioning his funding of efforts designed to privatize public schools, there has been little attention given to his foundation. Due to this lack of attention, people are much more likely to view DeVos as a “philanthropist” who funds civic institutions such as museums and cultural organizations, rather than as a financer of the far right who uses “philanthropy” as a tool to advance a political agenda.

Exploring the Far Right in West Michigan: A New Media Mouse Project

Media Mouse has launched a new database examining the far right in West Michigan. The database looks at the racist, economic, and religious right and focuses on the activities of organizations in these areas, the individuals involved, and the foundations that fund them. As such, we examine everyone from the Dick and Richard DeVos to Elsa Prince and other prominent Grand Rapids and West Michigan members of the far right.

Today Media Mouse is launching a new database—“The Far Right in West Michigan”—that examines the West Michigan “far right” and their involvement at the local, state, and national level. The database tracks organizations, individuals, and foundations ranging from explicitly white supremacist groups to anti-gay religious right groups funded by wealthy families such as the DeVos and Prince families. Our broad definition of the far right—encompassing anti-gay groups, anti-immigration organizations, anti-tax organizations, anti-choice organizations, advocates of religious involvement in government that borders on theocracy, and the individuals and foundations working with and funding these organizations—is designed with three primary goals; to educate people about the activity of the far right in West Michigan; to encourage further research; and to inspire people to take action to confront the far right.

The impetus behind this project was the noticeable increase in activity coming from the far right in Grand Rapids, Michigan over the past year or so, particularly with regard to groups involved in the racist right. These groups, from the Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) have promoted anti-immigrant views in response to the organizing that swept across the country in support of immigrants rights. They have attempted to channel legitimate economic concerns over lost jobs into the scapegoating of immigrants, and as the underlying agendas of the NSM and CofCC indicate, towards what is ultimately a racist or white supremacist view that opposes not just undocumented immigrants, but all immigration. While the extreme views of the NSM may be somewhat new, they fit within a context of activity by racist groups in West Michigan including the National Alliance, White Voices of America, and the Ku Klux Klan, all of whom have been active over the past few years in West Michigan. Moreover, with respect to anti-immigration organizing, Michigan is home to one of the initial founders and organizers of the anti-immigration—John Tanton—who has funded anti-immigration groups ranging from the benign sounding Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and US English to the more extreme Social Contract Press. Such groups often have ties to the racist right, with FAIR accepting money from the Pioneer Fund who funded efforts to scientifically “prove” biologically differences between races or the Social Contract Press who distributes racist anti-immigration literature. The Tanton-founded US English—which has worked to pass “English as official language” laws—has sought to disassociate itself from the racist right and avoids language such as “English-only” although for all practical purposes its activities say the same thing to immigrants “you are not welcome here,” and the difference may be more in terms of tactics—much like the difference between the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens—than in ideology.

While overtly racist and fascist organizations will likely remain marginal for some time, the far right in West Michigan has considerable power through the right-wing and fundamentalist Christian beliefs of some of the Grand Rapids area’s wealthiest families. Amway co-founders Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel (Van Andel died in 2004) have extensively funded the religious right through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation, respectively. The two have given to a variety of far right organizations ranging from rightist economic organizations such as the Michigan-based Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center for Economic Policy to groups on the religious right including those seeking to scientifically prove Creationism, working to restrict access to abortion, and attacking gays. In the case of the DeVos family, the funding of the right has continued with all of the DeVos children operating foundations that give at least part of their money to the religious or economic right. Of course, the DeVos and Van Andel families are not the only ones, the Prince family of Holland—and specifically the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation—has given the religious right millions of dollars and have been joined by the DeWitt family and Kalamazoo’s Miller family. This funding has not been limited to the local level and the DeVoses and Princes in particular are known for their support of the religious right on the national level. Richard DeVos, Dick DeVos, Elsa Prince, and Peter Cook are all members of the secretive Council for National Policy, an organization bringing together prominent radical right activists, politicians, and funders for the purpose of coordinating strategy.

Of course, with Richard DeVos’ son Dick DeVos running for governor, both his family’s and his own connections to the religious right should be news, but at this point, there has been little attention on this subject. Especially locally, the news media, when it talks about how the DeVos family uses its wealth for political ends, focuses on campaign contributions rather than looking at the organizations funded by the family. While the DeVos family has given millions of dollars towards electoral campaigns, it also generously supports the rightist infrastructure that exists outside of the realm of electoral politics. This network, consisting of foundations, think-tanks, activist organizations, and public policy groups has been able to shape the discourse around a range of state and national issues including abortion, gay rights, welfare reform, and public education. The left—to whatever extent one can say there is a functioning left in the United States—(and even the well-known liberal organizations and institutions) have been unable to develop such an extensive network, and the absence of such coordinated national efforts may explain the success of the right in recent years. Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy DeVos have funded this network through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, especially those involved in the movement to privatize public education. This does present a dilemma for Democrats and progressives, because even if DeVos is defeated in November the influence of the right of which he is a part will continue unabated.

Lastly, when examining the “philanthropy” of the various far right foundations in West Michigan, we have included all of the grants awarded for a particular year. This of course means that a number of grants to civic institutions—theatres, museums, and symphonies—are included in the database despite the fact that they have no clear relationship to the right. However, we feel that seeing the total of all contributions is instructive and allows for the examination of how much of their money goes towards civic institutions compared with far right causes. It also raises questions with regard to what degree the media and the West Michigan community focus on the civic contributions, rather than the funding of the far right. So, for example, we collectively remember Jay Van Andel most for the buildings that bear his name in downtown Grand Rapids rather than his funding of the Creation Research Society, a “Young Earth” organization that believes that God created the Earth within the past 10,000 years and spends his money trying to scientifically prove this fact. Moreover, seeing the total grants awarded by the foundations raises questions about when institutions and organizations should be accepting funding from these foundations, as they may be simultaneously giving to highly objectionable causes.

In the coming weeks and months, Media Mouse will be expanding the database as it is an ongoing work in progress. We would like to encourage people to contact us with information that we should include. We are looking for everything from your favorite Betsy DeVos quote (our favorites are her comments from the 2004 election indicating that Michigan workers are paid too much) to information on some of the obscure religious right organizations being funded by area foundations (please, include verifiable citations). For our part, we will be doing a series of articles in the next few weeks exploring the “philanthropy” of area foundations and how it has much more to do with promoting a specific set of ideologies than with benevolence.