Many Americans are awakening to the fact that we seem to have no local control of a lot of local things: public schools, our terms of employment, local governments, local elections. That last one popped again recently with the release of my colleague Mollie Hemingway’s deeply reported 2020 election investigation book, “Rigged.”
That book, and some great corroborating independent reporting, show that 2020 election chaos was part of an effective and well-funded plan to help Democrats win by rigging the playing field. One key strategy deployed to that end has become default on the left yet still often goes unremarked and unchallenged. It’s called “advocacy philanthropy.”
In the 2020 election, Facebook zillionaire Mark Zuckerberg used this strategy to deploy nearly half a billion dollars to help Democrat activists infiltrate local government election apparatuses, literally paying for election equipment and the salaries of partisans who counted ballots. This kind of tax-exempt political interference is now standard practice for the world’s far-left ultra-rich, and it’s affecting a whole lot more than elections. It’s constructed essentially a shadow government that pits elected officials against their voters on behalf of moneyed interests.
How the Rich Influence Politics With ‘Philanthropy’
In the past two decades, large foundations have begun to “engage more directly with the political process by supporting advocacy organizations, investing in the implementation of major policy reforms, and ensuring that their research investments are targeted to advance specifc policy priorities,” document politics professors Sarah Reckhow and Megan Tompkins‐Stange in a 2018 paper. These large foundations are predominantly run by leftists, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Zuckerberg, and George Soros.
Their “advocacy philanthropy” strategy is a departure from the traditional philanthropy still largely practiced by the “local gentry,” more modest donors close to local communities and causes.
Traditional charity focuses on clear, concrete human needs: Food. Clean water. Sports equipment. Teachers. Missionaries. And so forth. It also provides, say, funding for big projects that would be difficult for the non-rich to raise in a timely manner, such as capital funding for schools, churches, and libraries.
Advocacy philanthropy, on the other hand, focuses on not directing private money to charitable ends, but on using private money to affect what government entities do. In other words, it’s tax-exempt political activism.
How Bill Gates Overrode Millions of Votes
One of the pioneers of this strategy has been Bill Gates. He used it extensively to control how states and the federal government run public schools, effectively using one man’s trillions to outweigh the votes and voices of millions of American citizens. His crowning achievement was Common Core.
“For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies,” The New York Times reported in 2011 after the Common Core project was already locked in at the federal level. “…In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.”
“We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” Allan C. Golston, the president of the foundation’s United States program, told the Times. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.”
Like Zuckerburg with the 2020 elections, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent hundreds of millions of dollars to write Common Core, write tests and curriculum matching it, successfully lobby federal and state officials to make it mandatory (including with former Gates Foundation staffers inside the Obama administration, in violation of Obama’s own ethics rules), and create a media and activism “echo chamber” that surrounded the entire process with Astroturfed, paid promoters praising the effort.
“It’s easier to name which groups Gates doesn’t support than to list all of those they do, because it’s just so overwhelming,” graduate researcher Ken Libby told the Times in 2011 of the Gates Foundation’s tax-exempt education activism.
Just like Zuckerberg, Gates funneled beaucoup bucks through shell nonprofits, using them as “intermediate organizations” to carry out his political mission. Just like Zuckerberg, Gates sent millions of private dollars to government agencies like the Kentucky Department of Education, effectively directing government priorities single-handedly instead of these government agencies carrying out the will of the voters as directed by state legislatures or Congress.
Just like Zuckerberg, Gates provided partisan consultants to state agencies to help them do what he wanted, completely sidelining the voices and input of voters. Because nonprofits conducted the majority of this lobbying and policy work, their funding, personnel, communications, and meetings are closed to the public, unlike identical activities conducted through government entities.
Outsourcing Government Away from Voters
Common Core and Zuckbucks elections are but two examples of this now endemic use of private billions to thwart local and individual self-government. The 2017 book, “Deconstructing the Administrative State,” gives numerous case examples of big business and big government interests constructing advocacy organizations that submerge citizen voices by claiming falsely to represent “stakeholders,” allowing minority views to dominate public affairs. But, just as Gates funded the majority of people testifying at state legislatures in favor of Common Core, the majority of so-called “stakeholders” in public affairs are really just sock puppets manufactured and controlled by the same special interests behind the scenes.
This kind of private monopoly on public discussion is typical of, for example, transportation projects, housing, education, and business development projects, hamstringing actual local control of what are obviously local issues. From start to finish, private interests that benefit big from government contracts — and by this point, that’s most nonprofits and millions of so-called private employees — work with politicians and agencies to deny true public debate and local self-government.
Congress and state legislatures use a similar method of forcing states and local governments to ignore their voters ever since Progressive Era legal changes made this effective privatization of government activities possible. Just like the billionaires, to accomplish what the Constitution bars legislatures from doing, they simply do an end-run around Americans’ rights by outsourcing government: They pay private interests public dollars to do it.
All this incestuousness between government and “private” interest effectively deprives Americans of their constitutional rights and representation, and manifests in a variety of ways. Columbia Law scholar Philip Hamburger’s new book, “Purchasing Submission,” explores the phenomenon in great detail, focusing on how today’s administrative state privatizes government as well.
“When government takes a private sideline around the Constitution’s avenue for regulation, it all too often pursues policies that, perhaps for good reason, would not survive the Constitution’s more regular and public process,” Hamburger writes.
If You Don’t Have Lawyers, You Don’t Have Rights
Here’s just one more illustration of this essentially fascist dynamic. It’s called “sue and settle.” “Sue and settle” is a lawfare tactic that the Obama administration massively expanded. It’s another avenue for billionaire-funded leftist activists to get what they want without the pesky political problem of convincing voters to elect people who will do it.
“Sometimes, regulators are only too happy to face collusive lawsuits by friendly ‘foes’ that are aimed at compelling government action that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve,” explains a Heritage Foundation report on the tactic. “Rather than defend these cases, regulators settle them in a phenomenon known as ‘sue and settle.'”
And now we’ve come full circle, because this “sue and settle” tactic was another one Democrats employed like crazy in 2020 to get courts to essentially suspend state election laws. This created complete chaos and undermined millions of Americans’ faith in the election outcome and our entire system of government.
Why did Democrats want election chaos? Mollie gives a much more in-depth answer in her book, as well, but here’s my own take: It’s for the exact same reason the left pushes all these strategies to circumvent voters and the Constitution. They don’t believe in natural rights, the rule of law, or even elections. They believe in the unchecked exercise of unlimited power, and they are willing to do anything to get it.
It’s past time for elected officials who claim to be defending our rights and constitutional way of life to wake up to this reality and start leading us out of it instead of spending decades promising to do that to donors and TV cameras while things just keep getting scarier.