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Jewish World Review June 15, 2001 / 25 Sivan, 5761

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Corporate power? --
IT'S always amusing to hear left-wing critics assail the alleged right-wing bias of the media. Ordinary mortals know that this doesn't pass the laugh test. But some listeners to National Public Radio believe it. Anyway, since they can never point to actual evidence from the coverage itself, they point for proof to the "corporate" ownership of CNN, NBC and the rest. Their unstated premise is that if corporations are involved, we must be in the presence of right-wing influence.

Would that it were so! One hates to burst anyone's bubble, but most corporations are anything but conservative. The Capital Research Center has been following patterns of corporate philanthropy for more than 15 years (, and has found that most companies and foundations give four times as much money to left-wing groups and causes than to right-wing ones -- often to the disadvantage of the companies themselves.

In 1997, the latest year for which data are available, corporations gave almost five times as much to left-leaning charities and public-policy advocates than to right-leaning ones. Corporations like Aetna, Merrill Lynch, Georgia Pacific and Target Stores -- along with many others -- donated $38.7 million to left-of-center groups advocating bigger government, more regulation and higher taxes, versus only $8.4 million to groups advocating free market solutions, lower taxes and conservative reform.

In the aggregate, this works against the interests of the corporations themselves, who presumably prefer, if only for business reasons, lower taxes and less regulation. But in some cases, corporate giving is even more directly at odds with the interests of the corporations.

Leading automotive and oil companies, for example, heavily bankroll environmental groups who seek to impose greater regulation on their very industries. President Clinton's National Science and Technology Council, for example, released a report in 2000 on global warming that was heavily influenced by the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute and the Progressive Policy Institute's Center for Environmental Economics -- all left-of-center groups advocating more regulation and higher taxes. The Clinton administration was certainly within its rights to issue such a report. But guess who sponsors the environmental groups who took such a large role? BP Amoco, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors.

Among the 10 largest recipients of corporate public-affairs grants, eight are either liberal or leftist. These include the Brookings Institution, The Nature Conservancy, the NAACP and the National Urban League. The two more conservative beneficiaries are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is only center-right, and the American Enterprise Institute (which leans right, but does host several center-left scholars). AEI also ranked 10th in terms of grants received.

Nearly all of the major corporate donors in America shy away from contributing to faith-based charities. There is no constitutional impediment to their making such grants.

Nevertheless, GM gave only 2.3 percent of its gifts in 1997 to faith-based charities. The numbers were similar for other major donors like IBM, CitiGroup (whose official explanation denies funds to religious groups "unless they are engaged in a significant project benefiting the whole community") and GE. Perhaps President Bush's emphasis on including faith-based organizations among those competing for government grants will alter this pattern.

Corporations are also highly vulnerable to intimidation and shakedowns. Jesse Jackson has perfected the art. Through his 501(c)(3), the Citizenship Education Fund, he has pressured major Wall Street firms to pony up contributions to himself and his friends on pain of lawsuits, boycotts and other forms of protest. AT&T, for example, contributed $425,000 to CEF after Jackson agreed to withdraw his opposition to a merger with TCI. AT&T also hired two companies associated with Jackson to manage billions of dollars in bond offerings.

Jackson pulled the same stunt when SBC and Ameritech proposed to merge. When Jackson withdrew his opposition, he pocketed $500,000 from each company.

The Capital Research Center found these corporate givers to be very secretive about their philanthropy. CRS had to resort to publicly available IRS data for most of its information.

But shareholders are not so handicapped. They can and should demand to know how boards of directors are fulfilling their duties. Is it possible that they, too, have bought the propaganda that corporations are right wing?

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate