The documents open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings of one of America’s largest right-wing foundations. With $835 million in assets as of June 2016, the Bradley Foundation is as large as the three Koch family foundations combined, yet receives much less attention as a significant funder of the right.
CMD has examined thousands of these documents, including Bradley board documents between 2013-2016. The documents indicate that Bradley has a new stream of funding to build this “conservative infrastructure” and is using a metric to assess the strength and depth of that infrastructure in individual states — including “receptive” politicians, right-wing “think tanks,” symbiotic “grassroots” groups, friendly media, litigation centers, and opposition research — to guide Bradley’s strategic funding initiatives.
Bradley ranks states into four “tiers” of investment opportunities and prioritizes funding the top tier states. A re-creation of Bradley’s master chart listing all U.S. states and scoring their infrastructure needs can be found here and below.
The documents also reveal that Bradley is bankrolling groups across the nation that are working to defund and dismantle unions. The political nature of this attack is underscored by Bradley grantees who boast in major newspapers and in Bradley-funded publications like the Daily Signal that the evisceration of public and private sector unions in states like Wisconsin and Michigan was successful in turning blue states red in the last presidential election cycle.
Bradley describes its goal as advancing “conservatism,” but the files link “receptivity to conservative policy reform” to “unified control” of governorships, legislatures, and state Supreme Courts by the Republican Party (The Barder Fund, August 18, 2015). A Bradley video geared toward enticing other funders to join the cause puts it more bluntly: “Together we can help keep our Great Lakes blue and our states red.”
The Bradley Foundation, organized as a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code, appears to be pursuing a highly partisan game plan: funding an “infrastructure” on the right that benefits the Republican Party, while at the same time attempting to crush supporters of the Democratic Party. “The trial attorneys and Big Labor” are the “two principal funding pillars of the left,” the Bradley documents claim on multiple occasions (Center for America, Grant Proposal Record, 8/19/214) (NRWLDF, Grant Proposal Record, 11/12/2013).