The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch get a lot of press coverage about their vast, conservative political spending network that helps elect right-wing officials at the federal, state and local levels and advocates for policies that increase the profits of their fossil fuel and manufacturing conglomerate, Koch Industries. Earning far less publicity but perhaps equally powerful in driving rightward change in America is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a private foundation based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
New investigations by Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy analyze hacked internal documents, which reveal that much like the Koch network, the Bradley Foundation has launched a national strategy to help conservatives control the branches of state governments and alter state policy to lower taxes, shrink government and attack labor unions.
The Bradley Foundation, which has historically supported taxpayer-funded “school choice” initiatives and work requirements for welfare recipients, is named after Lynde and Harry Bradley, two brothers who founded the profitable factory automation manufacturer Allen Bradley Co. After Lynde’s death in 1942, the Allen-Bradley Foundation was established. When Allen Bradley was sold to Rockwell International in 1985 for $1.7 billion, the foundation’s assets ballooned and it became the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation as it added a focus on promoting the brothers’ conservative ideology on a national scale.
Thirty gigabytes of Bradley Foundation internal documents hacked by a group named Anonymous Poland reveal that after a $200 million influx of cash in late 2012 from the trust of Caroline Bradley, Lynde’s wife, the Bradley Foundation geared up to fund networks of conservative think tanks, legal centers, candidate recruitment organizations, media outlets and advocacy groups in 13 states, based on the foundation’s successful efforts in Wisconsin. The foundation had already laid the groundwork for a welfare-to-work program and a private school voucher system and defended GOP Gov. Scott Walker in a campaign finance probe, helping him survive a recall election prompted by his dismantling of public-sector unions.
Now the foundation is focusing on five states it views as having a strong conservative infrastructure, thus making them ripe for rightward change. The foundation is working to expand conservative power in Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin by funding established networks of right-wing organizations that promote conservatism and help far-right candidates win elections. It’s a long-term strategy that “can take decades,” according to the longtime CEO of the foundation, Rick Graber, who recently stepped down from his post.