There are a few boogeymen out there that get tons of attention from the Democratic Party, progressives, and their allies for the grip they hold on Republican politics. Across the country and throughout Pennsylvania, the names of the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist have been raised in anger to show the undue influence of billionaire interests that filter through Republican politicians and policies.
These right-wing regressives are easy to paint as “bad guys” because of how closely they’ve taken to heart one of Roger Stone’s political rules that says it’s ”better to be infamous than to never be famous at all.” Stone is, of course, better known as one of the men behind the rise of Donald Trump. They revel in seeing Democrats raising their names and watching their discredited ideas reverberate throughout right-wing media.
While no doubt that these three individuals deserve every bit of negative attention they get, it’s not likely any of them are strolling through Harrisburg, Erie, or Lower Merion anytime soon. That’s why every “Tuesdays with Toomey” activist, resistance member, indivisible activist, and progressive ally should be able to name Pennsylvania’s The Commonwealth Foundation just as easily as the Koch brothers. Unshockingly, they are funded in Pennsylvania by the Koch brothers and other billionaires.
The Commonwealth Foundation, which claims to be a think tank, runs a year-round multi-million dollar right-wing political pressure operation right here in Pennsylvania with numerous in-state offshoot organizations including The Fairness Center and the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, who by sheer coincidence work from the same office suite in Harrisburg. These right-wing, billionaire front groups apply political pressure to push unconstitutional laws that would defund progressive organizations. They exist in 49 states. This is just the Keystone State cog in their well-oiled wheel.
Recently, two stories that did not get any media attention from Pennsylvania highlighted exactly how these operations work, along with just how deep their connections go to both the Republican Party and the billionaire donor class.
First, earlier this year, the Colorado Independence Institute – think of it as Colorado’s Commonwealth Foundation – tried to break campaign finance disclosure laws by illegally hiding its donors from the public.
What does this have to do with Pennsylvania you might ask? The Commonwealth Foundation, as well as 24 similar pressure groups around the country, filed a legal brief in support of the Colorado Independence Institute’s desire to hide their donors. In fact, not only did the Commonwealth Foundation file a brief, but so did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, The Chamber of Commerce, the CATO Institute, and a whole cadre of other extremist groups. Through this, you begin to see how this vast right-wing network works with Republicans to advocate against poor people, people of color, and our planet.
Second, recently it was revealed that the Bradley Foundation out in Wisconsin was hacked, with signals pointing to Russia carrying out the hack because they wrongly assumed they were connected to the Clinton campaign. Take a moment to let the Schadenfreude settle.
The Bradley Foundation have used its untold millions to set up and fund extremist groups all around the country to do battle with labor unions, Planned Parenthood, and other progressive organizations. They’re dedicated to denying climate science, discriminating against LGBTQ individuals, policing your sex life, restricting your right to vote, and defunding the institutions dedicating to fighting income inequality. They were an integral player in supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s notorious in-state efforts that have led to Wisconsin flipping red for Donald Trump. They’ve even developed an enemies list targeting progressive individuals and organizations.
The documents leaked from the hack begin to show just how vast their operations are; including grants, request for proposals, and other materials that make up the foundation’s gross work. In those documents included one such request for nearly half a million dollars from The Commonwealth Foundation. The Commonwealth Foundation along with two additional extremist political organizations, Media Trackers and American Majority, wrote a proposal on how to attack labor unions here in Pennsylvania.
The document itself is a fascinating read. It gives you an idea of the true intentions of the Commonwealth Foundation and their end-goals. Of note, the proposal for nearly half a million dollars was only funded at $20,000 with representatives of the Bradley Foundation noting the Commonwealth Foundation has a history of “unsophisticatedly” overselling its prospects for success. Hilariously, it’s worth noting that the Commonwealth Foundation currently claim one of their biggest victories is stopping union members from using weapons of mass destruction during the collective bargaining process. Unsophisticated indeed.
Today, as people take the streets today throughout Harrisburg to demand a fair budget, they will make their way around to a host of bad actors’ offices in the capital. The Commonwealth Foundation’s name should be known by anybody who cares about fairness in our political system. And we must expose them for the front group they are every step of the way, today and every day.