Information About the Right

This is Commonweal Institute's collection of articles, reports and resources for studying the right-wing ideological movement.

We hope that you can take the time to become informed on these issues, and inform others.

We also have a Progressive Infrastructure Information page with articles, reports and resources focusing on development of Progressive infrastructure organizations and a Progressive Philosophy and Values page, with articles, reports and resources focusing on Progressive philosophy and values.


Articles and reports tracing the formation of the right-wing ideological movement, how it is funded and how it operates:

Listed alphabetically, by author.

How We Got Here, Eric Alterman, Think Again, Center for American Progress, August 28, 2005

The 1964 campaign convinced Scaife that no genuinely conservative candidate could succeed in a nationwide election without first overcoming the advantage that liberalism appeared to have both in the media and in the war of political ideas that provided its ideological foundation. So Scaife began funding his own media. Literally hundreds of right-wing think tanks, pressure groups, alternative media outlets, and eventually, media empires owe their existence to this insight of Scaife's and to the billions that would eventually pour into their coffers as a result.

Ideas Have Consequences: So Does Money, Part I, Eric Alterman and Paul McLeary, Think Again, Center for American Progress, October 14, 2004

Ideas Have Consequences: So Does Money, Part II, Eric Alterman and Paul McLeary, Think Again, Center for American Progress, October 20, 2004

The 'Right' Books and Big Ideas, Eric Alterman, The Nation, November 4, 1999

The right sort, Eric Alterman, Guardian Unlimited, December 15, 2001

Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, Mat Bai, New York Times Magazine, July 25, 2004

The Framing Wars, Mat Bai, New York Times Magazine, July 17, 2005

Movement Building on the Internet, Christian right and "free market" think tanks collaborate in cyberspace, Bill Berkowitz, Media Alliance, May/June 2000

Heritage Foundation ascends Mount Policy - One-stop ideological shopping supplies the Hill in spades, Bill Berkowitz, Z Magazine, February, 2002

Academic Bashing, Bill Berkowitz, Z Magazine, February, 2002

Into the Mainstream An array of right-wing foundations and think tanks support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable, Chip Berlet, Southern Poverty Law Center, undated

Big $$ for Progressive Politics, Ari Berman, The Nation, October 16, 2006

Between 1972 and 1999, conservatives created at least sixty new organizations with mission statements modeled after that of the Heritage Foundation, a radical think tank at the time of its founding: "free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." When pollster Celinda Lake asked a group of white Midwestern swing voters in 2004 what conservatives stood for, most of them repeated those catchphrases. When she asked the same question about liberals, half the voters responded, "I don't know."

Merge, Left, Joe Bevilacqua,, June 6, 2003

Busting big fat liars, an interview with David Brock, Eric Boehlert, Salon, May 11, 2004

You mention the proliferation of conservative think tanks. Why did the left mostly ignore the think tank game?

One aspect is that the conservative organizations were themselves organized in response to what they saw as threats from various liberal movements, like the consumer movement and the women's movement. But all those liberal movements were organized as single issue; there really wasn't an effort to bring them together into a broader ideological stance in the way the right has done. What John Podesta is doing [at the Center for American Progress] is a broad-based and multi-issue organization. There are very few of those. Conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation (I worked at Heritage) have very slick marketing savvy, with a high amount of their budgets going to promotion and public relations. I imagine there's an intellectual resistance to doing that [on the left] on the basis of its being gimmickry, or too slick: If our ideas are good, why do we have to sell them?

The Mighty Wurlitzer, What progressives can learn from David Brock's account of the conservative machine, Robert Borosage, The American Prospect, May 6, 2002

The Conservative Conversion Machine, Chris Bowers, MyDD, March 25, 2005

"...conservatives have developed an extensive outreach program that gives them a huge advantage in transforming the electorate to become more open to their worldview. By contrast, liberals, progressives and Democrats have no such structure. In fact, what structures Democrats and progressives do have are openly under assault by conservatives..."

A Party Inverted, Bill Bradley, The New York Times, March 30, 2005

To further the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970's and 1980's built a comprehensive structure based on Powell's blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid.

You've probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.

How a PR Firm Helped Establish America's Cigarette Century, Allan M. Brandt, AlterNet, April 16, 2007

The tobacco industry had successfully used public relations since the 1920s to shape the meanings and cultural contexts of tobacco use. It was not surprising that in a moment of crisis, the industry would again deploy public relations as the antidote. But now these techniques were used not to change mores and social convention, but to distort and deny important scientific data. In the winter of 1953-54, the industry crossed a legal and moral line by entangling itself in the manipulation of fundamental scientific processes. There would be no easy route back to legitimacy.

[. . .] His strategy for ending the "hysteria" was to insist that there were "two sides." ... This strategy -- invented by Hill in the context of his work for the tobacco industry -- would ultimately become the cornerstone of a large range of efforts to distort scientific process in the second half of the twentieth century.

The Mighty Windbags, an excerpt from "The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy" By David Brock, Crown Publishers, 432 pages, Nonfiction, in Salon, May 11, 2004

Something will start at the Republican National Committee, inside the building, and it will explode the next day on the right-wing talk-show network and on Fox News and in the newspapers that play this game, the Washington Times and the others. And then they'll create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they all start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they've pushed into the zeitgeist. And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist...."

Key Report
$1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990s; David Callahan; National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Washington, D.C. 1999  (excerpt)
This report details the money the ultra-right has spent to influence the political climate.

Key Article
$1 Billion for Conservative Ideas, David Callahan, The Nation, April 8, 1999
This article is based on the above NCRP report, "1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990s"

Clash in the States, David Callahan, The American Prospect, June 18, 2001

Key Article
The Think Tank As Flack, David Callahan, The Washington Monthly, 1999

Liberal Policy's Weak Foundations, David Callahan, The Nation, November 13, 1995

"The results of this starvation diet are now apparent. The left is handicapped in the war of ideas because its policy intellectuals do not have generous patrons. Today's lopsided debate over national policy stems in part from a shortage of liberal and left thinkers who can work full time to develop and sell ideas. The point is not that the side with the most policy wonks wins but that any ideological movement is in deep trouble if it fails to cultivate an energetic corps of professional thinkers."

A call to the Right, Kim Campbell, The Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2002

"Conservatives battle the 'liberal media' by growing their own ranks and offering training and support to journalists from the left and right."

Making Connections, Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke, In These Times, April 27, 2005

"During the '70s and '80s, conservative and corporate funders followed an explicit plan to establish and expand right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Instititue. The think tanks served as incubators for right-wing ideas and by the '90s were poised to capitalize on emerging -- and unregulated -- media sectors such as cable television, talk radio and Internet commentary. They were complemented by a host of corporate-funded "astroturf" groups created by the public relations industry to counteract genuine grassroots organizations fighting for social, environmental and economic justice."

Key Report Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations, Sally Covington, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, July 1997 (excerpt)
This report discusses how the ultra-right has been able to use money strategically to build the right-wing "movement."

Key Article
Right Thinking, Big Grants, and Long-term Strategy, How Conservative Philanthropies and Think Tanks Transform US Policy, Sally Covington, Covert Action Quarterly, Winter, 1998

Key Report
Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States, The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council, ALECWatch, Winter, February, 2002

The American Legislative Exchange Council was originally the brainchild of conservative activist and culture warrior Paul Weyrich, a onetime journalist who later coined the term “Moral Majority” for evangelist Jerry Falwell. Weyrich’s original vision was to bring together state legislators who were energized by such social issues as the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights and concerned about what they saw as an overbearing, over-regulating, and over-taxing government.

As Weyrich saw it, liberals had spent decades building up their own infrastructure of foundations, think tanks, and academicians; conservatives had not. And so he simply borrowed their techniques.

The Art Of The Hissy Fit, Digby, .common sense, Campaign for America's Future, October 23, 2007

"I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves.

[. . .] In fact, they became so good at the tactic that they now rely on it as their first choice to control the political dialogue when it becomes uncomfortable and put the Democrats on the defensive whenever they are winning the day."

Goals Reached, Donor on Right Closes Up Shop, Jason DeParle, New York Times, May 29, 2005

"Without it, the Federalist Society might not exist, nor its network of 35,000 conservative lawyers. Economic analysis might hold less sway in American courts. The premier idea factories of the right, from the Hoover Institution to the Heritage Foundation, would have lost millions of dollars in core support. And some classics of the conservative canon would have lost their financier, including Allan Bloom's lament of academic decline and Charles Murray's attacks on welfare.

[. . .] Although Olin is bowing out, the conservative movement is growing. There are conservative think tanks operating in 42 states; grass-roots organizers working on issues like tort reform and tax relief; and groups monitoring liberal journalists, professors, politicians and clerics."

Social Justice Philanthropy: Can We Get More Bang for the Buck?, Note - PDF file, Peter Dreier, Social Policy, Fall, 2002

Key Article
"Ideas Move Nations" How conservative think tanks have helped to transform the terms of political debate, Gregg Easterbrook, The Atlantic, January, 1986

The Origins of the Modern American Conservative Movement, Lee Edwards, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation Lecture #811, November 21, 2003
(Note - this is a right-wing perspective.)

"The history of American politics suggests that a political movement must experience these successive waves of ideas, interpretation, and action along with sufficient financial resources to be successful."

Funding the Right, Matthew Freeman and Rachel Egen, Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc., 1998 (Backup source here)

Corporate Ideology and Literary Criticism: How the New Right pushes the ideology of exploitation in the field of literary studies, and what to do about it. , Grover C. Furr, English Department, Montclair State University, September, 1998

Funder on the Right, Nancy Goldstein, PageOneQ, June 9, 2005

"In short, a peek at what Olin is actually funding reveals all that high-falutin’ talk about Rousseau to be a smokescreen for the somewhat cruder and more partisan goals of a very hands-on activist agenda.

In keeping with William E. Simon’s goal of establishing a “counter-intelligentsia,” Olin provides substantial yearly grants to well-known organs of the right such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. But it does more than richly reward right-wing scholars, publications, organizations, and think tanks that advance an ultra-conservative agenda. It also aggressively markets the “scholarship” it funds to an unwitting public with the assistance of a mainstream media that is often lazy, partisan, or both."

Conservative Group Amplifies Voice of Protestant Orthodoxy, Laurie Goodstein and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, May 22, 2004

"As Presbyterians prepare to gather for their General Assembly in Richmond, Va., next month, a band of determined conservatives is advancing a plan to split the church along liberal and orthodox lines. Another divorce proposal shook the United Methodist convention in Pittsburgh earlier this month, while conservative Episcopalians have already broken away to form a dissident network of their own.

In each denomination, the flashpoint is homosexuality, but there is another common denominator as well. In each case, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a small organization based in Washington, has helped incubate traditionalist insurrections against the liberal politics of the denomination's leaders. "

Key Article
The Right-Wing Express, Don Hazen, Alternet, February 7, 2005

"Consider that the conservative political movement, which now has a hammerlock on every aspect of federal government, has a media message machine fed by more than 80 large non-profit organizations – let's call them the Big 80 – funded by a gaggle of right-wing family foundations and wealthy individuals to the tune of $400 million a year.

And the Big 80 groups are just the "non-partisan" 501(c)(3) groups. These do not include groups like the NRA, the anti-gay and anti-abortion groups, nor do they include the political action committees (PACs) or the "527" groups (so named for the section of the tax code they fall under), like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which so effectively slammed John Kerry's campaign in 2004."

Why Liberals Fail, Dean Heagle,, Undated

Creating a Right-Wing Nation, State by State, Joshua Holland, AlterNet, November 16, 2005

"Founded in 1973, ALEC was the brainchild of paleocon Paul Weyrich, a leading "Movement conservative" and the head of the Free Congress Foundation (in 1973 Weyrich also co-founded the Heritage Foundation). It is the connective tissue that links state legislators with right-wing think tanks, leading anti-tax activists and corporate money. ALEC is a public-policy mill that churns out "model legislation" for the states that are unfailingly pro-business. The organization fights against civil rights laws, as well as consumer, labor and environmental initiatives."

My right-wing degree, Jeff Horwitz, Salon, May 24, 2005

"Yet Blackwell's foundation, the Leadership Institute, is not a Republican organization. It's a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) charity, drawing the overwhelming majority of its $9.1 million annual budget from tax-deductible donations. Despite its legally required "neutrality," the institute is one of the best investments the conservative movement has ever made.

[. . .] Some progressives have come to that conclusion as well. "This was certainly needed 25 years ago," says Peter Murray, of the Center for Progressive Leadership. "Investing beyond any individual election cycle is the way that we're going to develop the progressive movement into a more robust, coordinated, compact force that can win elections." But getting donors to think beyond 2008 is a tough sell."

Right-wing think tanks tap philanthropy, Molly Ivins, Online Athens, May 29, 1999

Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?, Dave Johnson, Commonweal Institute, History News Network, February 10, 2003

Perspective: Who funds whom?, Jill Junnola, Energy Compass, October 4, 2002

Conservatives waging war on nonprofits, Robert Koulish, Baltimore Sun, February 16, 2007

"The seeds for the war on nonprofits lay in the 1971 "Powell Memo" penned by corporate lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell. The memo instructed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to confront nonprofit critics of the business community, personified by Ralph Nader and the American Civil Liberties Union. It urged forming right-wing think tanks and philanthropies, hiring intellectuals and confronting progressives."

Lessons From the Right: Saving The Soul of the Environmental Movement, (Note - PDF file, 1mb), Jeni Krencicki and Dahvi Wilson, Lessons From The Right website, and blog, Spring, 2005

"Like the British Redcoats trying to use traditional and outdated tactics to defeat a new guerrilla army, the environmental movement, alongside the larger progressive network, has failed to recognize the incredibly effective strategies that have allowed the Right to get their hands on the hearts of America. Over the past three decades, the Right has adopted a powerful strategy for taking over the political systems of this country. Their success has largely resulted from their utilization of a set of ingenious institutional techniques - primarily, a strategic framing of their message coupled with the construction of a holistic metastructure for delivering it - rather than their engagement in democratic discourse over the true content of their policies. Our movement can learn something by studying the methods that have allowed the Right to become so powerful, and if we are smart, we will figure out how to apply these lessons to our own national aspirations. "

The Smoke Machine, Paul Krugman, New York Times, March 29, 2002

The Death and Life of American Liberalism,The right has shown that conviction beats vacillation. Can liberals acquire some spine? Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, June 6, 2005

"The conservative movement is rooted in a coherent, easy-to-summarize ideology: Government doesn’t work, except to protect you from terrorists; you deserve to keep more of your own money; cherished American family values, including national security, are under assault from liberals. The right has fine-tuned and segmented its rhetorical symphony so that the bass notes rock its political primitives while a softer timbre appeals to the moderate ear."

Philanthropy and Movements Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, July 15, 2002

The Apparat, George W. Bush's back-door political machine, Jerry Landay, Media, March 18, 2004.

"In its latest report, called The Axis of Ideology, the NCRP has identified at least 350 tax-exempt, ostensibly non-partisan organizations within the right-wing's activist front, many operating at regional, state, and local levels. They have penetrated the three branches of the federal government, and dominate the political debate. They guide and oversee the agenda that directs White House action (or inaction). Two of these organizations housed the planners who invented the Iraq war.

[. . .] They mastermind the machinery of radical politics, policy, and regulations. They include campus-based centers of scholarship, student associations, and scores of publications. The shorthand of their faith is well known: less government, generous tax cuts for the privileged, privatization or elimination of Social Security and Medicare, rollbacks of environmental safeguards, major curbs on the public's right to go to court, and a laissez-faire free market system unfettered by regulations or public-interest accountability. Bush campaigns to advance the ideological agenda of the right, and the radical front in turn campaigns for Bush."

Key Report
The Powell Manifesto, How A Prominent Lawyer's Attack Memo Changed America, Jerry Landay, Media, August 20, 2002.

Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history, Lewis H. Lapham, Harpers Magazine, September, 2004

Key Report
Anatomy of a Movement, Jeffrey Leverich, Research Coordinator, Wisconson Education Association Council, October 3, 1998

"In the free market of ideas, some interests are able to buy more voices than others. That is their right. But, the public should be aware when a common link exists between seemingly autonomous voices. Otherwise, the "free market" of ideas will be unduly influenced by the richest interests most able to speak."

Far Right Seed Money Bears Fruit, Craig McGrath, Progressive Populist, April, 2001

Puritanism of the rich, George Monbiot, The Guardian UK, November 9, 2004

"Bush's ideology has its roots in 17th century preaching that the world exists to be conquered "

The Denial Industry, George Monbiot, The Guardian UK, September 19, 2006

"For years, a network of fake citizens' groups and bogus scientific bodies has been claiming that science of global warming is inconclusive. They set back action on climate change by a decade. But who funded them? Exxon's involvement is well known, but not the strange role of Big Tobacco. In the first of three extracts from his new book, George Monbiot tells a bizarre and shocking new story."

The Very Foundation of Conservatism, John J. Miller, New York Times, November 28, 2005

"After becoming its president in 1977, Mr. Simon called for the creation of a "counterintelligentsia" to balance what he saw as the liberal dominance of the universities, the news media, nonprofit organizations and government bureaucracies. The Olin Foundation and other right-leaning philanthropies - particularly the Bradley, Scaife and Smith Richardson Foundations - provided a pool of venture capital that helped build a network of research institutions, academic fellowships and highbrow journals for the conservative movement. If it is something of a cliché these days to suggest that conservatives are winning the war of ideas, much of the credit belongs to these grant makers."

Rethinking the Think Tanks, How industry-funded "experts" twist the environmental debate , Curtis Moore, Sierra Magazine, July/August, 2002

Key Report
Conservative Foundations And Their Activist Grantees , From the Foundations in the Newt Era, A NCRP Special Report, NCRP, September 1995

Key Document
Governing the Nation from the Statehouses: The Rightwing Agenda in the States and How Progressives Can Fight Back, Nathan Newman, The Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN), February 21, 2006

"Backed by many of the largest corporations in the country and networked into conservative think tanks and allied political operations, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has helped draft and promote state legislation across the country that has crippled social service budgets, deregulated industries, slashed medical care for the poor and undermined consumer and worker protections in state after state.

[. . .] What the rightwing recognizes is that with a coordinated strategy, a movement can govern the nation from the statehouses. Progressives need to fully understand why state policy matters and how powerful, pervasive and influential those policies are in our everyday lives."

Ghostwriting the Law, Karen Olsson, Mother Jones, September/October, 2002 "A little-known corporate lobby is drafting business-friendly bills for state legislators across the country."

Key Article
Lessons of Right-Wing Philanthropy, Karen Paget, American Prospect, September-October, 1998.
This is a key article for understanding the differences between how the right has successfully funded building its movement, while moderates and progressives are left fighting defensive battles.

"The publications discussed here are intended to be a wake-up call to funders and activists. Taken together, they do this quite well; each report contributes to a picture that is larger and more complex than any single report can draw, and their cumulative findings are quite dramatic. The various appendices and charts show the scope of the conservative achievement even more vividly than the narratives do. The reports also subtly goad progressive funders into more aggressive grant making."

Price of the 'Liberal Media' Myth, Robert Parry,, January 1, 2003

Key Report
Buying a Movement, A Report by the People For the American Way Foundation, 1996.
This key report discusses how a small group of ultra-right-wing funders has purchased the appearance of a mass movement, and influenced the political climate.

Conservatives can't compete in the marketplace of ideas..., Rick Perlstein, Campaign for America's Future, May 29, 2007

"And a demonstration, our first, of a Big Con principle: there's no set of ideas so dangerous, inhumane, antidemocratic, or stupid that a big enough right-wing infusion of cash can't make look like it's sound."

Investing in Conservative Ideas, (Alternate source) James Piereson, Commentary, May, 2005
(Note - this is a right-wing perspective.)

"Indeed, the Left has displayed a near-obsessive interest in conservative philanthropies. A number of websites are devoted entirely to charting the activities of the “right-wing foundations established by major corporate polluters,” as the environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., describes them in his book, Crimes Against Nature. Similarly, the journalists David Brock and Eric Alterman have devoted much energy to “exposing” the projects supported by these institutions as well as their links to other organizations and their place in the broader constellation of conservative activism. Reports by People for the American Way and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy dwell with heavy emphasis on the supposedly nefarious strategies and tactics employed by the foundations to advance their highly dubious cause.

Invariably, these broadsides ignore the substance of the ideas themselves, quite as if John Stuart Mill’s famous characterization of conservatives as “the stupid party” were still the rule in the early 21st century. But the plain fact is that modern conservatives have been engaged with the world of ideas to a far greater extent than most modern liberals. The columnist David Brooks has observed that, asked to name influences on their thinking, most conservatives are able to list a number of books or authors, while liberals have difficulty identifying any. This lively engagement with a coherent body of ideas forms a crucial if much overlooked aspect of the rise of conservatism, and one in which conservative foundations have played a central role."

Flunking Statistics - The right's disinformation about faculty bias, Martin Plissner, The American Prospect, December 30, 2002

a push in the right direction - Financial powerhouses pollinate campuses with big bucks and conservative ideas , Don Reynolds, Flux Magazine, 1997

Key Report
The Right Wing Attack on the American Labor Movement, Joanne Ricca, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, August, 2002

"This report documents the development of the New Right, its ideology and its strategy. In particular, it explains how the Right exploits single issues and manipulates religious faith to direct workers into voting for candidates who are a threat to their economic interests. Hopefully, this summary can serve as a framework for a larger, continuing discussion on how to challenge and defeat the Right."

War of Ideas: Why mainstream and liberal foundations and the think tanks they support are losing in the war of ideas [note - PDF file], Andrew Rich, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2005

"My research suggests that while it is true that conservatives have been more effective than progressive funders, this is not because they spend more money. Nonconservative foundations – what might be labeled “middle of the road,” “mainline,” or “liberal foundations” – have devoted far more resources than conservatives to influencing thinking about public policy. This spending simply has not been as deliberate or effective.2 Conservative think tanks have quite successfully provided political leaders, journalists, and the public with concrete ideas about shrinking the role of the federal government, deregulation, and privatization.

They are succeeding by aggressively promoting their ideas. By contrast, liberal and mainstream foundations back policy research that is of interest to liberals. But these funders remain reluctant to make explicit financial commitment to the war of ideas, and they do relatively little to support the marketing of liberal ideas."

A three-part series on lessons to learn from conservative success, at the campaign for America's Future Blog:
Learning from The Cultural Conservatives, Part I: Messing With Their Minds Sara Robinson, Blog For Our Future, February 29, 2008
Learning from the Cultural Conservatives, Part II: Talking Up The Worldview Sara Robinson, Blog For Our Future, March 5, 2008
Learning From the Cultural Conservatives, Part III: Taking It To The Street Sara Robinson, Blog For Our Future, March 11, 2008

Also at Alternet:
What We Can Learn from Conservatives About Winning in Politics Part 1 Sara Robinson, AlterNet, March 13, 2008
Learning from How Conservatives Push Their Cultural Worldview Part 2 Sara Robinson, AlterNet, March 14, 2008
How Did Conservatives Convince the Public to Think Differently About Government? Part 3 Sara Robinson, AlterNet, March 15, 2008

"Over this and the next two posts, I'm going to revisit Weyrich and Heubeck's Free Congress manifesto, and lay out the specific lessons progressives can draw from the plans and strategies that drove 30 years of conservative movement-building. We'll get the map to the the battlefield they're really fighting on; and what it will take for progressives to engage them there and win. The same strategies that allowed them to take control of the country and change the shape of American history may, with some adaptations to our own liberal values, allow us to undo the damage as well.

The first post addresses the role ideas—which ones they specifically chose to promote, and why—played in the conservative renaissance, and should play in the coming progressive era as well. The second one will discuss the details of how these ideas are presented to the public. The last one discusses specific tactics that the conservatives used—and we might consider emulating—to embed their desired memes in the mass culture, ensuring their continued dominance of the discourse."

Supreme Court Inc., Jeffrey Rosena, New York Times Magazine, March 16, 2008

"The origins of the business community’s campaign to transform the Supreme Court can be traced back precisely to Aug. 23, 1971. That was the day when Lewis F. Powell Jr., a corporate lawyer in Richmond, Va., wrote a memo to his friend Eugene B. Snydor, then the head of the education committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the memo, Powell expressed his concern that the American economic system was “under broad attack.” He identified several aggressors: the New Left, the liberal media, rebellious students on college campuses and, most important, Ralph Nader. Earlier that year, Nader founded Public Citizen to advocate for consumer rights, bring antitrust actions when the Justice Department did not and sue federal agencies when they failed to adopt health and safety regulations.

Powell claimed that this attack on the economic system was “quite new in the history of America.” Ever since 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt threatened to pack a conservative Supreme Court with more progressive justices, the court had largely deferred to federal and state economic regulations. And by the ’60s, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren had embraced a form of economic populism, often favoring the interests of small business over big business, even at the expense of consumers. But what Powell saw in the work of Nader and others was altogether more extreme: a radical campaign that was “broadly based and consistently pursued.”

To counter the growing influence of public-interest litigation groups like Public Citizen, Powell urged the Chamber of Commerce to begin a multifront lobbying campaign on behalf of business interests, including hiring top business lawyers to bring cases before the Supreme Court. “The judiciary,” Powell predicted, “may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.” Two months after he wrote the memo, Powell was appointed by Richard Nixon to the Supreme Court. And six years later, in 1977, after steadily expanding its lobbying efforts, the chamber established the National Chamber Litigation Center to file cases and briefs on behalf of business interests in federal and state courts."

The Legend of the Powell Memo, The idea that one man mapped out the entire right-wing infrastructure is appealing. Too bad it’s not true., Mark Schmitt, The American Prospect, April 27, 2005

"Still, some of Powell’s recommendations do bear an uncanny resemblance to the institutions of the modern right. Powell’s sketch of battalions of lawyers to counter Nader and the ACLU seem to foreshadow not just Pacific Legal but several similar legal foundations and the Federalist Society system for training ideologically minded lawyers. His proposal to closely monitor and harass the media for anti-business and liberal bias represents a strategy that David Brock has shown is key to the right; but by the time of the memo, Reed Irvine’s Accuracy In Media was already two years old. His proposals to badger colleges to balance liberal and conservative views seem eerily similar to recent crusades on the same issue.

In other respects, though, the memo seems far out of touch with the concerns and structures of the current right. For one thing, it is entirely focused on the Chamber of Commerce itself, and Powell proposed that most of the activities be undertaken within the chamber. That didn’t happen, and the chamber wasn’t even that closely allied with the right until 1994, when it was forced to respond to the more aggressive oppositional politics of the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business. "

Foundations for a Movement, How the right wing subsidizes its press, Beth Schulman, EXTRA!, March/April 1995

The Death of Environmentalism, Global warming politics in a post-environmental world, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, Reprinted in Grist Magazine, January 13, 2005

"Conservative foundations and think tanks have spent 40 years getting clear about what they want (their vision) and what they stand for (their values). The values of smaller government, fewer taxes, a large military, traditional families, and more power for big business are only today, after 40 years of being stitched together by conservative intellectuals and strategists, coherent enough to be listed in a "contract with America." After they got clearer about their vision and values, conservatives started crafting proposals that would activate conservative values among their base and swing voters.

Once in power, conservatives govern on all of their issues -- no matter whether their solutions have majority support. Liberals tend to approach politics with an eye toward winning one issue campaign at a time -- a Sisyphean task that has contributed to today's neoconservative hegemony.

[. . .] If environmentalists hope to become more than a special interest we must start framing our proposals around core American values and start seeing our own values as central to what motivates and guides our politics. Doing so is crucial if we are to build the political momentum -- a sustaining movement -- to pass and implement the legislation that will achieve action on global warming and other issues."

The Billion Dollar Imbalance in America’s Great Debates, Carole Shields, National Council of Jewish Women Journal, Winter, 2000

Key Article
Why do Progressive Foundations Give too Little to too Many?, Michael Shuman, The Nation, January 12, 1998

"When the author of the N.C.R.P. report [$1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990s] recently appeared on a national radio program to discuss the findings, callers expressed outrage about the unfairness of the right having so much more money than the left. But this explanation for the effectiveness of right-wing philanthropy, which liberal program officers and activists repeat to one another, is a smokescreen for an embarrassing fact: Foundations that support progressive causes actually have lots of money, more than their conservative counterparts. The real problem--and it finally needs to be aired publicly--is that too much of this money is spent foolishly."

The Media's Favorite Think Tank - How the Heritage Foundation Turns Money into Media, Norman Solomon, Extra!, July/August, 1996

The Manhattan Institute: Launch Pad For Conservative Authors, Norman Solomon, Institute for Public Accuracy, 1998

The Conservative Marketing Machine, Laurie Spivak, Alternet, January 11, 2005

"While the leaders of the conservative movement like to boast that the power of their movement lies in the power of its ideas, the ideas of today's conservative movement are the same old failed policies from years gone by, spit-shined and with user-friendly names. The power of the conservative movement is not in its ideas, rather it is in the marketing of these ideas, primarily through effective packaging, promotion and distribution."

A War of Ideas: Examining the Right’s Intellectual Infrastructure, The Lewis F. Powell Model [PDF, 500K], Erik Taylor, 2006

Taking Over the Republican Party Theocracy Watch, 2005

Dems' Fightin' Words, Michael Tomasky, American Prospect, August 26, 2002

Right Wing Think Tanks Target Unions, UE News Online, October, 1998

Research: Researching the Researchers (abstract only, subscribe or buy the article), Debra Viadero, Education Week, February 20, 2002

Why America Turned Right, Questions for postmodern Christians, Lauren F. Winner, Christianity Today, March/April, 2002

Richard Mellon Scaife

Articles and reports on Richard Mellon Scaife's funding of anti-Clinton efforts

Hillary Was Right , Nicholas Confessore, American Prospect, January 17, 2000

Who Is Richard Mellon Scaife? He's very rich and very partisan, but is he behind an anti-Clinton conspiracy?, Brooks Jackson, CNN, April 27, 1998

Clinton Scandals: Bill Clinton vs. the Right-Wing Machine, Robert Parry, The Consortium, November 26, 1996

Citizen Scaife, Karen Rothmyer, Columbia Journalism Review, July/August, 1981

The man behind the mask, Karen Rothmyer, Salon, April, 1998

Washington Post reports on organizations involved in the anti-Clinton effort, Washington Post, May, 1999.

Articles, reports and resources focusing on the right-wing attack on academia:

Academic Bashing, Bill Berkowitz, Z Magazine, February, 2002

Corporate Ideology and Literary Criticism: How the New Right pushes the ideology of exploitation in the field of literary studies, and what to do about it. , Grover C. Furr, English Department, Montclair State University, September, 1998

Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?, Dave Johnson, Commonweal Institute, History News Network, February 10, 2003

Flunking Statistics - The right's disinformation about faculty bias, Martin Plissner, The American Prospect, December 30, 2002

Research: Researching the Researchers, Debra Viadero, Education Week, February 20, 2002

Articles, reports and resources focusing on school vouchers and the right-wing attack on public schools:

AFT Center on Privatization, American Federation of Teachers

Voucher Tricksters: The Hard Right Enters Through the Schoolhouse Door, Black Commentator, July 11, 2002

Institutes, Foundations, & Think Tanks:Conservative Influence on U.S. Public Schools, Philip E. Kovacs & Deron R. Boyles, Public Resistance, May 1, 2005

"While education is only one area where neoconservative think tanks seek to influence public policy, it has become the issue for many neoconservatives. In this paper we focus on four think tanks—The Manhattan Institute, The American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation—and what they are doing to reshape public schools in ways more suitable to neoconservative and corporate ends. Our goal is to problematize and critique the assertions of these think tanks, with the hope of generating a counter-narrative to their bold and influential proclamations."

Anatomy of a Movement, Jeffrey Leverich, Research Coordinator, Wisconson Education Association Council, October 3, 1998

Goal of school choice movement is to break up unions, Rob Levine, Pioneer Press, April 23, 2002

Commercially Correct Talking Heads, Craig McGrath, The Populist, January, 1997

Keeping Public Schools Public, Barbara Miner, Rethinking Schools, September, 2003

"Many conservatives oppose affirmative action while supporting school vouchers. Let’s take a look at the ideology behind both issues."

Vouchers: Who's Behind It All?, Nicholas J. Penning, Senior Legislative Analyst, American Association of School Administrators, updated October 10, 2002

Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education, People for The American Way Foundation, July, 2003
PFAWF press release and description of this report: PFAWF Report Exposes Disturbing Agenda Behind Attacks On Public Education

Attacks On Public Education and related links, People For the American Way Foundation, undated

False Choices: Vouchers, Public Schools, and our Children's Future, Lessons from Milwaukee, Rethinking Schools, Fall, 2001

Articles and reports focusing on the right-wing attack on the judicial system:

Hijacking Justice: The Federalist Society, a Right-wing network of lawyers, judges and supporters, is undoing civil rights and other gains made through the courts, George E. Curry & Trevor W. Coleman, Emerge, October 1999

Federalist Society Becomes a Force in Washington, Conservative Group's Members Take Key Roles in Bush White House and Help Shape Policy and Judicial Appointments , Thomas B. Edsall, Washington Post, April 18, 2001

A Hostile Takeover, How the Federalist Society is capturing the federal courts, Martin Garbus, The American Prospect, March 1, 2003

Justice For Sale: Shortchanging the Public Interest for Private Gain , Review and Commentary by Richard L. Grossman, The Workbook, Fall 1993

The Federalist Society and the Challenge to a Democratic Jurisprudence, Institute for Democracy Studies, undated

The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law. (PDF file, approx. 1 MB.)
Also available in an online HTML version, David C. Johnson, Commonweal Institute, October, 2003

Vast Right-Wing Collusion, Biased Judges, Big Money, and Tax Exempt Organizations Force Their Agenda, Mike Kress, American Politics Journal, March 16, 1999

The Federalist Society, The Conservative Cabal That's Transforming American Law, Jerry Landay, Washington Monthly, March, 2000

Don't Be Fooled. They're Activists, Too, Simon Lazarus, Washington Post, June 3, 2001

Tipping the antitrust scales, How the right helped make the federal courts safe for Microsoft., Andrew Leonard, Salon, March, 1999

THE TAKINGS PROJECT: Using Federal Courts to Attack Community and Environmental Protections, Douglas T. Kendall & Charles P. Lord, Community Rights Counsel, April, 1998

Issues Groups Fund Seminars for Judges, Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, April 9, 1998

The Right's Judicial Juggernaut, Jack Newfield, The Nation, September 19, 2002

The Federalist Society: From Obscurity to Power, A Report by the People For the American Way Foundation, undated.

Federalist Society, Right Web Profile, November 30, 2006

Judges get FREE lessons on property rights, Dustin Solberg,, July 6, 1998

Judges' Free Trips Go Unreported, U.S. Jurists Say They Forgot To Comply With Ethics Law, Joe Stephens, Washington Post, June 30, 2000

Resources for studying the right-wing movement:

Right Wing Research Center, People for the American Way Foundation

Media Transparency, The Money Behind the Media

Resources For Studying Right-Wing Funding & Policy-Making, Public Eye

Greenwash, Clary-Meuser Research Network

An Internet Guide to Power Structure Research,

Theocracy Watch,

Center for Media and Democracy


Right Web,

"Right Web explores the many ties that link the right-wing movement's main players, organizations, corporate supporters, educational institutions, and government representatives to each other in a new architecture of power."

Resources for studying concentration of media ownership:

Who Owns the Media?, Take Back the Media

MEDIA CONCENTRATION, a report by, November 6, 2002

ISSUE GUIDES | Media Concentration,

Media Reform Information Center

Articles about Grover Norquist and weekly right-wing coordination meetings:

Tax Man, Peter Beinart, The New Republic, May 7, 2001

Sowing the Seeds of GOP Domination: Conservative Norquist Cultivates Grass Roots Beyond the Beltway, Laura Blumenfeld, Washington Post, January 12, 2004

"They gather every Wednesday morning in a boardroom of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist is president of the anti-tax group. The shades are down, the lights are weak, yet an incandescent assuredness infuses the room. A hundred and twenty people mill around, eating bagels, distributing talking points, exchanging business cards and tips. They are lobbyists, analysts, senior White House and Hill staffers, advocates for property rights, gun ownership and traditional values."

From The Mighty Wurlitzer, Robert Borosage, The American Prospect, May 6, 2002

"Most prominent is Grover Norquist's famous Wednesday meetings, which convene a who's who of conservative activists from 70 or so groups with grass-roots operations, from the NRA to the Christian Coalition, plus conservative congressional aides and writers who serve as movement propagandists. But there are also weekly Wednesday night gatherings of under-30 conservatives, called the Third Generation, at the Heritage. There are monthly Chinatown lunches of the Federalist Society, a network of right-wing judicial extremists. There's Tyrrell's Saturday Evening Club, a monthly confab of leading conservative writers and pundits at a French restaurant. And there's the annual national Conservative Political Action Committee meeting, where of hundreds of grass-roots activists from around the country are roused to battle and given their marching orders."

The Caveman Cometh, The Economist , March 31, 2001 U.S. Edition

House divided, Mary Jacoby, Salon, May 24, 2004

"For years, Norquist and DeLay have worked to purge the nation's corporate lobby shops of Democrats, and companies that fill GOP campaign coffers with money are rewarded with access to lawmakers. Enemies don't get their calls returned, and without access, they lose clients. Access is coordinated by the White House, often through the office of another powerful Texan, political strategist Karl Rove.

For two years, the assistant who answered Rove's phone was a woman who had previously worked for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close friend of Norquist's and a top DeLay fundraiser. One Republican lobbyist, who asked not to be named because DeLay and Rove have the power to ruin his livelihood, said the way Rove's office worked was this: "Susan took a message for Rove, and then called Grover to ask if she should put the caller through to Rove. If Grover didn't approve, your call didn't go through.""

Grover Norquist: 'Field Marshal' of the Bush Plan, Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation, April 26, 2001

" 'The meeting functions as the weekly checklist so that everybody knows what's up, what to do,' says Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, a conservative pollster who has been a regular attendee for years."

Grover Norquist, Media Transparency Report

"Grover Norquist is one of the most connected members of the new right wing movement. He has close ties to the Republican Party, large U.S. business interests, and both the subsidized and regular U.S. media. He truly represents the nexus of politics, business and media."

Wednesdays with Grover, New Yorker, August 1, 2005

Norquist's power high, profile low, Susan Page, USA TODAY June 1, 2001

The Soul of the New Machine, Michael Scherer, Mother Jones, January/February, 2004

"The invitation-only meetings Norquist hosts have become a hot ticket for Washington's conservative in crowd, the place for GOP players to brainstorm, swap intelligence, and see and be seen. The 100-plus people who come each week are the powers who run the federal government—congressmen, lobbyists, senior White House and Senate staffers, industry-group leaders, and right-wing policy wonks. "Everybody there has some sort of entrée," says conservative activist Peter Ferrara, a longtime attendee. "When the White House sits down and says, 'We want to get the word out on something,' the top of the list is Grover.""

Grover Norquist -- The Republican Party's prophet of permanence, Chris Suellentrop, Slate, July 7, 2003

Conservatives Savor Their Role as Insiders in the White House, Robin Toner, New York Times, March 18, 2001

From their own mouths:

Sowing the Seeds of GOP Domination: Conservative Norquist Cultivates Grass Roots Beyond the Beltway, Laura Blumenfeld, Washington Post, January 12, 2004
"They gather every Wednesday morning in a boardroom of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist is president of the anti-tax group. The shades are down, the lights are weak, yet an incandescent assuredness infuses the room. A hundred and twenty people mill around, eating bagels, distributing talking points, exchanging business cards and tips. They are lobbyists, analysts, senior White House and Hill staffers, advocates for property rights, gun ownership and traditional values."

Achieving a "Leninist" Strategy, Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis, Cato Institute, Cato Journal, vol. 3, no.2 (Fall 1983) (PDF 783K)
A second, clearer source here.

"Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon ... its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. ... we would do well to drawa few lessons from the Leninist strategy.

The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement, Free Congress Foundation, 2002

"We must learn to treat leftists as natural disasters or rabid dogs."
(Please visit Cursor's Media Transparency to learn more about Free Congress Foundation)

Language: A Key Mechanism of Control, Newt Gingrich 1995

"Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

decay... failure (fail)... collapse(ing)... deeper... crisis... urgent(cy)... destructive... destroy... sick... pathetic... lie... liberal... they/them... unionized bureaucracy... "compassion" is not enough... betray... consequences... limit(s)... shallow... traitors... sensationalists..."

Keep an eye on this space! Coming soon - Links to information about what the right wing is saying and how the right wing's movement's actions are damaging specific issue areas such as the environment, reproductive rights, worker's rights and others.

Note - We consider these articles thought-provoking and worth reading. Our recommendation does not imply that we necessarily agree with all the perspectives presented, nor does it imply that we have checked the articles for factual accuracy.