-By Ruth Conniff
April 30, 2013- It's "the most powerful organization in America that no one seems to know about."
That's how Scot Ross, executive director of the progressive think tank One Wisconsin Institute, describes the Bradley Foundation.
Unlike David Koch of the Koch Brothers, whose cover was blown when a gonzo blogger named Ian Murphy (editor of the Buffalo Beast and a frequent contributor to The Progressive), impersonated him in a prank call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
The Milwaukee based Bradley Foundation operates off the mainstream media radar. Yet the group has made more than $530 million in grants and awards since 1985, making it a much, much bigger giver to rightwing causes than the Koch brothers. With more than $290 million in assets, Bradley is one of the biggest foundations in the United States.
A new report by Ross's group One Wisconsin Now reveals the Bradley Foundation's particular focus on privatizing the public schools.
Among the report's findings:
–The Bradley Foundation, headed by Governor Scott Walker's campaign co-chair Michael Grebe, has underwritten a massive, pro-privatization propaganda campaign, including "a systematic and relentless campaign to turn public opinion against the public school system."
–Bradley has spent more than $31 million since 2001 supporting organizations promoting education privatization, academics providing favorable pro-privatization pseudo-science, media personalities promoting the privatization agenda, and lobbying organizations advocating for privatization legislation.
–The Bradley-financed campaign has manufactured an education "crisis," proposed a "solution," attacked and undermined the ability of potential opponents to block their agenda, and funded aggressive pro-privatization media and lobbying efforts.
–The Bradley-financed Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has manipulated research and pressured a University of Wisconsin professor to downplay results that show school vouchers in a negative light, while highlighting scientifically dubious favorable results.
Way back in 1990, Bradley backed the first private-school voucher program in the nation, right in Milwaukee.