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Godfather of Conservative Movement, Michael Joyce, Dies at 63

By Bill Berkowitz  Posted by T T (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
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Bill Berkowitz
March 3, 2006

If there was a Hall of Fame for right wing philanthropists and their facilitators -- and who knows, the Heritage Foundation just might establish such an institution some day -- one of its first inductees would undoubtedly be Michael Joyce.

In 1986, Joyce was named in an Atlantic Monthly article as "one of the three people most responsible for the triumph of the conservative political movement." Waldemar Nielson, in his book on the foundation movement, Golden Donors, said Joyce was "pretty close to being the central figure [in conservative philanthropy]." He was once called "the godfather of modern philanthropy" by noted neo-conservative Irving Kristol.

Shortly after the first inauguration of President George W. Bush, Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, wrote in that newspaper, "Michael Joyce is the closest thing to the original source for what Mr. Bush is trying to accomplish."

When Joyce retired from the Bradley Foundation, Bradley Board Chairman Allen M. Taylor pointed out that he had made "extraordinary contributions to the Foundation and to the world of philanthropy." Joyce "built a start-up into a nationally respected institution and leaves a durable record of remarkable accomplishment. His work will be remembered with pride, not only in Milwaukee and Wisconsin but throughout the nation. We all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude and wish him well in his future endeavors. He still has much to give."

Joyce, who died last Friday at age 63 from liver illness, earned his well-deserved reputation as a major shaker of the right wing money-tree during his 16-year reign (1985-2001) as head of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. He was a pioneering force behind the privatization of welfare -- funding initiatives that led to the Wisconsin Works program in Wisconsin -- and private school vouchers -- which is experiencing a rebirth through the Bush Administration's recently proposed budget.

During his tenure at Bradley he helped it become one of the nation's most influential conservative philanthropic institutions. Steadfast in its pursuit of a conservative agenda, Joyce recognized the importance of creating and sustaining a broad infrastructure of right wing think tanks -- with its well-funded stable of researchers and academics -- a host of publications, chairs at academic institutions, and smaller local advocacy groups.

On the local level, Bradley money was "earmarked for civic concerns -- a first rate museum, music and theatre, and above all for Mike, several million to keep the Brewers in town," Peter Collier wrote in his tribute to Joyce posted at David Horowitz's FrontPage website.

"But he also believed that the Bradley Foundation had to play a national role. It seemed improbable: At $600 million or so, Bradley was small by comparison with Ford, Rockefeller, and other of the other liberal foundations that were postmodernizing America. But Mike felt that by leveraging its money with the neo conservative worldview, he could multiply the effect of the Foundation's smaller resources and make it a player. And this was what happened during his 15 years at Bradley. The Foundation, a mere David in comparison to the leftish philanthropic Goliaths, hit them squarely in the forehead with programs that countered their far more expensive own."

More than giving other people's money away
After working as a high school teacher and football coach, Joyce took his first job in philanthropy at the Morris Goldseker Foundation in Baltimore. He later joined the Bradley Foundation after working with the New York-based Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA) and the John M. Olin Foundation (1979-1985). The IEA was described by Barbara Miner in the Spring 1994 issue of Rethinking Schools, as "a neoconservative organization started by right wing trailblazer Irving Kristol and William Simon, secretary of the treasury for Presidents Nixon and Ford." The John M. Olin Foundation, which recently funded itself out of business, was for years, one of the ideological mainstays of conservative foundations.

According to the National Review's John J. Miller, "At the John M. Olin Foundation, he played a part in launching the Federalist Society, starting The New Criterion, and providing Allan Bloom with the financial support that eventually would allow him to write The Closing of the American Mind (which in its initial form was an essay in National Review)."

Joyce also served on President Ronald Reagan's transition team in 1980, and on several Reagan-Bush advisory boards and task forces. Joyce joined Bradley at a propitious moment; the foundation received an infusion of $280 million from the sale of Allen-Bradley Co. to Rockwell International. Almost overnight, Bradley became a major player to be reckoned with.

The Bradley Foundation was where Joyce solidified his national reputation as a philanthropic facilitator par excellence. From 1985 (the start of the Joyce period) until 2003 (two years after he left the organization), the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation spread its money about liberally -- both nationally and within the state of Wisconsin -- giving nearly $500 million. The top five recipients were Partners Advancing Values in Education, Inc. -- $17,536,419; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research -- $15,892,797; The Heritage Foundation -- $13,283,702; Milwaukee School of Engineering -- $10,794,119; and Marquette University -- $10,102,102.

The list of right wing think tanks and public policy institutes that received money from Bradley reads like a who's who of the modern conservative movement, and includes Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the San Francisco, California-based Institute for Contemporary Studies, David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Robert Woodson's National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, the Institute for Justice, and the Philanthropy Roundtable (a network of conservative foundations).

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