RALEIGH — I noted a news item the other day that many folks probably missed. While it seemed like an innocuous announcement from a philanthropic foundation, the story also had significant implications for politics and the public policy debate in North Carolina.
On February 15 longtime journalist Todd Cohen wrote in The Business Journal of Charlotte that the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation of Winston-Salem is making “sweeping changes in its grantmaking.” Specifically, Reynolds is downgrading such traditional causes as health care, construction and capital campaigns, the arts, historic preservation, substance-abuse treatment, and events. Instead, it will focus on “projects aiming to spur systemic or statewide change, boost poor regions, or tap community-based innovation” in such areas as “social, economic, and environmental justice” and “backing progressive public policy.”
Translation: North Carolina’s largest general-purpose philanthropy, with $410 million in assets and $20 million in annual grants, is going to give less money to charities providing direct services to the public and more money to public policy charities of the left-wing variety, including many of the ideological sparring partners of the John Locke Foundation.
“We want to be a change agent in the state,” executive director Tom Ross told Cohen. No doubt.
I am all for the marketplace of ideas, and for the right of those who earn money in a free society (or at least inherit it from those who earned it) to support whatever causes they like. However, I suspect that the previous generations of the Reynolds family who engaged so successfully in our capitalist system would be horrified to find how much their money will be used to subvert that very system.
And my other beef is that, despite the fact that no comparable giver exists on the conservative side of the spectrum to match the Reynolds Foundation in heft, the political class will continue to view the Left as outgunned, outmanned, and closer to average people than the conservative movement — when the reverse is far closer to the truth.