Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Starting with just a handful or groups, including the Heritage Foundation, in the early '70s, the conservatives built a new generation of organizations – think tanks, media monitors, legal groups, networking organizations, all driven by the same over-arching values of free enterprise, individual freedoms and limited government.
Stein describes how the message machine works. If Rush Limbaugh wants something on vouchers – it's immediately in his hands; if Fox News' Bill O'Reilly needs a guest to talk about the "death tax," he's got him from one of the think tanks. Stein estimates that 36,000 conservatives have been trained on values, issues, leadership, use of media and agenda development. These are not the elected officials, but rather the cadre of the conservative network. Stein figures that the core leaders of the Big 80 groups he studied are about 2,000 people who make between $75,000 and $200,000 and have all been trained in the Leadership Institute.
The wealthy conservative families that have been the early bread and butter of the movement and continue their support are relatively well known at this point, including Scaife from Pittsburgh, Lynde and Harry Bradley from Milwaukee, Joseph Coors from Colorado; and Smith Richardson from North Carolina. Important networking goes on at the Philanthropy Roundtable, where groups are showcased.But the key today to keeping the message machine fed is what Stein calls the "investment banking matrix," which includes key conservatives like Grover Norquist, Paul Weyerich, and Irving Kristol, who raise, direct, and motivate. Stein estimates there are about 200 key people who invest an average of $250,000 a year and about 135 of them also serve on the boards of the Big 80 groups
"Each of these groups are 'mission critical,' and they are strategic, coordinated, motivated and disciplined," says Stein, adding that the investment bankers monitor them closely.
And contrary to popular belief among progressives, the conservatives who are part of that machine are of various stripes – far right, neo-conservative, libertarian, evangelical, etc. – but what makes them so successful is they form strategic alliances around common issues they support.