Money!

MONEY!….In the new issue of In These Times, Chris Hayes writes about fundraising for liberal causes:

In progressive circles, it seems the first rule of fundraising is: Don?t talk about fundraising. Call up someone at a major foundation or a development director and their first response is to go off the record. ?There?s a deafening silence within the movement around the role of money in movement building,? says Daniel Faber, who teaches sociology at Boston?s Northeastern University.

More than a deafening silence, though, Chris writes that the biggest problem with liberal funding is that too much of it comes from foundations, which want to fund worthy programs, not political movements. I remember that Eric Alterman made the same point to me a few years ago when I interviewed him after the publication of What Liberal Media?:

You talked in the book about funding of think tanks and how important that?s become for conservatives. Is there any hope at all for getting that on the liberal side? Why aren?t there any rich liberal cranks like Richard Mellon Scaife willing to fund liberal think tanks?

There are some good liberal funders, but it?s a very complicated question. The genius of what Scaife and Coors and those people did is, they just threw manure onto a field and decided to see what grew. What Scaife did is, he just gave everybody money, he said, fine, let?s see what grows, whereas liberals are much more focused on programmatic money. They don?t fund things that might turn into something useful that you can?t predict.

You have to able to fund things where you can?t predict how they?re going to work, and liberals don?t do that. They want control, they want reports; they don?t fund basic research, they don?t fund operating expenses. All of the liberal organizations are always begging to keep going, they don?t pay their people very well, and so they?re never going to let a thousand flowers bloom and see which of them is the prettiest.

The good news is that Chris reports that this problem is now widely recognized and liberal funders are starting to change their tunes. Here’s hoping he’s right.