By: Eric Rosso
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette laid out a series of articles leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration showing the deep connections between the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the extreme right-wing, the billionaire donor class, and the incoming administration. The interactive graph the Post-Gazette published unpacks how these organizations have worked together to systematically rollback worker rights, reshape our court system to favor the billionaire class, push an extreme religious agenda, and drive wedges between members of the working class. These articles were incredibly informative and we encourage everyone to read through them to better understand the challenges Pennsylvania faces in 2017.
One of the areas the informative series did not focus on was how the Scaife Foundation and their multi-millionaire and billionaire allies have worked to reshape Pennsylvania through a similar pattern of creating front groups that carry out an agenda that undermines the history Pennsylvania has as the birthplace of American Democracy. Groups like the Commonwealth Foundation and the Fairness Center have worked in coordination with their national counterparts to lower wages, eliminate protections in the workplace, and actively undermine democratic institutions. These organizations have been described as in the press as “less free actors than a coordinated collection of corporate front groups”. While these billionaire front groups have intentionally benign sounding names, their donors show their true intentions.
Since the Commonwealth Foundation was formed, the Sarah Scaife Foundation has been one of their primary funders with over $2.5 million given. Two additional Scaife Foundations have also forked over tens of thousands to the Commonwealth Foundation. Since 2009, alone, the Scaife Foundation has given Commonwealth nearly $1 million. In this time period as well, offshoots of the Commonwealth Foundation like the Fairness Center and the Commonwealth Partners Chamber have popped up and expanded the scope of their billionaire funded attacks on workers.
Organizations like the Commonwealth Foundation that the Scaife Foundation have given millions to span the spectrum of noxiously bad policy and actors. The Center for Immigration Studies has received $800,000 since 2009. Their leadership has ties to white nationalism and racist groups. The Center for Equal Opportunity has received $325,000 from the Scaife Foundation and have actively opposed the Voting Rights Act which has been gutted by the Supreme Court leaving millions of people of color open to voting disenfranchisement. The Center for Security Policy has received over $1 million since 2009 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and was founded by “one of America’s most notorious Islamaphobes” Frank Gaffney. The Media Research Center has received $1.5 million from the Sarah Scaife Foundation. The Post-Gazette described the center as the organization that poured the gas on public trust of the media.
This is what a nationally coordinated attack by the billionaire class looks like. The Commonwealth Foundation, Fairness Center, and Commonwealth Entrepreneurs are Pennsylvania’s cogs in this machine.