Princeton Tilts Right
A newly published book by National Review political reporter John Miller about one of the Madison Program's major donors, the John M. Olin Foundation, A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America, augments Kurtz's history by suggesting that George milked the Singer controversy for donations. "In 2000, at a time when the [Olin] foundation was turning down virtually every new proposal that came its way," Miller writes, "it decided to provide $525,000 in startup money for the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.... The Madison Program benefited from a debate surrounding Princeton's decision to hire Peter Singer, a left-wing advocate of eugenics, to lead what was supposedly a center for bioethics." (Branding Singer an "advocate of eugenics" is a falsehood that is a hallmark of the campaign against him.)
Olin's donations were supplemented by the Bradley Foundation, which supported Charles Murray's infamous book The Bell Curve (written with Richard Herrnstein), which asserted that blacks and Latinos are less intelligent than whites. Between 2002 and 2003 Bradley dumped about $400,000 into the Madison Program; in February 2005 the foundation presented George with an additional $250,000 "award" at a black-tie gala at Washington's Kennedy Center. In his acceptance speech before 500 Republican revelers, George waxed nostalgic. "When the program was little more than a twinkle in my eye," he said, "the Bradley Foundation played a critical role in two ways: It joined the John M. Olin Foundation, the Donner Foundation and several dedicated individual donors in providing much needed funding--as it continues to do."
George also tapped into his connections with the Catholic right for more funding. Between 2000 and 2002 the Madison Program received more than $330,000 from groups with innocuous-sounding names like the Association for Cultural Interchange (ACI), the Clover Foundation and the Higher Education Initiatives Fund. Last spring the Daily Princetonian campus newspaper revealed these to be conduits for funding by Opus Dei, a secretive, cultish Catholic group founded by fascist sympathizer Josemaría Escrivá. Luis Tellez, the leader of ACI, who runs an Opus Dei student house on the outskirts of the campus, sits on the Madison Program's advisory council.
George flatly denies that the Madison Program accepts money from Opus Dei. "I can tell you categorically we have never taken a dime from Opus Dei," he stated. But when asked if his program has taken money from foundations funded by Opus Dei, he was less unequivocal: "As far as I know, we have never...I have no idea. Maybe the Scaife Foundation has some Opus Dei connection. This is ridiculous."
George also denied that the Madison Program is a proxy for conservative movement interests. "It's misleading to call the program a conservative program, but it's certainly not misleading to call me a conservative," he explained. "And I think because I'm the leader of the program, it takes a certain coloration." A puff piece about George by the journal of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a conservative group that organizes foundation grants to movement activists, reflects the extent to which his donors propel the Madison Program's agenda. "George established a secure beachhead for traditional views at Princeton, and waited to push inland," Philanthropy wrote. "The foundations and philanthropists gave him the opportunity."
Because the program is largely autonomous, it remains unclear who will succeed George as its leader, and how that decision will be reached--and whether any thought has been given to these matters either by the program or Princeton.