BOOK REVIEW: ‘The New Leviathan’

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THE NEW LEVIATHAN: HOW THE LEFT-WING MONEY MACHINE SHAPES AMERICAN POLITICS AND THREATENS AMERICA’S FUTURE
By David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin
Crown Forum, $27, 309 pages

David Horowitz has a reputation for the unsparing way he reveals the thinking and tactics of the liberal-progressive side of American politics. He marshals facts into patterns and patterns into indictments. His latest book, “The New Leviathan,” co-written with Jacob Laksin, lives up to that reputation. It shows, by the numbers, how the left wing is funded.

Mr. Horowitz knows what he’s writing about. He was born into left-wing politics, the son of two American Stalinists who, as he later wrote, “thought of themselves as secret agents.” He was an editor at the radical journal Ramparts. He was a friend of Black Panther Huey Newton. Mr. Horowitz later underwent an awakening, which he detailed in a popular biography, and came to see Newton as a terrorist, his own activism as wrong and the philosophy of his youth as a lie.

So when Mr. Horowitz writes about the left wing, his understanding is firsthand and specific. His recent writing on how college professors instill ideology was a name-by-name list of wrongdoers. Another effort, the Internet-based Discover the Networks, is a watchdog project designed to show which foundation is funding which activist group.

“The New Leviathan” grows out of that work. The new book’s subtitle is “How the Left-Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America’s Future.” The phrase may sound over the top, but the book builds the case matter-of-factly, piling up numbers, history and details to reveal a truth that contradicts many commonly held beliefs.

The book’s primary revelation is that conservatives are heavily outgunned when it comes to money. A third of the book is a series of appendices and tables that list foundations by assets and activist groups by budgets. These, and the story Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Laksin reveal, all add up to the reality that progressive foundations have about $105 billion in assets, a figure 10 times larger than the amount held by conservative foundations. Not one conservative foundation has assets exceeding $1 billion. Fourteen liberal foundations do. The money available to liberal activists dwarfs what conservative groups have access to.

This advantage means liberal groups far outspend conservative ones. On immigration, the 117 progressive groups identified by Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Laksin have 22 times the funding of the nine conservative groups. On environmental issues, the count is 553 liberal groups against 32 conservative ones, and the left has 462 times the funding of the right. A broad range of liberal groups thrive not because they have significant popular support, but because their big-donor funding stream is so massive and reliable.

This isn’t just a story of numbers. Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Laksin point out that much of this money is the diverted product of the free-market system progressives are trying to undermine. The left has employed a corps of philanthropic professionals to change the orientation of foundations established by capitalists. Oil tycoon J. Howard Pew, for instance, left a fortune to teach Americans the “values of the free market” and the “paralyzing effects of government controls.” Pew Charitable Trusts is now the largest funder of the Tides Center, a middleman funder of far-left-wing activists.

John D. MacArthur was a conservative who put other conservative Midwestern bankers in charge of his foundation. Now that those conservatives are gone, the foundation’s leadership and grants have become dominated by progressives. The same fate befell the Ford and Rockefeller fortunes and those of many other capitalists, who would be spinning in their graves if they knew what causes their money was now underwriting.

Left-wing activism’s advantage is even greater because all the money isn’t just going directly to causes. Instead, liberal activists use government as a force multiplier. They spend money to influence government not only to carry out policies they prefer, but to fund further liberal activism. Progressive politics has become a self-perpetuating machine funded to a great extent by American taxpayers.

It would be nice if there were an easy solution to this funding disparity, but the book’s primary goal is to expose a reality that runs counter to conventional wisdom. We are told constantly that money in politics is put there by businesses with conservative aims. The numbers tell a different story. There is a lot of money in politics, but, as Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Laksin write, “progressives are the power,” accountable to no one and deploying vast resources to significantly frame and influence the national debate.

Maybe just by exposing this, Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Laksin have taken the first step in making them accountable.

Sen. Ron Johnson is a Republican from Wisconsin.

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