Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Strange bedfellows
This article just came to my attention via MyDD. It's by Jon B. Eisenberg, a lawyer who has been involved in the Schiavo case since last year, when he filed an amicus curiae brief 55 bioethicists and a disability rights organization opposing governor Jeb's intervention in the case. According to Eisenberg:
Two months later I participated in a public debate on the case at Florida State University. Among the participants supporting Gov. Bush's position were Pat Anderson, one of multiple attorneys who have represented the Schindlers, and Wesley Smith and Rita Marker, two activists whose specialty is opposing surrogate removal of life-support from comatose and persistent vegetative state patients. I found myself wondering: "I'm doing this pro bono; are they?"

I did some Internet research and learned that many of the attorneys, activists and organizations working to keep Schiavo on life support all these years have been funded by members of the Philanthropy Roundtable.

The Philanthropy Roundtable is a collection of foundations that have funded conservative causes ranging from abolition of Social Security to anti-tax crusades and United Nations conspiracy theories. The Roundtable members' founders include scions of America's wealthiest families, including Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune), Harry Bradley (electronics), Joseph Coors (beer), and the Smith Richardson family (pharmaceutical products).

These are the usual suspects to anyone familiar with the funding of the "Might Wurlitzer" the highly effective right-wing propaganda and lobbying machine that has developed over the last thirty years. Eisenberg goes on to examine the whole network of anti-abortion groups and right-wing funding giants that have underwritten and encouraged the Schindlers' legal efforts all these years.

The whole article is worth studying, but two connections in particular jumped out at me:
Wesley Smith ... work[s] for organizations that get funding from Roundtable members. Smith is a paid senior fellow with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates the teaching of creationist "intelligent design" theory in public schools. Between 1993 and 1997, the Discovery Institute received $175,000 from the Bradley Foundation....

Roundtable members also played a role in financing the Bush v. Schiavo litigation.

The Family Research Council, which uses its annual $10 million budget to lobby for prayer in public schools and against gay marriage, filed an amicus curiae brief in Bush v. Schiavo...

It makes sense that the same theocratic groups that work for creationism and prayer in schools would have a finger in high profile end of life and medical ethics cases. These are the same groups that poured tons of money into the "Marriage Amendments" last year. While it's not surprising to see them involved, it is discouraging to witness the extent of their reach and their funding. We have a long way to go to catch up with these people and reverse their momentum.

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