Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Special is Heritage's $26 Million Gift?

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, the Heritage Foundation has received a $26 million gift from the family of the late Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis.  The gift is to be used for advancing the mission of the Davis Institute for International Studies at the think tank.

Here is more from Heritage:
The Davis family made the gift in memory of Shelby Cullom Davis, former ambassador to Switzerland, member of Heritage’s Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1992 and chairman from 1985 to1992, and Dr. Kathryn Davis, an adventurer, author and scholar who served as an honorary trustee of Heritage for many years. Both Shelby and Kathryn received the first Clare Boothe Luce Award, Heritage’s highest honor, in 1991 for their legacy of accomplishments for the conservative cause.
The Davis family has had a long relationship with The Heritage Foundation. The late Shelby Cullom Davis was an early and influential backer of Heritage’s mission, and his support led to the publication of Mandate for Leadership, which became a blueprint for President Reagan’s first term in office. He and his late wife Kathryn Wasserman Davis are the namesakes of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies. The Institute is Heritage’s base for research and analysis of foreign policy, international relations, global economics and national security. It now comprises multiple centers for research and policy development.
It is the largest gift that the Heritage Foundation has received to date.  As for it being the largest think tank gift ever, Think Tank Watch is still doing some digging into that.

If you take some of the early endowments at the big Washington think tanks and adjust them for inflation, they may very well be surpass that $26 million number.  Also, it is hard to quantify the gifts to think tanks over a long period of time from wealthy donors such as the Koch brothers, who have heavily funded a variety of conservative think tanks for years.

To be sure, think tanks have received multi-million dollar gift before.  For example, the Brookings Institution received a five-year, $10 million gift in 2012 from the Irene Diamond Fund, Inc.  In 2011 Brookings received a $10 million grant from J.P. Morgan Chase.

Frederick Pardee, a former researcher at RAND Corp., donated $5 million to RAND in 2001, $10 million to RAND in 2003, and $3.6 million in 2013.

Earlier this year, Adrienne Arsht donated $5 million to the Atlantic Council to create the think tank's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Just in terms of size, that think tank money pales in comparison to recent gifts to universities.  Indeed, it was just reported that a former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers is giving Georgetown University $100 million.

The article says that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $350 million to Johns Hopkins University this year alone.  American University says its largest private donation was $20 million.  George Washington University (GWU) says its largest donation ever was $25 million.

By the way, $26 million is a lot of money, but for the already well-funded Heritage Foundation, it may not have as much monetary significance compared to such a gift given to a smaller, less well-funded think tank.

According to the Heritage Foundation's 2012 annual report, six years into its Leadership for America campaign, Heritage members have made gifts, pledges, and commitments totaling more than $544 million.

The same report says that contributions to Heritage and Heritage Action topped $80 million in 2012 - an all-time record for the think tank.