How did Planned Parenthood Federation of America blow it on the Stupak Amendment? Maybe Jane’s explanation about the Veal Pen is a starting point. That possibility gets support from G. William Domhoff’s article, an article for the American Behavioral Scientist titled The Power Elite and Their Challengers: The Role of Nonprofits in American Social Conflict (only the abstract is available free on-line). Domhoff has been writing about class in America since the mid-60s. His book, Who rules America, is described in detail here.
Domhoff points to the interlocking relations among the social upper class, giant corporations, and policy planning networks. The last category includes large non-profit entities, like Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The upper class and the closely related corporate community do not stand alone at the top of the power structure. They are supplemented by a wide range of nonprofit organizations that play an important role in framing debates over public policy and in shaping public opinion. These organizations are often called “nonpartisan” or “bipartisan” because they are not identified with politics or with either of the two major political parties. But they are the real “political party” of the upper class in terms of insuring the stability of the society and the compliance of government.
Tax-free foundations receive their money from wealthy families and corporations. Their primary purpose is to provide money for education, research, and policy discussion. They thus have the power to encourage those ideas and researchers they find compatible with their values and goals, and to withhold funds from others.
Domhoff’s article provides case studies of foundation activity that brought about changes acceptable to the large donors. His conclusion is exactly like Jane’s:
However, there are limits to what challengers can achieve in terms of greater democratic participation and individual opportunity when they are beholden to a corporate- financed network of nonprofit organizations concerned with maintaining the current class structure and the huge privilege it delivers to the wealthy few. And even while the insurgent groups were making these limited gains, they were going backward in terms of economic equality, and they now face a relentless attempt by the ultraconservative wing of the nonprofit network to restore more hierarchy and deference in the name of traditional values.
It certainly is the case that a lot of us have supported Planned Parenthood Federation of America, thinking they were motivated solely by their interest in furthering women’s health and reproductive rights. In 2008 Planned Parenthood Federation of America received $22.9mn from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, and $1.5mn each from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The Dyson Foundation. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation was also the largest donor to NARAL with approximately $687K.
I don’t know the politics of these donors or the organizations or their motivations, but whatever they are, I assume the huge donor’s views have more weight than anyone else in the decisions of Planned Parenthood. There isn’t any reason to believe that their interests are aligned with those of smaller contributors. The people who run the day-to-day operations of these Foundations answer to the wealthy people who put up the money. These functionaries blew it on the Stupak Amendment. They failed to accomplish the one essential thing small donors thought they were supporting: protecting women’s access to a constitutionally protected medical procedure.
Small donors may think they are helping the cause of women’s rights, and enforcing the Constitution, but they were wrong. They were helping accomplish whatever the huge donors want done. Their voices didn’t count.
In fact, Planned Parenthood cannot safely ignore people making $50 dollar donations. If small donors quit giving, they lose their legitimacy.
Domhoff says the large single-issue groups are limited because they are dependent on money from the Power Elite, the upper class, and their hired hands from the professional class. Jane says they are limited because they really like their access to the White House, and won’t do anything that might threaten that access. It doesn’t really matter who is right, the plain fact is we can’t really expect the change we want and need from the veal pen.
(Photo courtesy of dogra)