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Report: Out-of-State Group Bankrolls Attacks on CO Workers

The Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation is financing efforts to defund Colorado teachers' unions and move tax dollars from public schools to charters. (Getty Images)
The Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation is financing efforts to defund Colorado teachers' unions and move tax dollars from public schools to charters. (Getty Images)
May 17, 2017

DENVER - The Bradley Foundation, a Wisconsin-based conservative powerhouse, is taking its successful strategies targeting unions and public education to swing states including Colorado, according to new, separate reports by the Center for Media and Democracy and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sam Gilchrist, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said it's more than just the Koch Brothers' funding efforts to roll back worker protections.

"They've seen what's happening in D.C. and felt that they haven't been able to impact policy as much in Congress as they'd like," Gilchrist said, "so they are working to fund organizations in states that attack workers and try to enact policies that hurt workers."

A 2015 Bradley grant application by the Golden-based Independence Institute outlined a goal of neutralizing the state's teachers' unions by targeting school-district funding. The institute, which received nearly $1.5 million between 2004 and 2016, declined to comment, citing a need to protect Bradley's First Amendment rights.

Gilchrist noted that Bradley, worth nearly $900 million, bills itself as a 501(C)(3) charitable nonprofit, but the reports show its focus is funding key partisan infrastructure. This includes right-wing media outlets, think tanks and groups that target unions and recruit political candidates.

"They're not interested in a fair and public debate," he said. "They want to game the system in their favor, and they're really just attempting to silence the voices of working people and destroy our ability to oppose their agenda."

A former tax-exempt director at the Internal Revenue Service told the Center for Media and Democracy, "There is no basis for the proposition that defunding labor unions is a charitable purpose within the Internal Revenue Code."

The CMD report is online at exposedbycmd.org and the MJS report is at jsonline.com.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO