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Taking It For Granted: How Private Foundations Structure Voice and Activity in a Policy Area
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Shanks, Megan Delphia
Private foundations represent an important avenue through which private wealth and preferences are brought to bear on public outcomes. With relatively little public accountability, these organizations exercise influence on policy development and implementation, but despite a long history of documented influence on public policy, private foundations are not usually considered political actors in their own right. They are noticeably underrepresented in existing studies of organizational political participation, despite recent research on foundations' activity that convincingly documents that foundations are important policy influencers through their strategic funding of certain types of work and organizations. However, very little attention is paid to foundations' public policy aims that can only be achieved through legislative, rather than administrative, action. I argue that, contrary to what we might expect, private foundations do support visible political advocacy and they do so in concert with other state- and national-level political efforts. To examine this claim, I analyze a unique data set of all grants over $10,000 given by private foundations for criminal justice work for patterns in which foundations fund political advocacy, where they fund it, and which recipients are most likely to receive foundation funding. I find that foundations are more likely to focus on policy now than in the past, and while most foundations are likely to fund some type of advocacy, foundations that work consistently in an area and work across states are most likely to fund political advocacy. In addition, foundation funding is stratified geographically, accumulating into significant differences in whether states have private funds available to support their criminal justice reform work. Finally, because foundations do prefer certain types of organizations, recipient organizations exercise their own agency by adapting to their environments to be better suited for receiving funding. These findings have implications for inequalities of political voice and representation, as well as when and how private wealth is able to influence public outcomes.
policy feedback; Political science; Public policy; criminal justice; philanthropy
Mettler, Suzanne Bridget
Enns, Peter; Levine, Adam S.; Bateman, David Alexander
Ph. D., Government
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis