Academia, business and government: the lucrative triangle in Condoleezza Rice’s career

In 1971, corporation attorney Lewis F. Powell became worried about the loss of social prestige suffered by business – mainly big business – in America, so worried that he penned a memo about it to the head of the US Chamber of Commerce. Two months later, Powell was appointed as a Justice to Supreme Court by Richard Nixon; the memo came out when it was leaked to muckraking columnist Jack Anderson.

 

The Powell memo calls on American business to fight back aggressively, and Powell went so far as to list the avenues and fora through which business should fight back: academia, television and the news media, books and journals, paid advertising, politics, and the courts.

 

Powell represented this fight not as a fight for business interests but as a battle for “the American economic system,” and undoubtedly he thought of it as such. However, Powell named for criticism not only prominent leftists like William Kunstler but also Ralph Nader, whose book Unsafe at any Speed had recently focused public attention on corporate malfeasance in the automobile industry, bringing about long-overdue safety reforms. (Traffic accidents killed as many Americans each year, for years, as the entire Vietnam War.)

 

Powell’s key recommendations were that business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce step up their (1) organizing and (2) funding, to support, recruit and train cohorts within academia, the media, and the other sectors on his list.

 

Suffice it to say that by now, 2005, his recommendations have been maximally implemented. A raft of right-wing publications, think tanks, and lobbying groups have grown up since 1971, including “Accuracy in Academe,” the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, etc. These and similar entities routinely publish the writing of pundits, former officeholders, and other political animals of their persuasion – beefing up the authors’ credibility by providing credentials of a sort, while also furthering versions of key messages (supporting regressive taxes, opposing “welfare,” offering “reforms” for successful programs like Social Security, etc.). Meanwhile, they also pay their writers – more than can be said for most progressive media – so the writers and scholars have an actual living income. (Then they get to sneer at the unwashed left.)

 

A prime unit in this army of the night has been the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. Founded as the Hoover War Library in 1919 by Herbert Hoover to preserve documents and foster study on the causes and consequences of World War I, it holds an enormous repository of materials on both World Wars. Its genuinely valuable holdings, however, have enabled it by now to mutate into a major force in para-scholarly publishing on history, politics, and economics and not incidentally to provide personnel for the Reagan and both Bush administrations. Condoleezza Rice is a recent example.

 

“It is located on the Stanford Univ. campus, but has no institutional tie to the university,” says Columbia Encyclopedia of Hoover, in a nutshell. Nonetheless, its web page is on the Stanford web site (http://www-hoover.stanford.edu), its name is coupled with Stanford’s at seemingly every opportunity, and anyone who gets tenure at the Hoover Institution gets the cachet of Stanford University, one of the nation’s premier research institutions in many fields.

 

On public policy, the Hoover Institution has turned a cold eye toward campaign finance reform (http://www.campaignfinancesite.org), changing or abolishing the International Monetary Fund (http://www.imfsite.org), liability lawsuits, and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol (re global warming).

 

But the Hoover Institution is not simply a dedicated, if intellectually isolated, group of curmudgeons exercising their First Amendment right to support curmudgeonly social policy. Hoover’s funding comes from exactly the kind of organized, aggressive, and exterior support envisioned by Powell. (Its web site posts a prominent link where you can donate.)

 

The precise extent to which it is supported by Stanford (and thus indirectly by public funds, which all private institutions benefit from) is unclear. What is clear is that most of the millions of dollars supporting the Hoover Institution comes from a few rightwing foundations and from corporations. The Olin Foundation (which recently gave a fellowship to pundit Dinesh d’Souza), the Bradley Foundation (which recently gave $250K to war-boosting Charles Krauthammer), and the Scaife Foundation have been particularly consistent in support.

 

Hoover’s corporate donors include Exxon, Dean Witter, J. P. Morgan, and Transamerica (where Rice was a director) among many others. Obviously, the large entities funding Hoover also have thumbs in the federal-budget pie: space and transportation manufacturers are federal contractors; agribusiness has a stake in “deregulation”; and the financial companies have an enormous stake in privatizing Social Security; etc.

 

Condoleezza Rice’s ties to Hoover are too extensive to list completely, but she remains enormously beholden. In fact, Rice is a prime example of the kind of beneficiary that Powell presumably envisioned. It was the Hoover Institution which brought her onto the Stanford campus in 1981, as a fellow, with a $30K research fellowship. No one has specified publicly what her teaching load was that year (any more than her fellowship amounts and donors, remuneration for her numerous speaking engagements, academic curriculum vitae, etc, have been released), but the position enabled her to be appointed to tenure track, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

In 1985-1986 she held another National Fellowship from Hoover, also holding a fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations, in DC. She later returned to Washington, DC, in the administration of former President Bush.

 

Speaking of history, it is significant that when Rice returned to Stanford after the first Bush administration, the Cold War was officially over, and Rice was a Cold War scholar. In the early 1990s, the Cold War period was important primarily as . . . history. Its heyday as a generator of hot think-tank postures, media attention, and political campaigns was over, at least partly because its heyday as a generator of immense federal contracts had ended. So, what to do, for people like Bill Kristol, Rice, and Charles Krauthammer, who had invested their entire adult careers in Cold War discourse? For Rice, the Hoover Institution stepped up to the plate again, with a senior fellowship which tided her over from 1991 to 1993, when she was named provost of Stanford.

 

Rice is today “the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution” (www.hoover.stanford.edu/pubaffairs/Releases/0700rice.html). She received this endowed chair during the 2000 election. The annual income is not publicized, but endowed chairs always pay a solid six figures. The Stephensons, major GOP contributors, also donated heavily to Bush.

 

Since Rice is listed as “on leave” from Hoover, it is to be hoped that she is not currently drawing an income from the endowment. The White House and Rice have not responded to questions. In any case, the chair is there waiting for Rice to return to, after her leave. No one seems to have thought to ask Rice, even pro forma, to express independence from Hoover or from the venture-capital CEO openly, literally, financing her.

 

Nice work if you can get it – except for that little matter of having to support the most inhumane “wartime” policies ever devised by a democracy.

 

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