In North Carolina, left-wing nonprofit advocacy groups for decades have wielded an alarming amount of power in the media, state politics, and government. They work together, both in loose coalitions and organized networks, to influence and control public policy.
Only now, however, is there a user-friendly online database that sheds light on this vast, shadowy network. Mapping the Left combines data and on-going stories about the organizations, the people and the funders that make up the radical liberal left in North Carolina.
We came up with the idea for a database that would illustrate the magnitude of the network of liberal/progressive groups in North Carolina a few years ago. It started as a simple list prompted by accusations being made by some of those far-left groups (and echoed in the media) that, in North Carolina, there was a vast right-wing conspiracy. The accusations stumped us because it was hard to come up with even 10 conservative/libertarian advocacy organizations in North Carolina at the time.
In the end, the accusations led us to count the organizations on the Left. The results were stunning. Our research uncovered a well-funded army of more than 140 organizations employing nearly 2,000 people fighting to enlarge state government and erode our freedoms.
Since well before the 2010 election groups on the Left have been relentless in North Carolina; we watched them work separately and together during political rallies. After the 2010 election we watched that activism morph into such things as Moral Monday protests, get-out-the-vote drives, and other activities designed to shift NC back to the left.
To pick just one example: Imagine a local election where three seemingly unrelated national groups work together to overturn the majority on a single county board of education. In 2011 it happened right here in North Carolina. In that year, Common Cause, a left-wing non-profit that specializes in community organizing, Planned Parenthood, the nationally known organization that promotes abortion, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO whose namesake was an avowed socialist, all got together to help Democrats regain the majority on the Wake County School Board. It’s unprecedented that three major national organizations with no apparent common thread would work together in a local school board election.
But the closer we looked, the more we saw disparate groups collaborating in North Carolina. We observed how, during the last two legislative sessions, scores of groups protested at the legislature, all linking arms even if their professed missions were in stark opposition. For instance, secular groups and even groups that disdain religion marched arm-in-arm with religious leaders, as long as they were liberal activist clergy. It may surprise North Carolinians to know that those so-called religious groups supported a myriad of other groups, such as Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice or the ACLU.
Seeing all this prompted us to build Mapping the Left (mappingtheleft.com).
As we observed the sheer number of groups emerging, we were compelled to look for the common thread that was motivating them to work together for so many different causes. At first we believed it was an association with Blueprint NC, the coordinating hub for the radical liberal Left that is generally credited with the strategy memo in 2013 that called for activists to “cripple” the state’s Republican leaders and “eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.” But we have come to understand that Blueprint NC wasn’t the leader, it was merely the action arm of the flagship of the Left in North Carolina: the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Most North Carolinians think that the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation funds parks and hospitals—and it used to. But in recent decades it’s taken a hard turn left, funneling tens of millions of dollars a year into groups that lobby for extreme environmental policy, Common Core Standards in the schools, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and gun control. In the end we weren’t surprised that money was what made all these groups and people work together; it’s probably the only thing that could work.
For decades, the liberal/progressive movement has mostly been invisible to the general public. Hiding from the “liberal” label, the well-organized progressive movement has built a network of groups with benign-sounding names that work together to push a radical agenda. The sympathetic media has unsurprisingly failed to report upon the massive amount of money and manpower behind North Carolina’s left-wing movement.
Mapping the Left was created to educate citizens and policy makers. It is a repository of vital information that exposes the largest funders and participants in today’s North Carolina political battles to public scrutiny.
Mapping the Left will never be a finished work. The people and the groups of the Left flow from one position to another. Groups come and go. Alliances shift and reform. We continue to add data and welcome your input to help us make our database as accurate as possible. So far we have included seven networks and we will reveal more in the near future.
What you will find on the Mapping the Left website: more than 140 organizations involving more than 1800 individuals and funded by more than 300 foundations. Since 2003, these foundations have contributed more than $400 million to the organizations listed in the Mapping the Left project. Sixty-five of the funders are North Carolina-based; their contributions to the left-wing groups total at least $153 million.
The biggest: The sum of grants by Z. Smith Reynolds to NC groups was over $62 million.
1. Blueprint NC
This umbrella group for left-leaning organizations was formed by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in 2006 to help “progressive” advocacy groups coordinate activities and messaging. It is best known for the leaked strategy memo that described the game plan “progressive” groups should use to attack North Carolina’s Republican leaders. The memo’s recommendations included:
* “Crippling their leaders ([Gov.] McCrory, [House Speaker] Tillis, [Senate President
Pro Tem] Berger etc.).”
* “Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.”
* “Pressure McCrory at every public event.”
* “Private investigators and investigative reporting, especially in the executive
* “Organizers focus on year round voter registration….”
Democracy NC has been around since 1991 first as Democracy South. A project of the left-wing Institute for Southern Studies (ISS), Democracy NC’s director is Bob Hall, who worked for ISS for 25 years. As the leader of Democracy NC, Hall, in his behind-the-scenes work for the State Board of Elections, played a big role in shaping North Carolina’s election legislation, policies and state bureaucracy into the nation’s most liberal – and confusing – election system. Democracy NC is also one of Blueprint NC’s founding members and is probably the leading liberal get-out-the-vote organization in the state.
HKonJ became the coordinating umbrella organization for the groups protesting at Moral Mondays in North Carolina. A Civitas study shows that HKonJ affiliated groups received more than $100 million in direct state grants in recent years.
Together NC is a cluster of more than 2,000 groups and individuals, many of whom rely (at least in part) on government funds or lobby on behalf of groups for more taxpayer money. It says its goal is “to move our state towards a fair and stable revenue system which supports sound public investments” – i.e., higher taxes and more government spending.
Founded in 2009, Together NC is a political project of the North Carolina Justice Center. The Justice Center considers itself North Carolina’s “preeminent voice for economic, social and political justice.” The Justice Center was a founding member of Blueprint NC and served as the incubator for it in 2006.
A collection of liberal groups, many belonging to one or more of the other Mapping the Left networks, that joined the protests at the N.C. Legislature during the 2013 and 2014 sessions. Many individual Moral Monday network members took responsibility for organizing weekly protests.
Before filing for bankruptcy in 2010, the infamous Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) had woven itself into the fabric of the Left in North Carolina. With offices in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, ACORN NC was a member of Blueprint NC and partnered with other Blueprint members such as the NC Justice Center. Today, ACORN continues under another name – Action NC.
The Mapping the Left project would not be complete without a Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation network. The Foundation is key to every move made by the political Left in North Carolina. So whether the foundation has provided funds in the way of grants or whether an organization claims an alliance with Z. Smith Reynolds they will be included in this network.