Wednesday, August 20, 2008

English First’s Tainted Money Trail


The Tennessean is on top of the story. Kudos to Michael Cass. Apologies for any mean thing I ever said about the Tennessean.


Our local media is finally getting some answers on who is funding Eric Crafton’s English First amendment. Apparently nearly $20,000 and legal assistance came from a national group called ProEnglish, which is part of a larger group called U.S. Inc. Their founder, John Tanton, is on ProEnglish’s board of directors. The Tennessean identified Tanton as “a Michigan eye surgeon” who “also founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform” (FAIR).

Isn't that nice.

Well, I did a little Googling of my own, and found (rather easily, I might add) that the Southern Poverty Law Center lists FAIR as a hate group.

And there’s more. Lots more: here’s what the SPLC has to say about Tanton, FAIR and U.S. Inc.:
For decades, John Tanton has operated a nativist empire out of his U.S. Inc. foundation's headquarters in Petoskey, Mich. Even as he simultaneously runs his own hate group — The Social Contract Press, listed for many years by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its anti-Latino and white supremacist writings — Tanton has remained the house intellectual for FAIR. In fact, U.S. Inc. bankrolls much of FAIR's lobbying activity and, at least until 2005, Tanton ran its Research and Publications Committee, the group that fashions and then disseminates FAIR's position papers. In its 2004 annual report, FAIR highlighted its own main ideologue, singing Tanton's praises for "visionary qualities that have not waned one bit."

But what, exactly, is Tanton's vision?

As long ago as 1988, when a series of internal 1986 documents known as the WITAN memos were leaked to the press, Tanton's bigoted attitudes have been known. In the memos, written to colleagues on the staff of FAIR, Tanton warned of a coming "Latin onslaught" and worried that high Latino birth rates would lead "the present majority to hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile." Tanton repeatedly demeaned Latinos in the memos, asking whether they would "bring with them the tradition of the mordida [bribe], the lack of involvement in public affairs" and also questioning Latinos' "educability."

Echoing his 19th-century nativist forebears who feared Catholic immigrants from Italy and Ireland, Tanton has often attacked Catholics in terms not so different from those used by the Klan and the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s. In the WITAN memos, for instance, he worried that Latino immigrants would endanger the separation of church and state and undermine support for public schooling. Never one to miss a threatening and fertile Catholic, Tanton even reminded his colleagues, "Keep in mind that many of the Vietnamese coming in are also Catholic."

The leaked memos caused an uproar. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Walter Cronkite quit the board of a group Tanton headed, U.S. English, after the memos became public in 1988. U.S. English Executive Director Linda Chavez — a former Reagan Administration official and, later, a conservative commentator — also left, calling Tanton's views "anti-Hispanic, anti-Catholic and not excusable."

You can read one of Tanton's race-bating WITAN memos here.

According to the SPLC, Mr. Tanton is a one-man, anti-immigrant empire. The list of 13 groups Tanton has founded or funded includes U.S. Inc., U.S. English, NumbersUSA, Pro English, and The Social Contract Press. Several of these groups are avowed hate groups.

John Tanton is a shady character, to be sure. Look what American Progress dug up:

The Tanton-owned Social Contract Press publishes the views of white nationalists such as John Vinson, including a gem about how God prefers racial separation. Tanton also publishes Camp of the Saints, a racist screed that uses fiction to warn white Europeans about an impending invasion of immigrants from India who will overrun the government, kidnap white women and make them into prostitutes.

If members of the mainstream press did their homework, they'd discover that it is pretty easy to get to the bottom of Tanton's network. Dig just a little deeper and they would find what the Southern Poverty Law Center reports—that Tanton received large sums of early money for FAIR from the Pioneer Fund, possibly the last remaining funder of eugenics in the country.

You remember eugenics; it's best-known proponents were the Nazis who tried to demonstrate the power of this pseudo-science by executing millions of Jews, disabled people, and others who did not meet their views of racial purity. A visit to the Pioneer Fund's website is a walk back in time, and not a pleasant one. It contains biographies of board members and grant recipient scholars who support such ideas as black people having smaller brains than people of European or Asian descent, and women being genetically predisposed to have lower IQs than men.

If members of the mainstream press did their homework, we’d all have ponies and ride to ice cream castles in the sky.

Sorry, but come on, people. This stuff isn’t hard.

Every right wing bigot has to have his slush fund for spreading hate, and it’s no surprise to learn that Richard Mellon Scaife is a big Tanton supporter

Tanton's most important funding source for the last two decades may well have been the Scaife family, heirs to the Mellon Bank fortune.

Richard Mellon Scaife, a reclusive figure, has been instrumental in establishing right-wing organizations like the Heritage Foundation and supporting causes like the "Arkansas Project," an effort to dig up dirt on President Clinton.

Scaife family foundations, including those controlled by Scaife's sister, Cordelia May Scaife, provided some $1.4 million to FAIR from 1986-2000.

These foundations, along with private trusts controlled by Scaife family members, have also provided millions of dollars to other anti-immigration groups.

Other foundations that have supported the Tanton network include:

• The McConnell Foundation, whose president, Scott McConnell, is on both FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies' boards;
• The Shea Foundation, which also funds the Council of Conservative Citizens; and
• The Weeden, Salisbury, Smith Richardson, Blair and Sikes foundations.

There’s more than enough here to cause alarm. I wonder if those thousands of citizens who signed their name to Nashville’s English First petition realize they just gave their name and address to a hate group network who will probably hit them up for funds and support for their future battle against the “savages.”

Thanks a lot, Eric Crafton. Look what slipped in when you opened the barn door. Is this really the kind of people Nashville needs to be doing business with? At least now we know why Crafton was so secretive about his money source.