A radical California organization boasts of pouring millions into health care and education programs in the public interest, Obamacare among them, but pulls back the welcome mat from anyone who offers conservative or faith-based solutions to society’s ills.

Groups not in line with liberal causes apparently need not apply for grants from the flush health foundation, the California Endowment.

That much is spelled out in the private, nonprofit group’s online application processIn bold letters, the Los Angeles-based California Endowment makes clear who is not eligible for its money:

Organizations that require membership in a certain religion or advance a particular religious faith. (Faith-based organizations may be eligible for funding if they welcome and serve all members of the community.)

“If you’re not politically correct, you shouldn’t expect to receive any grants,” one of the California Endowment’s sharpest critics, Matthew Vadum, said of the foundation in an interview with The Daily Signal.

The California Endowment was established in May 1996, after Blue Cross of California was converted into a for-profit entity. The foundation reported assets of about $3.67 billion and income of $770.9 million as of March 2014, according to the latest available figures.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the organization’s contributions and operations are largely, if not entirely, untaxed. This matters from a public policy perspective since the foundation has made and continues to make substantial contributions to far-left causes while excluding potential grant applicants with conservative or even neutral outlooks, policy analysts familiar with the charity’s financial activities say.

‘Politically Correct Causes’

The foundation’s mission statement says it seeks “to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians.”

But is the nonprofit really looking out for the public interest, as advertised, or is it operating with an eye toward advancing narrow special interests?

Vadum, senior editor with the Washington-based Capital Research Center, takes issue with the part of the California Endowment’s mission statement that invokes “all Californians.” While the organization presents itself as a force for public good under its nonprofit tax status, it actually pushes a radical agenda at odds with the values, concerns and best interests of many California residents, he argues.

“The California Endowment, like President Obama, is devoted to the fundamental transformation of American society,” Vadum told The Daily Signal, adding:

Clearly, this is not a group that speaks for ‘all Californians’ but is instead committed to supporting only the most left-wing, politically correct causes. That much is made clear by its donations. If you’re not politically correct, you shouldn’t expect to receive any grants.

Since 1999, the private charity has donated almost $140 million to the far-left, San Francisco-based Tides Foundation and its sister organization, Tides Center.

“The Tides Foundation and Tides Center are the radical left’s best kept secret,” Capital Research Center reported in 2010. “Together they provide tens of millions of dollars annually to some of the most extreme, destructive charities in America. …What makes the Tides network unique is that it combines the foundation’s role as a donor-advised funder with the center’s activities, nurturing and sheltering many of its fledgling groups with legal advice and fundraising assistance.”

Partnering With Hollywood

PolicyLink, a left-leaning research and action institute, has received about $11.2 million from the California Endowment since 2002. The institute describes itself as devoted to economic and social equality with a special focus on low-income neighborhoods and “communities of color.”

Other grant recipients include Families USA Foundation, a liberal activist group that promotes Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act. Since 2001, Families USA has received about $5.3 million from the California Endowment.


Jesse Williams in “Grey’s Anatomy,” one of the TV shows used to promote Obamacare through a grant to the Hollywood Health & Society program by the California Endowment. (Photo: Hollywood Health & Society website)

Support for Obamacare figures prominently in the private charity’s agenda. In 2013, the California Endowment donated $500,000 to the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The money went to the center’s Hollywood Health & Society program for the purpose of promoting the Affordable Care Act through entertainment. The idea was to create programming that could condition television viewers to support Obamacare, Vadum said.

>>> See lists of the California Endowment’s 32 donations to Families USA here,  37  donations to Policy Link here and here, and 108 donations to the Tides Center here. <<<

Conservative critics say the California Endowment purports to represent low-income residents but in fact pushes a far-left agenda arguably at odds with policies that could lift those residents out of their current circumstances. While calling itself objective, these critics say, the endowment limits its largesse to those who embrace its worldview.

The foundation also makes it a point to promote Obamacare vigorously on its website and in its media material. A recent press release praises California Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers for passing laws to help make the Affordable Care Act easier to navigate.  Another release argues that polls show more California residents are pleased with Obama’s health care law.

Helping Illegal Immigrants

“Community organizers” who blog for the California Endowment see an opportunity to “provide health care for all” under Obamacare, and they include illegal immigrants. That’s largely what the foundation’s Health4All initiative is all about.

The California Endowment explicitly refuses to use the terms “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” and instead prefers to use the term  “undocumented” workers or Californians. This is how a post on Health4All describes this position:

Unfortunately, undocumented Californians are locked out of access to affordable, quality health care. Despite the success of the Affordable Care Act, more than 1 million undocumented Californians remain uninsured. The California Endowment believes that ALL Californians should have access to health coverage, regardless of their immigration status.

Looking ahead, the $3 billion-plus California Endowment plans to incorporate “racial equity” into the grantmaking process to combat “structural racism” that interferes with affordable health care, according to a case study published on the group’s website.

In 2010, the health care foundation held a workshop on racial disparities and how they would affect its Building Healthy Communities Initiative. The case study explained it this way:

Understanding the history of each community from the perspectives of indigenous communities and different racial and ethnic groups, including their histories of resistance against injustice and exploitation, was an important starting point for foundation and community leaders as they embarked together upon an ambitious 10-year initiative to reduce health disparities.

Targeting the ‘Marginalized’

The California Endowment also pushes for reforms in school discipline, according to the case study, which cites figures from a UCLA report to make the case that black students are suspended from school at a rate significantly higher than their representation in the student body.

“These extreme disciplinary measures are disproportionately pushing students of color out of the educational system,” the study concludes.  

The foundation worked with PolicyLink and others to form a coalition that successfully lobbied the California legislature to pass laws reforming school discipline policy.

How easy is it for a conservative or religious group that doesn’t conform with the California Endowment’s policy preferences to receive a grant?

“Historically marginalized people are frequently the same people who are underserved by our health care system and have poorer health outcomes,” Jeff Okey, communications manager for the nonprofit, said in an email to The Daily Signal. Okey added:

That’s why, as an organization, we support policies that ensure inclusiveness of all Californians. For example, Catholic Charities, a longtime grantee of the endowment, while not a supporter of marriage equality, does not withhold services from anyone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thus, their work is aligned with our efforts to reach underserved LGBT people. In addition, the endowment supports Consumer Watchdog, which is a proponent of single payer [health insurance], which was not part of the federal health law.

CalifEndow_1 Pope

Pope Francis wraps an arm around a young girl at a Sept. 24 lunch for the homeless organized by Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.  The California Endowment supports Catholic Charities.  (Photo: OR/CPP/Polaris/Newscom)

Michael Costigan, a senior adviser for strategic outreach with The Heritage Foundation, sees it differently. By promoting Obamacare, Costigan told The Daily Signal, the California Endowment undercuts the best interests of those it says it represents.

He pointed to studies from Heritage and others showing the Affordable Care Act undermines individual liberty, jeopardizes economic growth and diminishes quality health coverage.

“Obamacare is not providing the affordable care it promised,” Costigan said.  “Premiums are on the rise, exchanges are failing at an alarming rate, so many are left unable to afford coverage or are now being dropped from the coverage they originally had under Obamacare.”

He added:

The endowment is not representing all Californians.  They are selecting mostly minority groups in distressed communities and pushing leftist causes through their community organizers in those communities.  In fact, they are actively and aggressively working against the interests of the majority of Californians.

The organization’s policy approach is just as harmful to education as it is to health care, Costigan said. “Their claims of structural racism are false,” he said, adding:

They focus on it to sow the seeds of discontent among the underrepresented groups upon which they prey.  If they were truly concerned about education, they wouldn’t push Common Core and endowment-sponsored pseudo-journalistic courses, which require students to write about all that is bad within their communities  Rather, they would support parental choice and vouchers to get those students into better schools.

The endowment does draw a strong connection between quality health care and effective education.  

Its “Health Happens in Schools” campaign seeks to take advantage of new school funding to incorporate healthy habits into the curriculum.