The John and Mary R. Markle Foundation is a grantmaking organization involved in technology, health care, and national security policy. Under the leadership of its current president, former Clinton administration nominee for U.S. Attorney General Zoe Baird, the organization has taken an active role in left-of-center public policy advocacy.
The foundation’s leadership team includes several former senior officials from the Obama administration, including former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, former acting director of the Office of Personnel Management Beth Cobert, and Small Business Administration official Michele Chang. 
The Markle Foundation has over $174 million in assets under management.  In 2017, it received a $25.8 million donation from Microsoft to be used toward its workforce training initiative, known as Skillful.  The foundation’s tax form 990-PF from 2017 lists five employees with annual salaries of over $250,000, including one senior director with a salary of $430,000. 
Founding and Early History
The Markle Foundation was founded by coal baron John R. Markle and his wife, Mary, on April 26, 1927 after being approved by the New York State Legislature.  In its early years, the foundation funded vocational schools, social welfare causes, and medical research, but its formal commission was left intentionally broad. 
After John Markle’s death in 1933, the foundation was run by J.P. Morgan, Jr., son of famed banker J.P. Morgan and friend of the Markle family. He served as president until 1942, but his overriding focus on medical research continued to dominate the work of the foundation for the next several decades. 
A major shift in focus for the Markle Foundation came in 1969 under the leadership of president Lloyd Morrisett, who undertook work promoting mass communications and technology as a means of advancing education. Prior to joining Markle, Morrisett co-created “Sesame Street” and several other educational television programs for children. While not directly involved in politics, Morrisett had an interest in public policy, serving as a board member of the RAND Corporation for thirty years.  He led the Markle Foundation until 1998. 
In 1998, Zoë Baird, a prominent corporate lawyer, was hired as the foundation’s president and has served in the role ever since. Baird has shifted the Markle Foundation’s focus to technology, health care, and national security, and has increased its focus on public policy advocacy work.
Baird, formerly general counsel for Aetna and an Associate Counsel to President Jimmy Carter, achieved notoriety in 1993 when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as U.S. Attorney General.  Her nomination was later withdrawn amid allegations that she had hired illegal immigrants as domestic workers and failed to pay Social Security taxes.  President Clinton went on to appoint her to a range of government advisory boards, mostly related to national security. 
The Markle Foundation authored a number of papers advocating for the wide scale adoption of electronic health records. It was a prominent supporter of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a stimulus package passed under President Barack Obama that dedicated $25 billion to the adoption of electronic health records.  It advocates for IT integration in all future health care reform efforts. On the steering committee for the Markle Foundation’s healthcare initiatives are several executives from the healthcare IT industry, including from eHealth Initiative and Anakam Inc. 
In the national security space, Baird and former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale served as co-chairs of the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, which produced recommendations that helped inform the 9/11 Commission Report and were enacted by executive order and legislation, including the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the Protect America Act of 2007. 
Under Baird’s leadership, the Markle Foundation has also become active in the workforce training movement. An initiative headlined “the Markle Initiative for America’s Economic Future in a Networked World” was co-chaired by former Starbucks CEO and political activist Howard Schultz.  The foundation also created an initiative known as Skillful, which advocates for policy initiatives ranging from funding for skills training to tech integration in public schools. Denis McDonough, former chief of staff to President Obama, was hired to initiate partnerships between Skillful and governments, with the stated aim of “transform[ing] America’s outdated labor market to reflect the needs of the digital economy.”