The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is a major private grantmaking foundation based in Milwaukee. The foundation’s reported net assets totaled approximately $893 million as of December 31, 2017, and it approved a net of about $33.5 million in grant contributions for charitable purposes that year.
The Bradley Foundation’s grantmaking is generally policy-oriented and center-right, with grant support covering almost the entire range of issue areas. Of the top policy-oriented foundations in the United States that were categorized as “center-right” by the Manhattan Institute for a March 2017 report, Bradley was the fourth-largest as measured by grants paid in 2014, behind the Walton Family Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.
Overall, Bradley has been considered quite successful in its grantmaking strategies and tactics, usually begrudgingly by liberal and admiringly by conservative observers and commentators. In its “funder profile” of Bradley, for example, the left-leaning Media Transparency calls it “the country’s largest and most influential right-wing foundation.” In the words of Scot Ross of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, Bradley is “the most powerful organization in American that no one seems to know about.”
In 2011, Aaron Dorfman of the liberal National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Bradley supplies “the intellectual justification for conservative causes.”
“Bradley’s policy success has had less to do with its politics than its view of philanthropy,” according to a 2001 editorial in the right-leaning Wall Street Journal.
Bradley’s grants reflect its comfort with democratic capitalism and the good sense of the American people. This has proved a potent brew, especially when coupled with the recognition that the liberal/progressive policies of the past century have today yielded real suffering, mostly for lower-income citizens who can’t afford to opt out (e.g., inner-city kids trapped in miserable schools).
John J. Miller and Karl Zinsmeister would write in 2015 that “Throughout the past generation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has had as many successes in influencing public policy as any philanthropy in America.”
Bradley has given to organizations in its home city of Milwaukee, nationally, and internationally, though it has withdrawn from international grantmaking in recent years. Based on 2014 grants, it was the second-largest foundation in Wisconsin, and its president and chief executive officer said in 2017 that it plans to continue making grants to local groups, which have recently been roughly one-third of its overall grantmaking total. Its local grantmaking mostly supports arts, cultural, and educational institutions and projects, as well as neighborhood groups.
Lynde and Harry Bradley
Lynde and Harry Bradley were brothers who developed rheostats, controllers that regulate motor speed. With a $1,000 investment from a family friend, Dr. Stanton Allen, they founded the Allen-Bradley Corporation in 1903.
By 1942, the year Lynde died, the brothers formed the Lynde Bradley Foundation under the control of Harry Bradley and longtime Allen-Bradley executive Fred Loock. Their worldview was “shaped decisively by the New Deal and the Cold War. Both men looked back to a time early in their careers, when free enterprise was, in their view, truly free—before the income tax, before the proliferation of bureaus and departments, before the maze of red tape and regulations,” and they feared the expansion of Soviet Communism.
Both Harry Bradley and Loock were active supporters of the far-right John Birch Society, which was one of the most prominent anti-Communist groups organized at the time. Author John Gurda characterized the relationship: “If others considered their views extreme,” the fiercely anticommunist Bradley and Loock “would certainly have replied that their extremism was only a measure of their devotion to freedoms that were very much imperiled.”National Review, the conservative magazine which famously “excommunicated” the Birch Society and its founder Robert Welch from mainstream conservatism in the early 1960s, maintained and continues to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the Bradley Foundation.
The Lynde Bradley Foundation was renamed the Allen-Bradley Foundation in 1958 and still gave mostly locally. Harry Bradley died after a long illness in 1965, and Loock retired as Allen-Bradley president in 1967. A. “Tiny” Rader, the son of Italian immigrants who settled in British Columbia, was named the company’s new president in 1970. He “lacked the polish of some of his counterparts in industry (‘I guess I’m a peasant at heart,’ he once told a reporter), but no one doubted his effectiveness,” according to author John Gurda. “The company’s new leaders was plain-spoken, persuasive, and utterly determined.”
The Allen-Bradley Corporation was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion in 1985, with a portion of the proceeds of that sale going to the foundation. The proceeds from the sale of Allen-Bradley boosted the foundation’s assets to more than $290 million.
After the major infusion of assets from the company’s sale in 1985, the Allen-Bradley Foundation was renamed the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and Tiny Rader became its first chairman. Other board members at the time included two Bradley family members, Harry Bradley’s grandson David V. Uihlien, Jr. and Lynde Bradley’s niece Sarah Doll Barder.
Subsequent chairmen of Bradley’s board have been, chronologically: Thomas L. “Dusty” Rhodes, a Goldman Sachs executive and National Review president; Allen M. Taylor of the Foley & Lardner law firm in Milwaukee; Terry M. Considine, a former Colorado politician and chairman and chief executive officer of AIMCO; and Dennis J. Kuester, chairman and chief executive officer of the Marshall & Ilsley bank in Milwaukee.
The current chairman of Bradley’s board is North Carolina businessman, philanthropist, and policymaker James Arthur Pope. Uihlein left the board in early 2017.
The renamed Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s first president was Michael S. Joyce. Hired away from the Olin Foundation by Rader and Bradley’s board in 1985, Joyce was dubbed the “godfather of conservative philanthropy” by neoconservative writer Irving Kristol. Joyce retired from Bradley in 2001 and died in 2006 at the age of 63. Joyce has been credited for “basically invent[ing] the field of modern conservative philanthropy—it existed before him and he didn’t do it alone, but he made it far more successful than it had been.”
Joyce “was committed to indirectly influencing policymaking by affecting its underlying culture, informing it with research, and ensuring it a supply of smart, talented personnel,” according to two longtime Bradley Foundation officials. Joyce “resented the way that progressive philanthropists were, in his view, trying to circumvent traditional electoral politics—which could be influenced more fairly by culture, evidence, and reasoned arguments on the basis of both.”
Left-of-center nonprofit advocates also noted Joyce’s abilities. “Of all the foundation CEOs in the past 40 years,” the founder of the left-wing Center for Community Change, Pablo Eisenberg, added for an obituary in Philanthropy magazine, Joyce “had the greatest impact on our society and its institutions.”
From Joyce’s retirement in 2001 through 2002, longtime Bradley vice president Daniel Schmidt served as acting president of the foundation.
In 2002, the Foundation named board member Michael W. Grebe president. Grebe, a West Point graduate who earned two Bronze Stars in the Vietnam War, had been chairman and chief executive officer of Foley and Lardner and a former general counsel to the Republican National Committee. He also served as chairman or co-chairman of the presidential and gubernatorial campaigns of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin).
Some criticized Grebe for his dual roles as foundation president and political kingmaker. “Michael Grebe took the $800 million-plus he controlled as head of the Bradley Foundation and integrated it into the fabric of state and national GOP politics—promoting right-wing policies (and) defending favored politicians,” Mike Browne, deputy director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Grebe maintained that he always kept his work at Bradley separate from his political involvement. “That is totally unrelated,” he told the newspaper.
Bradley named yet another board member, Richard W. Graber, as its president in July 2016. Graber was senior vice president of global relations for Honeywell International. Previously, he had been U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic during the George W. Bush administration and president and chief executive officer of the Reinhart Boerner Van Duren law firm in Milwaukee. A onetime political candidate, he is also a former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Graber has led a strategic planning process since taking over the foundation, which was completed in 2018.
In a 1990s presentation to the liberal Council on Foundations, then-Bradley Foundation president Michael Joyce encapsulated what the foundation called the “New Citizenship” thinking that guided its giving: “Individuals coming together in communities as proud, self-governing, personally responsible citizens, capable once again of running their own lives and affairs, freed from the paternalistic oversight and interference of bureaucratic elites.”
“School choice fit this vision perfectly,” Miller and Zinsmeister note. “Its goal was to liberate parents from unresponsive bureaucracies and give them the tools to make educational choices themselves on behalf of their children.” Historically, school choice has been a “signature issue” for Bradley, and that with which it may be most associated.
So, with support from Bradley beginning in 1986, the nationally influential, center-left Brookings Institution published John Chubb’s and Terry Moe’s important scholarly book Politics, Markets & America’s Schools” in 1990. In the book, Chubb and Moe explained the many potential benefits of the market- and neighborhood-friendly choice idea of giving parents vouchers to be able to send their children to schools of their own choice.
Bradley supported school choice throughout, supporting scholars in academia and center-right national and state-level think tanks who explored it. Bradley also supported journals which published pro-school-choice research.
In March 1990, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Bradley continued to support organizations debating the policy, including the new Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), created in large part at Bradley’s behest.
Then-State Superintendent of Public Instruction Herbert Grover (D) and his allies in the teachers unions challenged the MPCP. Bradley funded the legal defense by national public-interest attorneys and local co-counsel and a public outreach campaign on behalf of the program. 
In June 1992, just after the end of MPCP’s second academic year, Bradley announced a new private school scholarship program in Milwaukee, run by the Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE) organization, that would include religious schools not permitted to participate in MPCP. MPCP was expanded by the legislature in 1995 to cover religious schools, but the expansion was halted after a court ruling. Bradley funding allowed PAVE to keep students who had enrolled in religious schools in the classroom. By 1998, the state Supreme Court had upheld the expanded MPCP; Bradley supported later litigation defending a similar program in Cleveland, Ohio which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002.
Bradley funding of school-choice research, demonstration projects, and education of policymakers and the public continued for the next two decades, locally and nationally, and continues to his day. This has attracted criticism from the political left: A 2013 study by the liberal One Wisconsin Now found that Bradley was underwriting “a systematic and relentless campaign to turn public opinion against the public school system.”
The source of Bradley’s school-choice success, former Foundation program executive William A. Schambra wrote in 2015, was its “willingness to put aside rigid ideological preferences in order to support whatever decisions parents made about their own children’s education, aiming thereby to help reinvigorate the local civic and educational institutions that are the backbone of vital neighborhoods.”
In 2018, according to the American Federation for Children, a total of 54 publicly funded school-choice programs in 26 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were collectively serving some 500,000 students.
Historically, while it may not garner the Bradley Foundation as much attention as has its interest in school choice, work-based welfare reform has been another “signature issue” for the foundation. Welfare reform “became another major Bradley Foundation interest that ultimately reverberated on the national level,” according to writer John J. Miller.
Some observers argue that “the foundation arguably made its greatest achievement in welfare reform.” As with school choice, “it did so by starting on the local level, creating a smashing triumph in its home state of Wisconsin, and then using potent ideas, savvy strategy, and patient funding to lead the way to a national transformation of the way our governments aid poor people.”
Bradley’s welfare reform work began in 1986. Bradley provided a grant that “assembled top conservative and liberal social scientists to see if agreement could be found on ways to reduce the destructive effects of welfare programs on family structure, work rates, crime levels, and other social factors.”
“Members of the new group on both sides of the political divide made concessions, and a final report entitled The New Consensus on Family and Welfare was drafted under the leadership of [center-right Catholic intellectual] Michael Novak” and released in 1987 by Milwaukee’s Marquette University and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). It “sketched the outlines of new programs with work requirements and supports that would be healthier for U.S. society.”
Bradley also supported Heritage Foundation Bradley Scholar Marvin Olasky’s important The Tragedy of American Compassion, published in 1994.
Bradley also supported in-depth welfare-reform research and education of policymakers and the public by WPRI and the then-Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute, which opened a special office in Madison for the project. Lawrence Mead, an active member of the Marquette-AEI working group, wrote several WPRI reports on welfare and the benefits of existing and proposed further reforms.
In December 1993, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a law requiring that the state’s welfare system be replaced by 1999, making it through both the State Assembly, then controlled by Democrats, and State Senate, then controlled by Republicans. In January 1994, Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) signed the measure.
The program, which supplanted the old welfare system, included work requirements for public aid and increased state support of those trying to meet those requirements. Welfare rolls declined appreciably in the years afterward. Conservatives argued that harmful dependency also declined and that employment enhanced the dignity of aid recipients.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a federal welfare-reform law modeled on Wisconsin’s W-2 plan, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which had been passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. Nationally, rolls and dependency declined in its aftermath.
Bradley Fellows Program
The Bradley Foundation has always maintained a program interest in the reform of higher education in general and support of conservative scholars in higher education in particular. Since 1986, the Foundation has instituted the Bradley Fellows Program to “influenc[e] the intellectual framework of national life.”
The foundation provides financial support to graduate and post-graduate students. Bradley Fellows are chosen by their academic institutions upon the recommendation of instructors in the humanities, social sciences, and the law.
By Inside Philanthropy’s count, “[o]f the thousands of past Bradley Fellows, hundreds teach at the country’s most-prestigious colleges and universities, while an equal number are affiliated with research institutes and hold prominent positions in government.”
Bradley Commission on History in Schools
The Bradley Foundation has supported the teaching of history and civics in America’s K-12 schools. In 1987, Bradley funding helped create the Bradley Commission on History in Schools, a program of the Educational Education Network led by Chester E. Finn, Jr.
The 17-member commission was chaired by Kenneth T. Jackson, the eminent Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University. It included other nationally prominent academic historians and K-12 history teachers. 
The commission’s nine major, unanimously adopted recommendations, were outlined in a 1988 booklet, Building a History Curriculum: Guidelines for Teaching History in Schools. In 1989, the recommendations were further amplified in a book, Historical Literacy: The Case for History in American Education. In these two publications, the commission laid out the “scope and sequence” of a basic, solid K-12 history curriculum.
In 1990, to follow through in the commission’s work, Bradley provided founding support to the National Council for History Education, which grew to have thousands of member historians and teachers. It subsequently supported several other discrete history-and-civics-education groups and projects, including the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
“The Bell Curve”
Left-of-center activists have criticized the Bradley Foundation for its support of think-tank fellowships for sociologist Charles Murray during the years he was conducting research for his controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (which he wrote with Richard J. Herrnstein). In their own words, the book “is about differences in intellectual capacity among people and groups and what those differences mean for America’s future. The relationships we will be discussing are among the most sensitive in contemporary America—so sensitive that hardly anyone writes or talks about them in public.” They thanked Bradley’s Joyce in the acknowledgements.
Left-wing critics attacked the book as an unfair, pseudo-scientific, and racist diatribe outside the bounds of any reasonable public discourse. “The Bell Curve is a smoking gun. It maintains that the poor—including the majority of African Americans—are generally incapable of benefiting from education,” said Rob Lowe of Milwaukee’s Rethinking Schools, for just one example. To Milwaukee Area Technical College instructor Charlie Dee, the book provides conservatives “a rationalization for it all. The rich are smart and the poor are dumb, and it’s in the genes. There’s nothing we can do about it but get the government out of the way and allow things to develop according to their biological destiny.”
Bradley, moreover, “was well aware of the explosive nature of Murray’s research,” reported Barbara Miner, representative of many linkages between the book’s findings and the foundation’s funding.
In 1989, when he started collaborating with Richard Herrnstein on research into intelligence and genetics, the Manhattan Institute decided it would be best if Murray left. But Bradley, which had funded Murray at the Manhattan Institute, was willing to continue his $100,000 annual grant at his new home with the American Enterprise Institute.
At the time, Bradley’s Joyce maintained that the foundation did not endorse the book’s conclusions, but called Murray “one of the foremost thinkers of our time” and praised him for taking on a “taboo subject.” While Bradley’s last grant support of Murray was in 1990, it did award him a 2016 Bradley Prize.
National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal
The Bradley Foundation established the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal in 1996 “to consider how private giving in America can help revive our poorest communities and promote self-sufficiency and independence among all our citizens,” according to the commission’s 1997 report, Giving Better, Giving Smarter: Renewing Philanthropy in America. 
The commission was chaired by former Tennessee Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, a Republican who later became a U.S. Senator from Tennessee. Its vice chair was Reed Coleman, a Bradley board member.
The commission’s thinking informed much of the later activities of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, created by the Bradley Foundation in 2003 and directed by former Bradley staffer William Schambra, who became a senior fellow at Hudson. The Bradley Center was “a think tank project like no other, since the subjects it focuses on rarely get the kind of thoughtful intellectual attention that Schambra and his colleagues have devoted to them,” according to Adam Keiper.
Encounter Books was created in 2008 with substantial, six-figure funding from the Bradley Foundation, in the form of grants to the nonprofit Encounter for Culture and Education. Its name derives from Encounter, the now-defunct neoconservative literary magazine co-founded by Irving Kristol and backed by the U.S. Government to counter the spread of Communism during the Cold War. As Bradley describes it, Encounter Books “is dedicated to strengthening the marketplace of ideas to help preserve democratic culture.”
Bradley began Encounter with “the conviction that most of the other media are derivative from books,” the foundation’s Joyce said at the time. “Books are the way that authors put forth more substantial, more coherent arguments. It follows that if you want to have an influence on the world of ideas, books are where you want to put your money. It is what we are most proud of, of all the things we’ve done here.”
Bradley has sustained its substantial support of Encounter for two decades. Encounter’s first editor was Peter Collier, former editor of the New Left Ramparts magazine. Encounter’s current president and publisher is Roger Kimball, who is also publisher of The New Criterion, which is also supported by Bradley.
In 2004, the Bradley Foundation began awarding annual Bradley Prizes, which “honor scholars and practitioners whose accomplishments reflect The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s mission to restore, strengthen and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism,” as the foundation itself describes it.  “There are the ‘thinkers’ who make intellectual contributions, and the ‘doers’ who implement those ideas,” Bradley’s Grebe told Miller when the Prizes program was announced.
The Foundation conventionally awards four Prize recipients per year. They receive a $250,000 stipend and are celebrated at a formal gala in Washington, D.C. The first gala was held at the Library of Congress. From 2005 to 2016, they were held at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 2017, the event was moved to the National Building Museum.
Notable winners include former Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth of Nations Jonathan Sacks, former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Jack Keane, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. A selection committee of distinguished individuals, which usually includes some Bradley board members, chooses honorees after careful review of nominations.
In 2005, Bradley began a tradition of convening—during the daytime before the celebratory Prizes gala in the evening—“a wide-ranging and substantive symposium on important political and cultural issues facing the country.” Known as the Bradley Symposium, the events have featured prominent intellectuals, commentators, activists, and philanthropists.
Bradley Project on America’s National Identity
In 2007, the Bradley Foundation created the Bradley Project on America’s National Identity. “A nation whose citizens no longer feel national pride or a unique allegiance to their own country is a nation that has lost its sense of national identity, and perhaps its will to survive,” according to the Project’s 2008 report, E Pluribus Unum. “This is an identity crisis.”
Presaging the late 2010s debate over international migration and citizen identities, the Project was born of the foundation’s “keen interest in the early- to mid-2000s debate between Italian senator Marcello Pera and then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger about European identity and its ramifications for all of the West, and in some observations of Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, among other things,” according to former Bradley officials.
The Project convened scholars, other experts, and practitioners in various subject-matter areas of relevance and commissioned a national Harris Interactive survey of citizens.
E Pluribus Unum called for a national dialogue and made 14 specific recommendations across for practical aspects of life crucial to American identity that the Project examined—historical memory, assimilation, national security, and civic education.
In October 2016, a hacker known on Twitter as Anonymous Poland—an entity which cybersecurity experts suspect may be a front for Russian intelligence–released three fabricated letters in which Bradley’s then-vice president of finance supposedly directed one of the foundation’s financial managers to transfer $156 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. The foundation reported the hack to the FBI and took steps to ensure that its data would be protected in the future.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the liberal Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) in Madison, Wis., have relied on troves of hacked documents to publish in-depth reports and critical analyses on Bradley and its grantmaking strategies and tactics, as described and implied in those internal documents. The Journal Sentinel called its special report “The Bradley Blueprint,” and CMD labeled its coverage “The Bradley Files.” In their coverage, the journalistic ethics of which Graber and Grebe questioned, both the Journal Sentinel and CMD mostly highlighted Bradley’s funding of state-level think tanks around the country.
Bradley Impact Fund (BIF)
In 2012, the Bradley Impact Fund (BIF) was created. Aligned with the Bradley Foundation, BFI is a donor-advised fund (DAF). Like other DAFs non-ideological and across the ideological spectrum, it allows individual donors to open accounts, after which the donors can then recommend grant disbursements to qualified nonprofits.
BIF “performs professional evaluation of potential grantees to ensure donor contributions make the desired impact and uphold donor intent.”
According to BIF’s 2016 Form 990, its total assets were just more than $3.4 million at the end of the year, and it made almost $2.8 million in grants that year.
BIF’s eight-member board of directors is chaired by former Bradley Foundation president Grebe and includes three current Bradley Foundation board members, including Bradley Foundation board chairman Pope.
BIF was first led by Robert E. Norton II, when he was vice president for external relations at the Bradley Foundation. Norton left in 2014 to become general counsel at Hillsdale College. Since 2015, BIF’s president has been Jessica F. Dean, who is also the Bradley Foundation’s current vice president for external relations. Dean was formerly a major gifts officer for the Heritage Foundation.
BIF’s vice president is Bradley Foundation president Graber. 
In an interview with Milwaukee Magazine, “[The Foundation has] four major areas of focus, one being constitutional order, which means federalism, separation of powers, the importance of individual liberties like freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” 
A second focus area is “free markets, which to us is the importance of addressing what we feel is over-regulation in this country, encouraging entrepreneurism, and the freedom that comes from free markets and free trade in terms of opportunity for more people in this country,” Graber continued. 
As for the third area, he said, “If there’s been a signature issue for Bradley over the years it’s been in the education space [and] K-12 reform. You look at public high schools in most major cities in this country, and they’re not working. This foundation [was] at the forefront of school choice; it started here.” And the fourth: “our work, we call it civil society, which historically and continues to be a lot of the issues that are facing so many families in this country and specifically in Milwaukee,” he summarized. “The breakdown of the family, people not working, drug addiction, alcohol addiction—the things that seem to be pulling us apart as a country.”