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Sightings from The Catbird Seat

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Yet another example of …

> How To Pluck a Non-Profit <

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John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.

The New York-based John M. Olin Foundation, which grew out of a family manufacturing business (chemical and munitions), funds right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Hoover Institute of War, Revolution and Peace. It also gives large sums of money to promote conservative programs in the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities. After Michael Joyce left to take charge of the Bradley Foundation, William Simon continued as president at Olin….

(Editor’s note: William Simon passed away in 2000.)

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May 20, 2001

Is the Olin Foundation Putting Itself Out of Business?

The New York Times reports on Conservative Foundation churn:

Michael Joyce is leaving the Bradley Foundation in July 2001, and Richard Larry recently quit as the head of the Sarah Scaife Foundation. The biggest news is that the Olin Foundation plans to “put itself out of business.”

But there may be less to this story than imagined: The story doesn’t mention that Joyce, who is quoted extensively, has already mentioned that he may be moving into the George W. Bush administration. And how much control did Larry really have working for Richard Scaife? Plus – Olin executive director James Piereson said that:

At the December board meeting, the trustees decided to stop accepting proposals, to give out about $20 million a year for the next three years and then to disband, giving any remaining assets to a few favorite grantees. (emphasis added.)

After that spending spree, Piereson concluded (without a hint of facetiousness, apparently):

“And I am a little concerned about who will fund these institutions that support conservative ideas.”

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May 19, 2003

Harvard Law School Receives $10 Million Grant from John M. Olin Foundation

Harvard Law School Dean Robert Clark has announced that the school has received a $10 million grant from the John M. Olin Foundation.

The gift is the largest foundation grant in the law school’s 186-year history…

The John M. Olin Foundation was established in 1953 by the late John Merrill Olin, an inventor, industrialist, conservationist and philanthropist.

The foundation, which encourages research on the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy in the social and economic fields, is currently in the process of spending its assets with the goal of ceasing operations by the end of 2005.

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Funder of the Lott CCW Study Has Links to the Gun Industry

Research conducted by John Lott, a John M. Olin Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, purporting to show that relaxed concealed weapons laws reduce crime has been the subject of severe criticism not just for its methodological shortcomings, but also for its funding source. These questions have focused on the ties to the firearms industry of the funder of Mr. Lott’s fellowship, the John M. Olin Foundation.

There are significant links between the John M. Olin Foundation and the Olin Corporation, which owns Winchester Ammunition (the largest producer of ammunition in the U.S. and the manufacturer of the infamous “Black Talon” bullet). Olin Corporation at one time also owned Winchester Firearms, a trade name which it now licenses out. Winchester Ammunition stands to reap financial gain from the increased sale of handgun ammunition generated by the passage of lax concealed weapons laws.

The Violence Policy Center has conducted extensive research regarding the links between the Olin Corporation and the Olin Foundation as well as the political agenda of the Olin Foundation. While the Olin Foundation has denied any links between it and the Olin Corporation, research conducted by the Violence Policy Center has revealed the following:

The Olin Foundation was founded in 1953 by John M. Olin while he was head of Olin Corporation. The July/August 1983 issue of Foundation News details the historical overlap between the leadership of Olin Corporation and the Olin Foundation: “[John M.] Olin started the foundation…, running it out of his vest pocket for a quarter of a century. `It was just a charitable checkbook,’ says [then-Olin Foundation Executive Director Michael] Joyce. Not until 1977 did Olin attempt something more substantial. That year he hired small staff for the foundation and persuaded both [William] Simon and McCloy to join the enterprise….[When Olin died in 1982 he left]…an additional $50 million to the foundation, a gift that…[would]…soon place it among the big-league grantmakers.”

Tax records of stock sales by the Olin Foundation disclose that millions of dollars in Olin Corporation stock were donated to the foundation in 1957 and that as recently as 1994 the foundation sold shares for millions of dollars in revenue (the Olin Foundation initially denied that it held significant holdings in Olin Corporation and then would not respond to inquiries regarding how many shares of Olin Corporation stock it holds today).

A 1983 Foundation News profile of the Olin Foundation noted that many of its directors “have either been closely associated with the foundation’s founder, the late John M. Olin, or with the corporation he headed.” At that time, these included: Walter F. O’Connell, then-chairman of the Olin Corporation’s Finance Committee; and, John W. Hanes, a consultant to Olin since 1957. This trend continues today.

At the time of the release of the Lott study, former Olin Corporation executives continued to serve on the Foundation’s board of directors. Olin Foundation board member Eugene F. Williams, Jr. served on the Olin Corporation board of directors from 1955 to 1994. Fellow Olin Foundation board member Richard M. Furlaud also served on the Olin Corporation board of directors from 1963 to 1993 and is listed in the publication Who’s Wealthy in America, 1996 as a holder of inside stock in Olin Corporation.

Although the Olin Foundation purports to have no link to the Olin Corporation, reporters and writers often note the close association between the two.

The July/August 1983 issue of Foundation News, in describing one critic’s concerns about the Olin Foundation, stated, “Turning to the Olin Foundation, [Alfred] Kazin informed his readers that the parent corporation last year took in $2.2 billion in revenues, chiefly from the manufacture of chemicals, rifles, ammunition, skis, carpet padding, copper for the U.S. Mint, brass, cellophane and cigarette paper.” [emphasis added]

The July 19-26, 1995 issue of Christian Century contained an article entitled “Funding the war of ideas.” The article detailed the activities of “the four sisters”—the “four conservative-leaning foundations [Olin, Bradley, Smith Richardson, and Scaife] that have been willing to put their money into journals and think tanks in order to win the battle for hearts and minds.” It asks the question: “Who’s behind these four foundations? The John M. Olin Foundation was created in 1953 by the Olin Corporation, which produces, among other things, Winchester rifles. [emphasis added] Olin became a more aggressive player in public affairs in 1977 when William Simon became president and Michael Joyce was named executive director. `The intellectual movement on the right is a very serious movement,’ commented George Gillespie, secretary-treasurer of the foundation, in 1983. `We support some of the best thinkers at some of the country’s best institutions.”

The People for the American Way publication Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics states, “The John M. Olin Foundation grew out of a family manufacturing business, and has grown substantially in the past 20 years.” The study adds, “Research done in Olin programs provides an academic basis for right-wing policy.”

And regarding the role of business leaders on foundation boards, Olin Foundation President William Simon wrote in the preface to the Capital Research Center’s book Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy: The Progressive Deception that:

business leaders can direct corporate giving along constructive lines by playing an active role on the boards of the foundations their enterprise has made possible…[C]orporate leaders have abdicated far too much day-to-day operational control of their giving to a philanthropic managerial class which sets their giving priorities for them….While businesses may understandably wish to give to traditional charities of interest to local employees and customers, it is also their responsibility to nurture the efforts of individuals and institutions which strive to strengthen the very freedoms that allow business to thrive in the first place….Companies should give as through their futures depended on it, for in a very real sense, they do.

All contents © 1999 Violence Policy Center

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From The November 2000 Issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser

Connecting The Dots: John Stossel, ABC And Agribusiness

By Barbara Keeler and Robert Sterling

“Science is highly politicized …. Beware of science that feeds political agendas.” John Stossel, “20/20” reporter in a segment called, “Junk Science: What You Know That May Not Be So.”

John Stossel himself may exemplify his own statement about science that feeds political agendas. His “20/20” hatchet job on organics is old news to readers of NFM. Long a controversial voice in journalism, Stossel became more so after his Feb. 4 “20/20” report, “The Food You Eat.”

Stossel’s main hatchet man on the segment, Dennis Avery, was not identified on “20/20” as the author of Saving The Planet With Pesticides And Plastic, or as an employee of the Hudson Institute. The audience was not told that agribusinesses such as Dow, Monsanto, ConAgra, and Novartis are leading funders of the Hudson Institute. Represented on Hudson Institute’s board is the biotech industry’s PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, which has been linked to a massive PR campaign to counteract the escalating global anti-GMO movement in the U.S. and abroad. Those familiar with Avery and the Hudson Institute were not surprised that he was eager to smear the organic food industry on “20/20”.

The unanswered question about the segment was why Stossel chose a mouthpiece for pesticides, biotech, chemical fertilizers, and agribusiness as “20/20’s” expert on organics. Moreover, why would a respected journalist create a segment calculated to mislead his audience about organic foods?

We cannot say for sure, and maybe the question will never be answered. We have, however, connected the dots from Stossel and ABC back to Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, ConAgra and others with vested interests in discrediting organic foods.

As the segment was produced, ABC was receiving a percentage of sales from “Stossel in the Classroom,” educational materials based on Stossel’s ABC reports and published by the Palmer R. Chitester Fund. The Chitester Fund is a conservative foundation dependant on contributions from the likes of the John M. Olin Foundation. The Olin Foundation was created and is still controlled by the Olin Corp., a top producer of agricultural chemicals.

On the Board of Associates of the Chitester Fund sits Herb London, the president of the Hudson Institute. London also holds the John M. Olin Professorship of Humanities at New York University. The Hudson Institute received grants from the Olin Foundation of $125,000 in 1993 and $300,000 in 1994.

All of the above suggests a comingling of interests between two conservative foundations, a conservative think tank, and a supposedly independent journalist. Add the funding Hudson receives from chemical and agribusiness companies and the inbreeding appears potentially corruptive, even before factoring the representation of a biotech PR firm on its board.

The interlinks go further. The Olin Corp. was, along with Occidental Chemical and Dupont, one of the major firms involved in the Love Canal environmental scandal in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Here is Stossel’s comment during a Jan. 9, 1997, special report, titled “Junk Science: What You Know That May Not Be So”:

“What happens when government policy is based on junk science? Billions of dollars are misspent, and people’s lives altered forever. Love Canal. Times Beach. Defoliant Agent Orange. These names arouse fear because of the chemical dioxin. Dioxin is very poisonous. We know that from animal tests. Tiny amounts kill guinea pigs. That’s why our government’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars to protect us from dioxin.”

“But is that good science? Just because a chemical hurts animals, does that mean it’s harmful to us?”

Stossel proceeds to argue that dioxin isn’t harmful, and that cases such as Love Canal are based on faulty science. The Environmental Protection Agency begs to differ. A draft of a long-overdue EPA report concludes that dioxin is indeed a dangerous and persistent “human carcinogen.”

To be fair to Stossel, these connected dots do not prove he is for sale. It would be too easy to demonize him as an unprincipled hack for business interests. In truth, Stossel has been at times a surprisingly lone voice of courage in the mainstream media, speaking out in defense of free speech against frightening examples of censorship in America. If he were merely a cynical opportunist, he would have little reason to take stands where the rest of the establishment media remains silent.

Whatever his faults, Stossel appears to be sincere in his libertarian-like quest to limit the power of the state. If he was seduced by his ideology into supporting dubious claims, he certainly wouldn’t be the first. Even so, nothing excuses his promotion of deceptive science that serves big business.

By incompetence or outright deceit, John Stossel has participated in what many regard as a libel of a multi-billion dollar industry with rapidly rising political influence. Such a blunder is rarely ignored. Some critics believe Stossel’s more questionable works are catching up with him.

Barbara Keeler has focused on nutrition and food safety as a journalist and contributor to nutrition, child development, parenting, health and science textbooks.

Robert Sterling is publisher of, and the LA Meeting Coordinator for the international Great Boycott, targeting the leading multinational producers of pesticides, genetically engineered food seeds and toxic chemicals. He has spoken about green and food safety issues on the BBC and a variety of radio and television shows.

Natural Foods Merchandiser – volume XXI/number 11/p. 19

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Kamehameha Schools Board of Advisors


Irving Shain, a native of Seattle, served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II, and then attended the University of Washington where he received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1949. Three years later he received a PhD. degree from the same university.

Dr. Shain joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in 1952, became chairman of the Chemistry Department in 1967, and vice chancellor in 1970. He was appointed provost of the University of Washington in 1975, and returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as chancellor in 1977. During his service as chancellor, the University Research Park was created, technology transfer was emphasized and the faculty’s intellectual property rights were confirmed….

Shain became chancellor emeritus and professor emeritus upon retirement from the university in 1986 after having been active in teaching, research and administration in higher education for more than 35 years. He has published over 50 papers in the field of electrochemistry.

Dr. Shain had joined the Board of Directors of Olin Corporation in 1982, and upon retirement from the university joined Olin as corporate vice president and chief scientist. In that position he coordinated the research and development activities of the corporation and advised the Olin CEO Office on matters relating to science and technology until his retirement in 1992….

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Last Update December 23, 2003, by The Catbird