Leaked internal documents detail conservative superfund's plans for North Carolina

The DNC wasn’t the only political operation hacked last year. The arch-conservative Bradley Foundation was also embarrassed by a data breach in 2016 that found some of its most sensitive documents posted publicly to the internet. Why does that matter in North Carolina?

The Bradley Foundation spent heavily supporting right-wing political organizations in the Tar Heel State.

The Bradley Foundation is a Wisconsin-based conservative funder worth nearly $900 million— as large as the three Koch family organizations combined. The foundation has expanded its focus from Wisconsin to key swing states such as North Carolina where it is funding conservative organizations focused on creating a "comprehensive communications infrastructure around four primary elements: radio, online content aggregation, mobile applications and an AP-style news service for local newspapers,” according to a leaked foundation memo. Groups include the John Locke Foundation, Civitas, and Carolina Plott Hound.


Not surprisingly, Art Pope, founder of the John Locke Foundation, is the chairman of the Bradley Foundation’s Board of Directors.


Between 2011 and 2015 Pope’s Civitas Institute received $920,000 in grants from the foundation, the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy received $59,000, and Pope’s law school alma mater Duke University received $132,444.




Amount Received 2011-2015

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina




Physicians for Reform Foundation




Old Glory Legacy Foundation




Duke University Office of Research Support




Duke University




John W. Pope Civitas Institute




The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy




Most interestingly for North Carolina politicos is the Bradley Foundation’s tiered state rankings, comparing the conservative networks of organizations in the states. North Carolina received a “Tier 1” score of 38 out of 40 points putting it just behind Wisconsin and Michigan, tied with Arizona, and one point above Texas. This means the foundation considers North Carolina’s conservative infrastructure particularly strong.


The Bradley Foundation Network in North Carolina does not just include John Locke, Civitas and Carolina Plott Hound. The foundation also funds several national groups that work on the state level. For example, ALEC and the State Policy Network which works with North Carolina affiliates like the Jesse Helms Center, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, and of course Pope’s John Locke and Civitas. 

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  

Those internal documents, obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in recent months, show the conservative powerhouse is working to duplicate its success in Wisconsin under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, focusing on such swing states as North Carolina and Colorado. ...

The Bradley Foundation is paying less attention to Washington, D.C. Instead, it is methodically building a coalition of outside groups aimed at influencing officials in statehouses from Pennsylvania to Arizona.

But, the Bradley Foundation’s investments haven’t been without their hiccups.

Less successful has been the efforts by the conservative John Locke Foundation to provide news stories in North Carolina. An earlier report said only 12 small papers had signed up. 

"The AP-style Conservative News Service for local newspapers has not taken hold as originally contemplated," said a June 14, 2016, report. "There has not been much success so far at all in recruiting papers to sign up and use the service."