The Left Machine: Foundations and Elizabeth Warren

Part 1: Massive Foundations put billions into left wing activist campaigns, but nobody seems to notice.

In part 1, I explained that left wing Foundations fund an enormous amount of research, activism and media — creating, promoting and covering their own political campaigns. In part 2, I will give you an example of how this works. Specifically, how Elizabeth Warren built her career on the kind of “sponsored” research that she criticizes today. 


Last September, Elizabeth Warren attacked Brooking’s scholar, Robert Litan over alleged “financial conflicts of interest” related to corporate-funded research he had done. Litan had actually disclosed the funding in the paper itself, but Elizabeth Warren nevertheless feigned outrage, arguing that the funding “raise[d] significant questions about the impartiality of the study”, that the study was “editorially compromised by an industry player seeking a specific conclusion” and that it was “bought and paid-for research…” 

Elizabeth Warren is no stranger to questionable, compromised, bought and paid-for research. Her career is filled with “research” products and papers that were bought and paid for by organizations seeking conclusions. Elizabeth Warren’s funding included grants from the FDIC, AARP, the Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and others. 

But one project, in particular, stands out. It is the project that made Elizabeth Warren famous — medical bankruptcy — and it is a perfect example of how Foundations fund activism and call it “research”. 

First, some background: In 2001, and again in 2007, Elizabeth Warren — then a professor at Harvard Law School — conducted a study on the effects of medical expenses on bankruptcy. The studies were funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (hereafter, RWJ Foundation) for — and were explicitly intended “to guide policy measures…”  The results (released in 2005 and in 2009) launched Elizabeth Warren into the public eye, resulting in appearances in the media and before Congress.


However, despite all the attention it received, the research itself was extraordinarily dubious.  Actually, that’s true of quite a lot of Elizabeth Warren’s academic research. As Megan McArdle wrote of Warren’s 2009 paper in The Atlantic, “it is not just wrong, but actively, aggressively wrong.”  

So how did a Harvard professor manage to pass off this brazen fraud as academic research? 

Take a closer look at the RWJ Foundation’s 2001 and 2007 grants, and you’ll notice something very odd. The grant was not made to Harvard. Instead, the grant was made to a tiny community health care clinic. From the 2001 grant…

The purpose of this project is to study medically related bankruptcies. The main product of the project will be a paper for publication in a major medical journal regarding medical-related bankruptcies. The research may also be used to guide policy measures to improve financial protection of persons with chronic and other illnesses.


Amount Awarded $296,325.00

Awarded on: 5/11/2001

Time frame: 6/1/2001 – 5/31/2003


Cambridge Medical Care Foundation

David U. Himmelstein 

Project Director

Steffie Joan Woolhandler 

Project Director

The Cambridge Medical Care Foundation (CMCF) is a small community health care clinic that, according to their 2001 Form 990, “provides medical care and performs medical services…” in conjunction with other local facilities. Their annual budget ranged from a few hundred thousand dollars to $1.4m (2007), usually in the range of $600,000-800,000. But for some reason, this little “medical care” clinic got two very large RWJF grants — $296,325 (2001) and $463,900 (2007) — to study medical bankruptcy. 


Why would the RWJ Foundation route an academic research grant through a community health care clinic, rather than directly to Harvard? Oversight. 

Harvard requires internal oversight of sponsored research to ensure “that the research is conducted in accordance with the highest scientific and ethical standards.” So, instead, the RWJ Foundation routed the money through the tiny Cambridge Medical Care Foundation, where RWJ Foundation activists could run the project.

The RWJ Foundation identified Steffie Woolhandler as the Project Director in 2007 and co-Project Director with David Himmelstein (her husband) in 2001. Who are Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein? 

  • single payer activists” who co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program, “a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program”, which is funded in part “by grants from progressive foundations…”
  • socialists, who routinely write articles for marxist/communist magazines like Monthly Review and Socialist Worker.
  • Woolhandler says her work “combine[s] her social activism with a medical career” and she is focused on “training younger researchers in techniques and strategies of scholarship for social change.” 
  • Steffie Woolhandler was also a RWJ Foundation Health Policy Fellow, receiving a 1990-1991 grant ($55,575) to have “a one-year residency in Washington, D.C., working for a member of Congress on health policy.”
    • Think about that. Foundations can and do just straight up pay to place one of their activists inside Congress. 

It should be clear by now that Elizabeth Warren’s most famous “research” was simply Foundation-funded activism masquerading as academic scholarship. If financial support skews the results of research, then Elizabeth Warren is at least as guilty as the scholar she attacked. 

In fact, Elizabeth Warren gave Congressional testimony in 1991, 1992, 1999, 2005 (twice), 2007 (three times) and 2008. Did she mentioned her work was funded by the RWJ Foundation, AARP, Ford Foundations and others? According to transcripts, no. Warren did not mention the funding behind her studies in her 2005 Congressional testimony, her 2007 Congressional testimony, or 2008 Congressional testimony.

So why has there been virtually zero (or perhaps actually zero) coverage of Elizabeth Warren doing sponsored research for groups that put “money in politics” to buy policy outcomes?  

The answer is simple. It doesn’t count. The media simply does not understand the extent to which left wing Foundations are behind the research, activism and even media itself. They don’t know. They don’t care.

There are more stories. I will continue to tell them in future updates.

Jon Henke is an unpaid advisor to TechFreedom. Contact: [email protected] 


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos