Family Foundations of Heritage’s Vice Chairman Give Funds to Tanton’s Anti-Immigration Network

May 12, 2013
4:51 PM

There was a time when the Heritage Foundation was looking at immigration through a more rational lens than its recent immigration report and the hornet’s nest it created for Jason Richwine, the study’s co-author, who last Friday resigned from Heritage after fallout from his 2009 Harvard dissertation about immigrants and IQ went viral.

In 2006, for example, a Heritage piece called “The Real Problem with Immigration… and the Real Solution” said the following about immigration in the 21st century:

An honest assessment acknowledges that illegal immigrants bring real benefits to the supply side of the American economy, which is why the business community is opposed to a simple crackdown. There are economic costs as well, given America’s generous social insurance institutions. The cost of securing the border would logically exist regardless of the number of immigrants.

The argument that immigrants harm the American economy should be dismissed out of hand. The population today includes a far higher percentage (12 percent) of foreign-born Americans than in recent decades, yet the economy is strong, with higher total gross domestic product (GDP), higher GDP per person, higher productivity per worker, and more Americans working than ever before. immigration may not have caused this economic boom, but it is folly to blame immigrants for hurting the economy at a time when the economy is simply not hurting.


Later, the post stated:

A simple example is instructive in terms of both trade and immigration. An imaginary small town has 10 citizens: some farmers, some ranchers, a fisherman, a tailor, a barber, a cook, and a merchant. A new family headed by a young farmer moves to town. His presence is resented by the other farmers, but he also consumes from the other business in town-getting haircuts, eating beef and fish, having his shirts sewn and pressed, and buying supplies at the store, not to mention paying taxes. He undoubtedly boosts the supply side of the economy, but he also boosts the demand side. If he were run out of town for “stealing jobs,” his demand for everyone’s work would leave with him.

The real problem with undocumented immigrant workers is that flouting the law has become the norm, which makes the job of terrorists and drug traffickers infinitely easier. The economic costs of terrorism can be very high and very real, quite apart from the otherwise positive economic impact of immigration. In order to separate the good from the bad, there is no substitute for a nationwide system that identifies all foreign persons present within the U.S. It is not sufficient to identify visitors upon entry and exit; rather, all foreign visitors must be quickly documented.

The essay, co-authored by Tim Kane and Kirk A. Johnson, presented 14 recommendations that would help to improve this country’s immigration, including this one:

Provisions for efficient legal entry will not be amnesty, nor will they “open the floodgates.” Such a system will actually encourage many migrants to exit, knowing that they will be able to return under reasonable regulations. This is in stark contrast to the status quo, in which the difficulty and uncertainty of reentering the U.S. effectively discourage aliens from leaving. Documented migrant workers would enter a new status: not citizen, not illegal, but rather temporary workers.

As for opening the floodgates, the reality is that they are already open. More to the point, labor markets operate effectively to balance supply and demand, and those markets are currently in balance. Creating a new category of legal migrants would not change that equilibrium, provide unfair benefits to undocumented aliens over others, or be tied to citizenship, but it would enhance security.

Finally, the authors offered this conclusion:

The century of globalization will see America either descend into timid isolation or affirm its openness. Throughout history, great nations have declined because they built up walls of insularity, but America has been the exception for over a century. It would be a tragedy if America were to turn toward a false sense of security just when China is ascending with openness, Western Europe is declining into isolation, and the real solution is so obvious from our own American heritage.

This 2006 Heritage piece is a far cry from its 2013 study, “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer,” as well as its 2007 cousin, “Amnesty Will Cost U.S. Taxpayers at Least $2.6 Trillion.”

Both of these studies have been roundly criticized by the right and the left, thus raising these questions: Why did Heritage change its views so dramatically? Why did it go from a moderate stance on immigration to a more extreme one?

The answer could lie with one of the Heritage Foundation’s Board of Trustees and current Vice Chairman, whose three family foundations have recently been funding several anti-immigration organizations connected to John Tanton, the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The creation of FAIR eventually led to the formation of other Tanton-associated organizations, including the Californians for Population Stabilization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, Progressives for Immigration Reform, VDARE, Negative Population Growth, and U.S., Inc.


The current Heritage Vice Chairman is Richard Mellon Scaife, once called in a 1999 Washington Post profile as “the most generous donor to conservative causes in American history.” Scaife’s mother was Sarah Mellon Scaife, who died in 1965, and his sister was Cordelia Scaife May, who died in 2005. As the 1999 Post profile said, Sarah “would pass a fortune on to the son everyone called Dickie.”

According to the foundation’s 2011 disclosure statement, the Sarah Scaife Foundation (whose chairman is Richard M. Scaife) gave $1.2 million to the Heritage Foundation, $125,000 to the Center for Immigration Studies, $275,000 to FAIR, $37,500 to NumbersUSA. (the foundation’s 2011 disclosure can be downloaded here.) In 2010, the foundation gave the same amount to the same three organizations, except that Heritage got $600,000 and NumbersUSA did not get any funding (2010 disclosure). In 2009, the foundation gave $600,000 to Heritage, $125,000 to CIS, $100,00 to FAIR, and $37,500 to NumbersUSA. (2009 disclosure). One 2011 white paper from said the following: “The Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation provided over $1.3 million to Tanton Network groups from 2008 through 2010. These organizations include Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, ProEnglish and Federation for American Immigration Reform.”

As for Cordelia Scaife May, she was the founder of the Colcom Foundation. Here is what NewComm said about Colcom:

The Colcom Foundation provided over $25 million dollars in funding to Tanton Network groups from 2008 through 2010. These organizations include Federation for American Immigration Reform, Californians for Population Stabilization, Immigration Reform Law Institute, Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, Progressives for Immigration Reform, VDARE, Negative Population Growth, and U.S., Inc.

The connections go even deeper than million dollar grants. The Colcom Foundation’s vice president, John Rohe, worked for John Tanton at his foundation, U.S., Inc. And the late Cordelia Scaife May, who founded Colcom in 1996, was a close friend of John Tanton. In 2005, the year of her death, Scaife May left $404 million in cash and property to the Colcom Foundation and other charitable organizations.

Part of Colcom’s mission statement states that “The Foundation supports efforts to significantly reduce immigration levels in the U.S., recognizing that population growth in America is fueled primarily by mass immigration.* (* Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, immigrants and their children account for 75% of the nation’s population growth.)”

NewComm’s Imagine 2050 blog also made the following observations this week as to why organizations such as FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA were prominently highlighting the 2013 Heritage amnesty study, but saying very little of the Richwine controversy after the fact:

On Monday, the Heritage Foundation released its much maligned study on the costs of immigration reform. The study, a re-working of a widely panned 2007 effort, was predictably lauded by the anti-immigrant movement’s representatives in the Beltway. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, two of the three most influential of such groups, offered the report ample space on their respective websites. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the other in the aforementioned triumvirate of influential groups, is presently pretending the study simply doesn’t exist.

During a week when both sides of the immigration debate have been occupied with either countering or supporting Heritage, CIS, at the time of writing, neither mentions the study on its website nor does its director, Mark Krikorian, offer an opinion about the piece in his regular blog-column forNational Review Online.

In keeping with what appears to be a strategy rooted in a fantasy of avoidance, CIS’s Director of Research, Steven Camarota, also didn’t touch Heritage’s study during his testimony before the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday. Perhaps CIS simply disagrees with Heritage’s findings, and wishes not to start a war of words with a group that has long been recognized as standard-bearer of all things Conservative. Or, perhaps, Krikorian recalled back to 2008, when he sat on a panel with Jason Richwine, one of the two authors of Heritage’s study. The panel focused on debating points presented in what at the time was Krikorian’s new book, The Case Against Immigration. During the panel, Richwine argued that ”races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ,” also asserting a number of other racist claims beyond this.

In the meantime, NewComm also provided a 2011 description of Tanton’s history:

In 1979, a Michigan ophthalmologist named John Tanton founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Citing dubious “conservation” motives, but more often revealing his white nationalist sympathies, Tanton created the most influential anti-immigrant network in the country. Though lacking public renown, Tanton and FAIR have waged a campaign of impressive breadth and longevity, spawning over a dozen groups with the same goal: to malign the presence of immigrants in the United States.

Early contributions from the notorious Pioneer Fund, reputed for its devotion to eugenics and “scientific” declarations of racism, helped Tanton’s once modest organization expand into a multi-million dollar network. Early ties to population control groups steeped this network in controversy from its inception.

More than thirty years later, in April of 2011, John Tanton vanished from the board of FAIR after a front page exposé in a Sunday edition of The New York Times underscored his extensive ties to the larger white nationalist movement in the United States. In July 2011, Tanton’s name resurfaced on FAIR’s advisory board, but his less vital role within the Network means little. Given the dedicated cadre within the Network, the primary agenda of nativism that both binds and drives the contemporary anti-immigrant movement will certainly survive and spread if left unchecked.

The groups that he founded and funded, groups that owe their existence to his early efforts, now deny his ideology as part of their own. Yet they share sustained ties to extremist political elements like the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens and the compulsively nativist; with figures tied to movements as extreme as neo-Nazism, like Arizona’s Russell Pearce; and with population control advocates like Virginia Abernethy, a self-proclaimed white separatist.

The Tanton Network insists that it is not anti-immigrant; FAIR, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA and remaining members increasingly position themselves as non-partisan and unbiased sources for reporters and academics. As students, activists, and journalists we have a responsibility to identify the bigotry endemic to the anti-immigrant movement, and to challenge its agenda in mainstream America.