Chicago universities partner to fuel Conservative agenda, empower white Christian ruling class
Seven years ago, Roosevelt University opened its $123 million, 32-story Vertical Campus in Chicago’s South Loop. It’s the sixth-tallest academic facility in the world. Moscow State University is the tallest.
The high-rise was part of a university transition under then-president Charles Middleton to move away from serving the non-traditional, older, part-time student and focus on enticing more traditional, college-aged, full-time students.
In October 2009, Roosevelt requested from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) a final approval on 501(c)(3) Bonds in an amount not to exceed $210 million.” It was to pay back existing debt to the IFA and fund the new campus.
The IFA wields power in Illinois because of its ability to provide tax-exempt bonds at low interest rates to public and private entities who create jobs. Roosevelt has borrowed from the IFA since 1992.
William A. Brandt, Jr. was the chairman of the IFA at the time. He replaced Ali Ata, who plead guilty in 2008 to one count of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to federal authorities. He’d been appointed by former Mayor Rod Blagojevich and convicted of paying bribes to Tony Rezko, who then funneled the money into Blagojevich’s campaign.
Brandt was also appointed by Blagojevich. He’d worked on his Gubernatorial Transition Team team in 2002. He was also a member of President Bill Clinton’s National Finance Board and a delegate from the State of Florida to the 1996 Democratic National Convention. He was a member of the U.S. Electoral College for the 2016 Presidential Election, serving as an Illinois Elector.
He’s also part of the ownership group that controls The Chicago Sun-Times. His family owns the Lafayette Coal Co., which was founded by his grandfather in 1919. It’s located in Hinsdale, IL and is one of the area’s oldest independent coal companies.
At the time of the bond request, Roosevelt claimed the building was necessary because it expected a 50% increase in enrollment over the next decade. For the four years preceding, its enrollment had increased by 20% to 7,692. It forecasted tuition revenue would increase by $40 million over the next five years.
But the increase hasn’t materialized. Nearly a decade later, total enrollment has dropped to 4,329. Total cost for tuition and on-campus room and board has nearly doubled to $48,655/year. Last year, Moody’s downgraded the school’s bond ratings.
Interestingly, while the finances of the university were dwindling, Middleton was one of the highest paid private university presidents in the country. In 2012, he was fifth highest, earning $1.8 million.
The deal between the city and Roosevelt was curious in that it was made at a time when Chicago’s economy was at one of its worst points in its history. Unemployment was 10.6%, the city budget had a $520 million deficit and home foreclosures were up 35% from the previous year.
Brandt, a University of Chicago (U of C) graduate, was also a trustee of Loyola University Chicago at the time. The vote put him on a list of other wealthy trustees with curious roles in providing hundreds of millions of dollars to a select group of Chicago universities.
The schools are linked by their relationship with The Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History (JMC). Jack Miller is a wealthy conservative who started The Quill Corp., the largest and most successful direct marketer of office products in the U.S. In 1998, he and his brother sold it to Staples for $685 million.
The network of Chicagoland schools includes Loyola, Roosevelt, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Northwestern University, Illinois Institute of Technology, IIT Kent College of Law, Hoover College, Lake Forest College, Northwood University and DePaul University. Except for U of I, they’re all private schools. Chicago’s Newberry Library is also a partner to the network.
(George Papadopoulos graduated from DePaul with a political science degree in 2009.)
Miller founded JMC in 2007 to “reinvigorate the teaching of America’s founding principles and history” in high schools and colleges across America. Each school receives funding and/or has maintained partnership programs with JMC for years.
For the last decade, the network of 11 schools and at least 75 political science, history, and law professors have run a series of JMC-affiliated events to discuss philosophies and writings about abolishing the EU, examining the cultural origins of the Constitution and debating the constitutionality of federally mandated health insurance.
Roosevelt’s JMC partnership is the Montesquieu Forum for the Study of Civic Life, a center founded in 2008 to “advance the study of the classical and European heritage that informed the American Founding.” It was started with a JMC grant.
The Forum focuses on the contributions of writers and philosophers like: John Locke, considered the “Father of Liberalism”, who was a major investor in the English slave-trade. He helped draft the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which established an aristocracy giving masters absolute power over their slaves.
David Hume believed “that people of color were “naturally inferior” to whites. He believed “there never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white.” His beliefs were influenced by Polygenists, which means he rejected the belief that the human race evolved from a single species. Instead, he believed non-white humans are part of separate sets of species. The David Hume Forum is a JMC partner program hosted at Loyola.
In 2016, JMC launched HLM Founding Civics in Chicago. It’s a three-year program to “help teachers integrate documents and ideas of the Founding into their civics curriculum so that students can connect them to current political issues…” JMC has launched similar projects in Wisconsin, Virginia and New York.
The center acts in unison with the national conservative media to promote those “current political issues” that are generally of its own making. For example, consider the free speech on college campus executive order that Trump recently signed.
JMC contends that since the 1980s, liberals have “imposed restrictions on speech…by both formal and informal means for the sake of advancing liberal political goals.”
A few months ago, it had its annual summit on freedom of speech on campus. It was moderated by JMC board member and The Weekly Standard Founder Bill Kristol. Univ. of Chicago President Robert Zimmer gave the keynote address.
Jack Miller is an opinion contributor for The Hill. For a decade, Kristol was a regular on “Fox News Sunday” and “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Now he’s on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” He’s tweeted and spoken numerous times about campus free speech.
Fox News has covered free speech attacks on campuses for years. In 2016, it launched its Campus Craziness section to highlight those attacks it feels are anti Republican. Breitbart promotes Charlie Kirk’s attacks on the “the cartel of the colleges” and has its own “Free Speech on Campus” section.
Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump student group, has a “Professor Watchlist”of liberal professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Trump’s order to withhold federal funding from universities who prohibit free speech on campus has little detail about how it would be enforced. It does however, specifically require schools to “report average earnings, student loan debt, default rates and loan repayment information for graduates of its specific programs.”
Nationally, the center has partner programs with at least 60 universities including MIT, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Duke, Dartmouth, Columbia, George Mason and American University. Maria Butina studied International Service at American University for two years while she spied for Russia. Michael Cohen graduated from American in 1988.
Russian and Saudi governments, foundations and individuals have also donated billion$ to the same universities.
“Over the last three years, sponsored research projects funded by Saudi organizations accounted for 52% of all Saudi-funded expenditures at MIT.” The school refuses to sever financial and research ties with Saudi Arabia. JMC sponsors the Benjamin Franklin Project at MIT.
Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow recently hailed Russian Oligarch Len Blavatnik for his foundation’s $200 million donation. “Len is one of this generation’s greatest philanthropists.” The oligarch has also donated to Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. Donald, Donald Jr., Tiffany and Ivanka all graduated from Penn.
Harvard runs the Program in Constitutional Government in partnership with JMC. Columbia has two partner programs with JMC: The Center for American Studies and the Freedom and Citizenship Program. Penn partners with JMC to run the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Consitutionalism.
From 2011–2017, more than 150 U.S. colleges and universities reported receiving foreign gifts of at least $250,000. During that time, Harvard received $1 billion from more than 60 countries. MIT, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and Northwestern each received more than $300 million. Columbia, Duke, U of I, NYU and others have received hundred$ of million$ more. They each also have past and current associations with JMC.
JMC also partners with the VERITAS Fund for Higher Education Reform to underwrite centers, courses and post-doctoral fellowships on college campuses throughout the country. VERITAS is a donor-advised fund administered by the Koch’s DonorsTrust. VERITAS was launched by The Manhattan Institute for Policy in 2007. The same year JMC was founded.
The Kochs have donated more than $1 million to JMC. The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts sits on the campus of Hope College in Holland, MI. The DeVos family has given million$ to Hope college and helped build the DeVos Fieldhouse on its campus. Miller and the DeVos family also sit on the Board of Governors for the Van Andel Institute. Van Andel runs research and educational institutes along with a graduate school.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appointed Adam Kissel as deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs in June 2017. He left after 16 months to be a visiting professor at American Univ.’s Center for Innovation. He’s known to be a “key figure” in the promotion of the “campus free speech” issue.
In 2006, he was a fellow at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Jack Miller Center and Lehrman American Studies Center. He directed faculty, curricula and programs “designed to develop new academic centers and provide resources for developing the next generation of college professors.” He graduated from both Harvard and the U of C.
Dan DeVos, son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, is a graduate of Northwood University. The school has a relationship with JMC and has campuses in Chicagoland and Michigan. DeVos is a Northwood trustee and was given an honorary doctorate in 1999. He’s a chairman of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and a limited partner of the Chicago Cubs.
SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh recently announced he would be joining George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School faculty as a visiting professor. He will co-teach a course about the "origins and creation of the US Constitution." He taught at Harvard Law School for more than a decade.
SCOTUS Justice Neil Gorsuch will also be co-teaching a class for the Scalia Law School, "about the historical roots and the modern application of the separation of powers in the national security context." Gorsuch went to Columbia, Harvard and Oxford. He and Kavanaugh both went to Georgetown Prep high school.
JMC lists George Mason’s Civic Education Project as a partner. The program appears operated from 1991-2004. It “provided Western-trained teachers and lecturers in the social sciences to universities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union…” It was funded by George Soros.
The Scalia Law School has a dual-degree program with Christopher Newport University, which runs the Center for American Studies, a JMC partnership that teaches fellows about America’s founding principles and history, national security studies and the moral foundations of capitalism.
JMC has also received funding from Goldman Sachs and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Illinois donors include former IL Gov. Bruce Rauner and current IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
In 2015, Rauner signed a law requiring all IL high school students complete a semester-long civics course. The law allows for schools to utilize private funding for the “purposes of offering a civics education.” There are currently seven states that have Civics Education bills on their legislative agendas.
Other donors include Churchill Downs board member Craig Duchossois, Marshall Bennett, a pioneer industrial park developer and Barbara Bluhm Kaul, wife of real estate developer and casino magnate Neil Bluhm.
Bluhm’s Family Charitable Foundation gave Northwestern University $25 million in last June; $15 million to its School of Law and another $3 million to start the Bluhm Legal Clinic. He is a Northwestern Life Trustee. Bluhm is estimated to be worth $4 billion.
JMC partners with Northwestern to fund a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in Legal Studies. They prefer “candidates working at the intersections of constitutional innovation, politics, and law in the context of the rise of eighteenth century invention, new understandings of property, the Enlightenment, and the creation of the United States.”
Bluhm’s also the chairman of Rush Street, which operates casinos, restaurants, and hotels in Des Plaines, IL, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Schenectady. He also runs Rush Street Interactive, a regulated i-gaming platform in New Jersey and Rush Street Productions,’ which created the CBS network series “Poker Night in America.”
In 2008, the Illinois Gaming Board awarded a casino license to Bluhm’s Midwest Gaming Holdings Inc. Outside its $704 million worth of investments to build the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL, Midwest also agreed to pay the state $10 million a year for 30 years.
In 2016, Rivers paid $1.65 million in fines for hiring United Service Cos. to do security and maintenance work. Rick Simon, who runs United, has a history of “business and personal ties to reputed mob figures.”
Simon’s a former Chicago Police officer who did work for Ben Stein, Chicago’s “King of Janitors” who was a mob associate and convicted felon. Simon bought Stein’s companies from his family after his death. United also as a contract with O’Hare Airport, a deal Mayor Rahm Emanuel ok’d despite knowing Simon’s mob relations.
Simon’s also long-time friends with Ed Burke, the Chicago alderman under federal indictment for attempted extortion. His companies have given more than $70,000 to Burke’s political funds.
The same year Bluhm’s Rivers Casino was fined, he and his related entities, gave more than $800,000 to IL politicians Mayor Richard M. Daley ($227,500); former IL Gov, now prisoner, Rod Blagojevich ($56,500); IL AG Lisa Madigan ($46,000); IL Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke ($50,000) and her husband, Ed Burke, ($18,000).
Bluhm recently bought a $20 million penthouse at the Four Seasons Residences at the Surf Club in Surfside, FL. Groupon billionaire Co-Founder Eric Lefkofsky also owns a property there. Telecommunications tycoon Rajendra Singh also lives there. He’s a Trustee Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, which has worked with JMC for years and whose medical school Jack Miller donated million$ to. The building is 3 miles south of the Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach.
Bluhm’s also a minority owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls. Billionaire Jerry Reinsdorf owns the Sox and Bulls and has given million$ to No Labels, a political action group that claims to promote moderate politicians but is primarily backed by Republicans.
The Duchossois family is another billionaire gaming industry group who’s donated hundred$ of million$ to JMC and local universities it partners with.
Craig and Janet Duchossois gave the University of Chicago $100 million to create The Duchossois Family Institute, an “initiative that combines genetics, immunology, microbiome and big data to create ‘new science of wellness.” He’s also donated million$ to Roosevelt, Northwestern, IIT, Harper College and Loyola.
For the last nearly two decades, the Duchossois have donated hundred$ of thousand$ to Republicans George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Eric Cantor, Joe Walsh and Peter Roskam. Duchossois gave $30,000 to the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 fund.
Richard was previously the chairman of Arlington International Racecourse, the horse track in the Chicago suburbs he bought in the 1980s. He ran it with his son Craig until 2000 when they merged with Churchill Downs, the horse racing company that runs the Kentucky Derby. They both now sit on Churchill’s board of directors.
In the early 2000s, Richard was involved in building the Emerald Casino in Rosemont, IL. There were numerous mobsters as shareholders in the project. D&P Construction, a company owned by Josephine DiFronzo, sister-in-law of Chicago mob boss John “No Nose” DiFronzo, secretly began work on the site before the IL Gaming Board had given final approval. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley and is wife were also invested in the project.
Last November, Churchill Downs Inc. bought a 50.1% ownership stake in Bluhm’s Midwest Gaming and Entertainment, LLC., the parent company of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL. Bluhm remains as the board chairman.
Churchill has holdings in 12 racetrack and casino properties. Last year, it started purchasing new gaming properties after SCOTUS struck down the federal law that banned states from legalizing sports betting. Hours after the ruling, its stock price increased more than 15 points, from $294 per share.
Former NJ Gov. Chris Christie, who ultimately brought the case to SCOTUS (Christie v. NCAA), was following a ballot initiative NJ voters had approved in hopes of bringing in hundred$ of million$ in new state revenue.
IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to be the first state in the Midwest to pass the sports betting law. He’s counting on $200 million in licensing fees to help pay down the multi-trillion dollar state debt. Part of which could go toward Chicago’s $544 million 2019 education budget deficit.