Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Who Is Funding Terri's Parents?

As the pathetic case of Terri Schiavo nears a tragic end -- and the entire affair certainly is tragic, for Terri Schiavo, her husband, Michael; her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler; and their friends and relatives -- the parade of endless lawsuits also will end. But that brings to mind an interesting question.

Where are Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri's parents, getting the money for all this?

Certainly the most recent trips to the courtrooms -- a battle than began in 1993 -- are not free. Michael Schiavo was awarded $750,000 in a medical malpractice settlement for how Terri Schiavo was cared for after she suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage in 1990. But her parents are not rich.

The case has been a political case from the beginning, but even more so since 2003, when Florida Governor Jeb Bush filed a brief in federal court to support the Schindlers' efforts to keep their daughter on the sustenance tubes. That was on October 7. Two weeks later the Florida legislature passed "Terri's Law," which permits the governor to in effect trump the American system of checks and balances by overruling a court to issue a stay of any such decisions going against their wishes.

Since then the case has involved numerous appeals of decisions regarding "Terri's Law," which the Florida Supreme Court declared unconstitutional on Sept. 23, 2004. Since then, Gov. Bush -- a leading candidate for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination -- has been crusading tirelessly on behalf of the Schindlers.

If he's not using Florida tax money to do this -- and who knows what happens in that goofy state, but let's assume he's not -- then who's money is he, and the Schindlers, using?

Jon Eisenberg may have an answer. Eisenberg is an attorney who filed an amicus brief on behalf of 55 bioethicists and a disabilities rights organization. In researching an article for The Recorder, the American journal of bioethics, Eisenberg discovered that much of the funding for the Schindlers et. al. comes from the Philanthropy Roundtable. What is the Philanthropy Roundtable?

The Philanthropy Roundtable is a collection of foundations that have funded conservative causes ranging from abolition of Social Security to anti-tax crusades and United Nations conspiracy theories. The Roundtable members' founders include scions of America's wealthiest families, including Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune), Harry Bradley (electronics), Joseph Coors (beer), and the Smith Richardson family (pharmaceutical products).

I found a Web site called mediatransparency.com which tracks funding for these foundations. Using just that Web site and the Schindlers' own site, terrisfight.org, I learned of a network of funding connections between some of the Philanthropy Roundtable's members and various organizations behind the Schindlers, their lawyers and supporters, and the lawyers who represented Gov. Bush in Bush v. Schiavo.

Eisenberg goes on to cite examples of other groups these people have been involved with, such as the anti-abortion Life Legal Defense Foundation. Other, more familiar names surfacing include the Scaife Family Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, and the JM Foundation. More detail -- including a boatload of money trails -- can be found on the website dailykos.com, which adds links to the mediatransparency.org references that Eisenberg writes about.

Did we forget to mention that many of these groups also were instrumental in the decade-long battle to bring down Bill Clinton?

Unfortunately, like Terri Schiavo there are thousands of Americans in vegetative states. Doctors agree that many have no hope of recovery. It falls on the people closest to these victims to make the ultimate decision, a decision they and their loved ones will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Unlike Terri Schiavo, many of them don't live in a state where the governor is the heir-apparent to the royal family, a dynasty that seems bent on imposing its moral and ethical beliefs on America. So they don't have the benefit of the unimaginable financial resources that helped the royal family attain and maintain power. All they can do is pray for the guidance and the wisdom that they are doing the right thing, whatever they decide.

Who is funding Terri's parents? Ask Paula Jones.


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