The conservative grassroots activist, author, and commentator talks to Michael E. Hartmann more about ideas, action, and giving, as well as some recent proposals to reform philanthropy.
“The overwhelming majority of ‘conservative’ donors, knowingly or unknowingly, are getting played by Conservatism, Inc., which is really about 90 percent of the so-called ‘conservative’ think tanks in D.C. but, quite frankly, it happens even in the smaller ones across the country,” according to conservative activist, author, and high-profile commentator Ned Ryun in a provocative American Greatness article last month. Well, that caught our attention here at The Giving Review.
“The question I have for donors, but even generally those on the Right,” he writes in “The Stupid Money on the Right Rides the Grift Train,” “is this (and if you’ve been paying attention, you know this is simply a yes/no question): do you think that the ‘Conservative Movement’ as currently constructed, can actually defeat the Left and save this country? I’ll give you a hint: The answer is no. As in, not even close.”
Ryun is founder and chief executive officer of American Majority—which trains potential candidates for public office, mostly at the state and local levels, and grassroots leaders and activists. Its affiliated American Majority Action engages in political activity.
He was a writer for President George W. Bush and also founded and directed Generation Joshua, a civics-education program for middle- and high-school students.
Ryun is the author of 2019’s Restoring Our Republic: The Making of the Republic and How We Reclaim It Before It’s Too Late and this year’s The Adversaries: A Story of Boston and Bunker Hill. With his father, Olympic medalist and former U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, and his twin brother Drew, Ryun also co-authored Heroes Among Us.
He was nice enough to join me for a conversation last month. During the first of two parts of our discussion, which is here, we talk aboutAmerican Majority, the Battle of Bunker Hill, conservatism’s attitudes about ideas and action, and conservatives’ giving. The almost 14-minute video below is the second part, in which we speak some more about ideas, action, and giving, as well as some proposals to reform philanthropy.
Ryun and Hartmann
“Action is the soul of revolution, right?” Ryun asks. “I say this all the time: you authenticate and validate what you believe by what you do. And I think we have a little bit of a disconnect in the conservative movement on that basic philosophy.”
Asked about some recent proposals from his fellow populist conservatives, prominently including J. D. Vance, to tax huge higher-education and private-foundation endowments under certain circumstances, Ryun says “I think you have to address what I call that the, the indoctrination centers of higher learning that are really hedge funds with a school attached,” adding that “if you were to really go down that path of colleges, you got to look at the nonprofit hospitals,” too.
“There were expectations for” the tax status of these entities and what they do, he continues, and
they haven’t been doing that. … I think you’ve got to go back and say, hey, if these were the terms that were laid out at the very beginning—whether you’re a college, university, or nonprofit hospital—we need to go back and say, are you actually staying true to why you have the nonprofit status? And if you’re not, well, then we’re going to completely re-examine that.