Connect US Fund (CUSF)

Connect US Fund (CUSF)


* Contends that heavy-handed American foreign-policy decisions have frequently alienated people in other countries
* Maintains that pollution emitted by human industrial activity has set in motion a catastrophic trend of global warming
* Member of the Peace and Security Funders Group

The Connect US Fund (CUSF) grew out of a 2004 initiative by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, to create “a collaborative fund” through which a team of foreign policy advocates could “advance responsible U.S. global engagement in an increasingly interdependent world.” Thus was born CUSF. The Ford Foundation joined the collaborative in 2005, followed by the Atlantic Philanthropies in 2008, the Ploughshares Fund in 2009, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2010. Today CUSF is managed and administered by the Tides Center.

Suggesting that heavy-handed American foreign-policy decisions have frequently angered and alienated people in other countries across the globe, CUSF emphasizes that “the United States will only be successful in achieving critical foreign-policy objectives if it exercises power and influence in a manner that is widely perceived as legitimate, demonstrates foresight and responsibility to future generations, and emphasizes international cooperation.” Toward that end, the Fund has identified four broad areas of focus for its grant-making and operational work:

* Human Rights: Reasoning from the premise that American arrogance and unilateralism have poisoned U.S. relations with many nations, CUSF works to promote America’s “commitment to multilateral engagement on international human rights through [such measures as] forward movement on several global human rights conventions and treaties.” Along these lines, the Fund exhorts the United States to “engage” with the U.N. Human Rights Council, infamous for its passionate anti-Americanism and for a membership that includes some of the world’s worst human-rights abusers. Further, CUSF urges the United States to “cooperat[e]” with the International Criminal Court, which has been described by former UN Ambassador John Bolton as “one of the world’s most illegitimate multilateral institutions” because its “vast prosecutorial authority is unaccountable to any democratic polity.”

* Security: A member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, CUSF presses the United States to support “arms control treaties, a fissile material cut-off, and efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.”

* Development: CUSF works “to develop collaborative efforts to encourage U.S. leadership in reshaping and reforming the international financial architecture.” The subtext of this priority is a call for wealth redistribution across national borders, as embodied in CUSF’s advocacy of “trade preference reform”—i.e., the implementation of policies that extend duty-free preferences to exports from the world’s least-developed countries. Also supporting steep reductions in American military expenditures, CUSF seeks to address “the imbalance in resources between military and civilian agencies engaged in diplomacy and development.”

* Climate Change: Maintaining that pollution emitted by human industrial activity has set in motion a catastrophic trend of global warming, CUSF works to “help advocates, Congress, and the Administration determine how the U.S. can help generate the resources necessary to address developing country concerns [about climate change] and bridge the gap between North and South that will be necessary for reaching an international agreement.” Such an agreement would be predicated on “U.S. support for climate finance,” whereby affluent industrialized countries (of the Northern hemisphere) would be required to pay some type of compensation to the undeveloped countries of the South, on the theory that the latter suffer disproportionately from the environmental consequences of climate change.

In pursuit of these objectives, CUSF organizes briefings and meetings to address policy questions; provides training workshops to help activists refine their skills in the areas of fundraising, messaging, program evaluation, and public speaking; utilizes its website and newsletter as forums for capacity-building and the dissemination of information; uses op-eds and media appearances to “highlight neglected issues”; hosts gatherings of its grantees and community members “to facilitate networking”; and uses its working groups as forums where think tanks, grassroots organizations, lobbyists, and charitable foundations can come to agreement on common policy objectives and strategies.

In November 2006, Eric Schwartz, a former member of President Bill Clinton‘s National Security Council, joined CUSF as its first executive director. In early 2009, Schwartz left the Fund in order to take a position in the Barack Obama administration, as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.

CUSF’s president since July 2009 has been Nancy Soderberg, a longtime activist in national Democratic politics. Soderberg served as a foreign-policy director for the Clinton/Gore 1992 presidential campaign; a senior foreign-policy advisor to Senator Edward Kennedy; and Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 1993-97. In 1997 President Clinton appointed her as Alternate Representative to the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador. From 2001-2005, Soderberg headed the New York office of the International Crisis Group. In 2012, President Obama appointed her as chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board, an advisory committee established by Congress to promote pubic access to U.S. national-security decisions.

Over the years, CUSF has awarded grants to a host of organizations, including such notables as the Arms Control Association, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Blue Green Alliance Foundation, Campus Progress, Code Pink, the Common Cause Education Fund, Demos, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Fourth Freedom Forum, Friends of the Earth, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Human Rights First, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the League of Women Voters, the National Council of Churches, the National Priorities Project, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Women’s Law Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New America Foundation, Oxfam America, Physicians for Human Rights, the Ploughshares Fund, TrueMajority, the U.S. Climate Action Network, Women’s Action for New Directions, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund. (To view sources of information on CUSF’s grant-making activities, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Another noteworthy recipient of CUSF funding is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which “fights discrimination” against Iranian Americans; opposes “negative, inaccurate portrayals of Iranian Americans”; and features University of Michigan professor Juan Cole on its advisory board. A longtime apologist for the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Tehran, NIAC seeks to convince the American public that U.S. sanctions punishing Iran for its suspected nuclear ambitions would be “counterproductive.” Toward that end, the Council utilizes the services of public-relations specialist David Fenton and his firm, Fenton Communications.

To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Connect US Fund, click here.

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)

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