For More: alcoholinformation.org

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Financier of Temperance

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

The temperance-oriented Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) "seeks to drive adult beverage consumption underground, away from mainstream culture and public places." 1 It attempts to stigmatize alcohol, de-legitimize drinking, marginalize drinkers, and create a de facto quasi-prohibition of the legal product.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation spent over a quarter of a billion (that's billion, not million) dollars ($265,000,000.00) in just four years alone further developing and funding a nation-wide network of anti-alcohol organizations, centers, activist leaders, and opinion writers to promote its long-term goal.

An in-depth report, Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, demonstrates that "nearly every study disparaging adult beverages in the mass media, every legislative push to limit alcohol marketing or increase taxes, and every supposedly 'grassroots' anti-alcohol organization" is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 2 The foundation supports numerous temperance-oriented activists and groups including:

  • The Rand Corporation, whose studies in support of roadblocks and limiting access to alcohol are funded by RWJF.
  • The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), now calling itself the National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, whose many flawed studies have been widely refuted. CASA has received more than $35 million from RWJF since 1991.
  • The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), which exists for one purpose: to accuse alcohol ads of “targeting' underage drinkers” and “create public outrage” against them. RWJF established CAMY with a $5 million grant.
  • The Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention (HEC), which argues for "changing people's knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions regarding alcohol use," It also supports "reducing alcohol availability" and "reducing alcohol promotion and marketing." HEC -- an agency of the federal government -- receives “supplemental” funding from RWJF.
  • Ralph Hingson, formerly Vice President for Public Policy at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who published a deeply flawed report claiming that alcohol causes 1,400 deaths among college students each year. These findings were repudiated by the federal government's General Accountability Office or GAO. Hingson received a $300,000 fellowship from RWJF.
  • Jim Gogek, an editorial writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times accusing the governors of Maryland, New York and New Jersey of being bought and paid for by the alcohol industry because they oppose even higher 'sin' taxes. Gogek is paid $25,000 a year by RWJF.
  • Richard Yoast, who wrote a report called "The Alcohol Industry: Partner or Foe?" that argues there are two kinds of people: those who abuse alcohol, and those who abstain. The former shouldn't have access to it, the argument goes, and the latter won't care if you take it away. Yoast heads the American Medical Association's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. RWJF has given nearly $6 million to Yoast's office. 3
  • Henry Wechsler, who has received about $6,500,000 to date from RWJF to fund his College Alcohol Study project, in which he insists on using the misleading term "binge" to describe behavior that needn't even be intoxicated. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gave Wechsler about one million dollars just to publicize his inflated "binge" data and anti-alcohol recommendations. That obviously buys a lot of news coverage. For more, visit Henry Wechsler.

Other major parts of the Foundation’s temperance-oriented network include The Alcohol Policies Project, run by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Marin Institute, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, the Trauma Foundation, Join Together Online, Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, 4 ImpacTeen, Fighting Back, A Matter of Degree, 5 and Henry Wechsler’s College Alcohol Study project (often called the Harvard College Study).

A "teen" protest against alcohol advertising held in Washington at the Beer Institute was well-covered in news reports. However, virtually none of the reports revealed that the protest was actually organized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 6

Similarly, the following is a list of what appear to be grassroots organizations dedicated to reducing or preventing underage alcohol use:

  • Pennsylvanians Against Underage Drinking
  • Texans Standing Tall - A Statewide Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking
  • Louisiana Alliance to Prevent Underage Drinking
  • Oregon Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking
  • Missouri’s Youth/Adult Alliance Against Underage Drinking
  • National Capital Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking
  • Minnesota Join Together Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking
  • Georgia Alcohol Policy Partnership
  • Puerto Rico Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking
  • Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking
  • Partners to Reduce Underage Drinking in North Carolina
  • Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking

In reality, all of these groups are part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s nation-wide program to influence alcohol policy at both the state and federal levels.

These state organizations (many would call them “front groups”) are useful in opposing alcohol at the state and local level. For example, the Georgia Alcohol Policy Partnership appeared on the scene as soon as Six Flags Over Georgia sought permission for restricted beer sale only at certain times in its theatre and nowhere else within the entire park Its proposal resulted from consumer demand and an attempt to stay competitive with other theme parks. Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens and Universal Studies have all served beer for years throughout their parks without problems.

In spite of this, the Georgia Alcohol Policy Partnership opposed even such limited sales of alcohol, claiming that it would lead to underage drinking and various safety hazards. 7 This position appears to be motivated by a temperance agenda rather than an objective assessment of the facts. Of course, it does promote the goals of the funder, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The enormous Robert Wood Johnson Foundation not only spends very aggressively from its multi-billion dollar war chest to promote its agenda, but is also willing to engage in activities that appear unethical, if not actually illegal. 8 Apparently, the ends are seen as justifying the means to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To learn more, see Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 

References
  • 1. Center for Consumer Freedom. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda, April, 2003 (www.consumerfreedom.com/print_page.cfm?&type=headline&id=1868)
  • 2. Center for Consumer Freedom. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda, April, 2003 (www.consumerfreedom.com/print_page.cfm&type=headline&id=1868)
  • 3. Center for Consumer Freedom. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda, April, 2003 (www.consumerfreedom.com/print_page.cfm?&type=headline&id=1868)
  • 4. So-called children include 20-year-old married adults serving in the US armed forces. Such adults are also often referred to as “kids” by temperance-oriented writers and groups in order to justify treating them like small children.
  • 5. Expensive “Alcohol Prevention” Program Ineffective
    Failed “A Matter of Degree” Program Claims Success
    Alcohol Problems Go Down but Concern goes Up!
    “A Matter of Degree” Program to Prevent Alcohol Abuse is Ineffective
  • 6. Brody, D. Teens Rally in D.C. to Protest Underage Drinking. Focus on the Family (6-30-03); Zwukkucg, T. Students Protest Beer Company Advertising. Health-Reuters (6-27-03); National Youth Advocacy Assembly. Teens from Across the Country Rally in Washington DC to call on the Beer Institute to Honor its Marketing Code and Stop Targeting Teens. Press release (6-27-03); numerous other news reports.
  • 7. Taylor, M. Commission orders study of Six Flags beer sale plan. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 7-90-3.
  • 8. Gorman, L. Corruption's Dead Canaries. Independence Institute, 12-2-98 (http://i2i.org/Publications/Op-Eds/HealthCare/oped981202.htm)
Readings
  • Listing does not imply endorsement.
  • Mindus, D. Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Washington, DC: The Center for Consumer Freedom, 2003 (http://www.consumerfreedom.com/report_rwjf.cfm)
  • Center for Consumer Freedom. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda, April, 2003 (www.consumerfreedom.com/print_page.cfm?&type=headline&id=1868)
  • Foster, R. G. Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel. State College, PA: Lillian Press, 1999. Apparently an abstainer who tried to impose his views on his employees, Robert Wood Johnson created one of the world's richest and most powerful foundations. As one observer noted, the "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is not a respected non profit; it is under the control of left wing extremists who fund programs that further their social causes." The foundation tries to impose its temperance views on the entire American society, not just a few thousand employees. Robert Wood Johnson would be pleased with his foundation's anti-alcohol funding.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Annual Report. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2003.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Combating Alcohol Abuse. Chapter in: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To Improve Health and Health Care. Vol. VI. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2003.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Advances Newsletter. (quarterly) Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Free to Grow: Head Start Partnerships for Substance-Free Communities. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1998.