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How One Private Foundation Is Undermining the Social Fabric


In a representative democracy, people elect others to represent their interests in matters pertaining to their government. But because power tends to corrupt many of those public servants forget that they are servants and start listening more to wealthy campaign contributors than to the people they are sworn to serve. This is how special interests wrest control of the people's government from the people. One such special interest is the Arnold Foundation. Never heard of it? Well, if you see someone who was arrested for robbing you at gunpoint pass you on the street the next day you have the Arnold Foundation to thank. And we'll tell you why.

Bail Bonds: The Easy Scapegoat

The Arnold Foundation was started in 2008 by former Enron executive John Arnold. Now the thing to understand about such foundations is that they are primarily used as a way for wealthy people to shield their riches from the tax man. The problem is, once you start a foundation that foundation has to have a purpose or it loses its tax-free status. After scouring the social justice landscape in search of a reason to justify his foundation's existence, Arnold decided that bail reform was a good candidate. And he set out to drag this obscure "cause" into the light.

But in order to do so effectively, the foundation would need a scapegoat. After spending millions of dollars researching the issue, they decided the bail bondsman was an easy target. Regardless of the vital role they play in ensuring accused criminals show up to face their accusers in court, Arnold realized they weren't very well-liked. After all, people were no more fond of forking over money to bondsmen when they got arrested than they were of paying lawyers. But bondsmen were nowhere near as numerous, well-organized or well-funded as lawyers. Therefore, painting them as the villains of the criminal justice system would be relatively easy.

Undermining Society One Algorithm at a Time

But before he could start his self-serving war on bail, Arnold needed to offer an alternative that the politicians he bought could hold up to their constituents. The result was the bail algorithm. The bail algorithm was designed by private programmers working for Arnold through a process that included zero government oversight. It is intended to replace the bondsman and wrest discretionary power from judges. But most of all it’s intended to ensure accused criminals don’t spend any time behind bars. How on earth could anyone get away with such a farce? Money.

Greasing the Wheels

While non-profits are forbidden by law from contributing directly to political campaigns, the people who control those non-profits are free to do as they please. And so Arnold and his wife began to contribute to a slew of influential politicians. They were among the largest private donors to both of President Obama's campaigns and forked over huge sums of money to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. All with the aim of buying the influence needed to push their bail algorithm onto an unsuspecting public.

Why Corrupt a Little When You Can Corrupt a Lot?

Not satisfied that the non-profit structure of his enterprise prohibited him from giving foundation money directly to politicians Arnold announced earlier this year that he and his wife would form a new "charitable" organization called "Arnold Ventures LLC." That "LLC" designation is key. Because as an LLC, there are no restrictions on how much money the Arnolds can give to politicians to buy influence. And where will the new venture get its funding from? Why from the allegedly non-profit and allegedly politically neutral Arnold Foundation of course.

So Arnold has found a way for his non-profit to contribute directly to political campaigns by simply laundering the money through the Arnold Ventures LLC first. Clever. And disturbing. Because what it means is that the Arnold Foundation will now be able to target specific politicians they feel stand in the way of their anti-bail crusade and shower money on them in return for their willingness to adopt bail reform as part of their platform.

Paying the Ultimate Price

As statistics prove time and again abandoning the centuries-old bail system leads invariably to higher crime, higher numbers of court no-shows and significantly higher costs for taxpayers. Don't believe it? Just ask yourself this question then: If bondsmen are outlawed, who pursues fugitives who don't appear in court? Currently, the bail bonding agent performs that task at no cost to the taxpayer. But if bail is eliminated who will do it? Sheriffs? They have neither the time nor the resources. Arnold? Please.

The correct answer is "no one." So not only will your assailant be immediately freed from custody to wave at you on the street; if he decides not to show up to face the assault charges in court, nobody will pursue him. This very thing is happening today, as you read this, in states like New Jersey and California. And it's all thanks to the Arnold Foundation. You can call that progress if you want. We call it undermining the social fabric.


When the Arnold Foundation and their paid political hacks try and convince you that abandoning bail in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County or Denver County is a good idea, use your vote to show them the door. The bail system may not be perfect, but simply opening the gates of the penitentiary like the Arnold Foundation wants to do is a recipe for chaos.

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