Insurance executive Maurice Greenberg, chairman of the giant American International Group, has given generously through his company’s foundation to universities, think tanks and museums for China-related programs, the Washington Post reports.
But when Heritage Foundation analyst Stephen J. Yahtes wrote an "executive memorandum" suggesting that Congress postpone a vote on permanent normal trading relations with China, Greenberg wrote a letter threatening to cut off Starr’s grants to the leading conservative think tank.
Greenberg’s company would benefit from a trade deal with China.
Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner says the foundation was not unduly pressured by Greenberg’s threat.
Corporate contributions cover only 4 percent to 5 percent of Heritage’s budget, and the foundation recently completed a $100 million fundraising drive for an endowment.
Heritage did release a new report, however, titled "How Trade With China Benefits Americans."
And Feulner has tried to soothe Greenberg by highlighting Heritage’s long-time support for permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China.
Greenberg has declined to comment on what an AIG spokesman termed "an exchange of private letters."
Heritage is not the first organization to face the consequences of displeasing Greenberg: Last year, after reading an editorial critical of China in the Weekly Standard, Greenberg yanked AIG advertisements from the conservative magazine, magazine officials say.
The head of the Nixon Center, where Greenberg is president, does not see him as a meddler, however.
Dmitri Simes says Greenberg has never tried to alter the center’s positions, even when they have substantially diverged from Greenberg’s own.
Heritage analyst Yates says that while his new Heritage paper has a different emphasis from the March 10 memorandum that inflamed Greenburg, his views have changed.
"I’ve been on topic for four years now, and have had people from the right saying I was a godless heathen, and now people from the business community saying I’ve lost my way because I’m not 100 percent pro-business, "Yates says.
"I’ve been holding the lightning rod long enough to be shocked from both ends.”