As usual, right wing think tanks are spreading lies about anyone who funds liberal or progressive causes. Their latest target is Peter Lewis, Chairman of Progressive Insurance. In response to some nasty stuff Jeanette Mott Oxford received online from someone, she wrote back taking the points made by Lewis’ critics and turned them around. This is a wonderful example of how Democrats can be proactive in supporting the good people out there who help us financially. It’s time to stop playing defense and do some bragging about folks who care enough to put their money where their mouth is. I hadn’t heard of Peter Lewis until I saw this. Feel free to share with others.
“You know their TV commercials, the ones featuring the ditsy actress all dressed in white. What you might not know is that the Chairman of Progressive is Peter Lewis, one of the major funders of causes that stand for liberty and justice for all in America. Between 2001 and 2003, Lewis donated $15 million to the ACLU, the group most responsible for defending the religious freedoms that the founders of our nation secured for us through the First Amendment. For example, the ACLU has consistently fought for the right of Christians to practice their faith as guaranteed by our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. In 2004, the Presbyterian Church of the Awesome God in Lincoln was threatened with criminal penalties if they did not relocate. They were renting storefront space in a part of the city that was zoned industrial.
ACLU negotiations with the Planning Commission and the City Council resulted in churches being allowed to locate in any zone, industrial or otherwise. The ACLU also fought for the right of a Christian second-grader to sing “Our God Is An Awesome God” at a voluntary after-school talent show.
“Lewis also gave $12.5 million to MoveOn.org and Americans Coming Together:
– MoveOn formed as a way to call for arms inspections instead of a war in Iraq, a decision that now looks pretty sane given the lives lost there even though no weapons of mass destruction were found. They have circulated other petitions, calling for protecting our children from mercury and other pollutants, stating the need to get the influence of big money out of politics through campaign finance reform laws, and supporting other public policy changes that many believe would make our nation a more healthy and democratic nation.
– Americans Coming Together has focused on making sure that all eligible citizens register to vote and exercise their right and responsibility to do so. They have done special outreach to low-wage workers, for example, those who ride public buses to and from work. Often these citizens feel abandoned by both Republicans and Democrats who answer to high dollar donors instead of the average working man and woman. Americans Coming Together has shared a message that might be paraphrased as “this land is your land too, and YOU are what democracy looks like.”
Lewis’ funding for these groups was conditional on matching contributions from George Soros, a Hungarian-American businessman who played a major role in the peaceful transition of Hungary from communism to capitalism between 1984 and 1989. Soros has donated more than $35 million to underprivileged children in New York state, and he has also funded campaigns to change U.S. drug policy so that we stop spending so much money on locking up non-violent addicts who could be more successfully treated through medical treatment and community mental health programs instead of imprisonment.
Lewis made a fortune as a result of capitalism, and now finances several organizations that do nothing to weaken capitalism. His efforts call us to remember that government is a way that we care for the common good – through institutions that raise the quality of life for all of us – affordable education, safe drinking water, law enforcement, fire protection, roads/ports/bridges, the military, public libraries, and so much more. These institutions actually strengthen our ability to have a strong economy by ensuring that we have trained workers, inventions, infrastructure to take goods to market, natural resources that last for future generations, public safety in times of natural disaster or crime, etc.
Groups that Lewis funds sometimes hold Fox News accountable when they present misleading information that turns out not to be true, violating their own claim to be “fair and balanced.” The word “progressive” is used to describe what Lewis funds, and, at root, a progressive is someone who believes the U.S. must always be moving forward, correcting past mistakes (immoral policies like slavery, barring women from voting, etc.), and more fully living with “liberty and justice for all.”
Peter Lewis practices the capitalism that has built a large middle class in the U.S., selling a product that competes favorably with other insurance products. He makes no attempt to hide who he is – since the causes that he donates to all have to report his gifts publicly. He just stands up for what he believes in – as guaranteed by our rights to freedom of speech and freedom on assembly, also in the Bill of Rights. Many conservative Americans find his auto insurance a good buy and would agree with him that government has to work for the common good and that the influence of money is a terrible threat to American democracy. In fact, now that I know more about him, I am more interested in buying insurance from his company.”