Why Wall Streeters Love The Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is located in Midtown, and some of its funders, and certainly many of its recent trustees, work on Wall Street. The Manhattan Institute was founded some thirty years ago, and works to "develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility". The institute was founded by William J. Casey, who later became President Reagan's CIA director, and also coauthored the controversial book, The Bell Curve.

The Manhattan Institute tackles a wide range of issues including healthcare, higher education, public housing, prisoner reentry, and polici ng. Speaking of policing, the Manhattan Institute was at the forefront of the controversial broken windows policing strategy which emerged in the 1990s. Some of the Manhattan Institute's ideas are said to have influenced leaders like Former Mayor Giuliani, who has spoken at the institute. 

The Manhattan Institute also publishes a quarterly called the City Journal, currently hosts fellows such as linguistics professor and writer John McWhorter, and also runs a number of centers, including the Center for the American University. Charles Sahm, director of Education Policy at the institute, meanwhile, recently wrote an article, supportive of Success Academy charter schools in New York, and its founder Eva Moskowitz.

Given that the institute is engaged in major policy questions in New York and beyond, it's no surprise that its board of trustees is packed with wall streeters, who in addition to business, have attempted to tackle some of these questions in their philanthropy.

Just who amongst this group has been funding the Manhattan Institute of late and why have they been doing so?:

1. Paul E. Singer

Well, the current chairman of the board of trustees at the Manhattan Institute is Paul E. Singer of Elliott Management Corporation. I've written about this billionaire funder before and the Paul E. Singer Foundation which describes itself as supporting "innovative and effective organizations that work to strengthen our American democracy and democracies around the world." The Manhattan Institute received $250,000 from Singer in 2010, though there's no trail of him having given since. It's worth noting, though that Singer has a strong interest in charters and has supported Harlem Village Academies, East Harlem Tutorial Program and — you guessed it — Success Charter Network. Singer's alma mater, University of Rochester, meanwhile is the site of the Singer Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching. As well, Singer has been active politically, on the one hand, giving to Republican politicians, and on the other, supporting gay rights in New York. Singer has a gay son.

Related: Four Things to Know About Paul Singer's New York City Philanthropy

Finally, Jay H. Newman, a lawyer who joined Singer's Elliott Management in the 1990s, is also a trustee at the Manhattan Intitute, though it's unclear what his philanthropic contributions have been.

2. Richard Gilder

The history-obsessed Richard Gilder, who played a pioneering role in the Central Park Conservancy in the 1980s, and cofounded the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at his alma mater Yale, also plays a prominent role at the Manhattan Institute. He's currently chairman emeritus and like Singer (and many other wall streeters), is into education reform as well. Gilder has steadily supported the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, which describes itself as an "independent, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to improving education in New York State by promoting accountability, stimulating innovation, and supporting school choice efforts."

3. Ravenel Curry

Ravenel Curry and his wife Elizabeth, cofounders of Eagle Capital Management, hve given $250,000 to the Manhattan Institute in the each of the last two tax years we have available. In addition, Ravenel Curry IV, the couple's son, is a founding board member of Public Prep, which opens charter schools for children in New York City. In 2013, a $1 million gift also went to Uncommon Schools, a network of public charter schools in the Northeast. Apart from the Manhattan Institute, Curry has also supported the American Enterprise Institute. In fact, American Enterprise Institute is the site of the Beth and Ravenel Curry Chair in Free Enterprise, which was created with a $3 million gift from the couple.

4. Roger Hertog

Hertog, one of the founding partners of Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, is a veteran philanthropist and has served as chairman emeritus of the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute, as well as on the board of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He was also a backer of the now defunct right-leaning New York Sun newspaper. In education, Success Charter Schools is one of Hertog's grantees.

5. Cliff Asness

Clifford Asness is a cofounder of AQR Capital Management, and a trustee at the Manhattan Institute. While he recently made some controversial comments about global warming, he also backed a push to legalize gay marriage in 2011, and also wrote a piece for the American Enterprise Institute criticizing his fellow Republicans for not taking up the issue of civil rights more forcefully.


There are plenty of other funders I could mention on this list. Kenneth M. Garschina of Mason Capital Management who's supported Rand Paul, Robert Rosenkranz of Delphi Financial Group, and many others. A common thread with a lot of these wall street guys is that they're deeply into civic life in New York City and beyond, with their hands in a lot of different areas. Clearly, a multifaceted policy shop like the Manhattan Institute helps harness a lot of these different interests.