Foundations Are Searching for Ways to Fix an Ailing Political Process

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Thomas Strand

The Joyce Foundation is among the grant makers supporting efforts to secure voting rights for people like Florence Hessing, 96, who was disenfranchised by a Wisconsin law that required photo identification.

As Robert Gallucci settled into his job as president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, he quickly became dismayed by how much his old home of Washington, where he’d spent a long career as a foreign-policy expert, followed him to Chicago.

Virtually every problem the MacArthur foundation tried to tackle would find itself snarled by inaction in the nation’s capital, says Mr. Gallucci, who joined the philanthropy in 2009.

Take America’s fiscal