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Cooper creates new government job for executive of prominent left-wing funder

From a news release issued Wednesday, Jan. 27:

North Carolina state government’s first philanthropy liaison will join Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration on March 1. The grant-funded role will focus on improving interaction between state government and the philanthropic sector, educating philanthropy and government about each other, and encouraging collaboration on projects across the state. Joy Vermillion Heinsohn will serve as Philanthropy Liaison, bringing more than 20 years of experience in the North Carolina philanthropic sector as well as a strong state and national network gained during her career with the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The Philanthropy Liaison is believed to be the first state government position of its kind in the nation and it joins state government at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for robust information sharing and collaboration to address shared priority issues.

Z. Smith Reynolds actually broke the news two days earlier, with a two-paragraph note on its website from Executive Director Maurice “Mo” Green.

Dear Friends of ZSR:

It is with sincere thanks to Assistant Director Joy Vermillion Heinsohn for her 22 years of wonderful service to the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, that I share with you that Joy has accepted a new position with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Administration, effective March 1, 2021. Her final day of work with ZSR will be February 5, 2021.

As you know, Joy has been integral to the success of the Foundation and will be missed. A more formal announcement of Joy’s departure from ZSR and her new position will be shared in the coming days; however, I wanted to let you know of this development at this time and to share a letter she has written to you.

Be well.

A letter from Vermillion Heinsohn to Z. Smith Reynolds supporters includes the following description of her new role.

The philanthropic sector in NC is rapidly growing and changing, with several new foundations on the scene with financial assets that our state has not previously seen. Simultaneously, our state and nation continue to reckon with issues of racial injustice, democracy, climate justice, education and economic inequality in ways that now are overlayed with a pandemic and its repercussions. I’ve spent my entire career thus far focused on how ZSR could be a partner to address these and other issues. Moving forward, building partnerships will be central to my new role in state government, which will focus on connecting state government and philanthropy to strengthen our collective ability to improve the quality of life of the people of North Carolina.

Those familiar with the “Mapping the Left” project initiated by the Civitas Institute will realize the significance of Cooper creating a job for a ZSR executive. Here’s the “Mapping the Left” profile on the governor’s newest staffer.

Why is it so significant that the governor would turn to ZSR for this newly created job within his official government office? Consider the following from Brian Balfour’s August 2020 Civitas article, “Leftist foundation buying influence?“:

A prominent left-wing foundation has pledged to give $50,000 to a task force created by Gov. Cooper.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the leading funder of left-wing causes in North Carolina and key player in the Blueprint NC coalition, recently announced their award to Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.

Recall that Blueprint NC was the group responsible for the infamous 2013 strategy memo calling on progressive groups to “cripple” and “eviscerate” Republican legislative leaders.

Z. Smith was the primary backer of Blueprint NC, an unabashedly hyperpartisan organization, giving the group $2.1 million between 2009 and 2013 alone.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...