Karl Zinsmeister

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Karl Zinsmeister
Karl Zinsmeister 2017-03-31.jpg
Director of the Domestic Policy Council
In office
May 24, 2006 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Deputy Jess Sharp
Preceded by Claude Allen
Succeeded by Melody Barnes
Personal details
Born 1959 (age 57–58)
Baldwinsville, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education Yale University (BA)
Website karlzinsmeister.com

Karl Zinsmeister is an American journalist and researcher. From 2006 to 2009, he served in the White House as President George W. Bush's chief domestic policy adviser, and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. He is currently an executive at The Philanthropy Roundtable,[1] and a leading national authority on philanthropy and the power of private giving and voluntary action to solve public problems.[2]


Zinsmeister is a graduate of Yale University where he studied history and was a member of Manuscript Society. He also spent time as a special student at Trinity College, Dublin, in Ireland. He won college rowing championships in both the U.S. and Ireland.[3]

His first job in Washington was as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat. He was later named DeWitt Wallace Fellow, and eventually appointed to the J.B. Fuqua Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, where over three decades he researched a range of topics extending from social welfare and demographics to economics and cultural trends.[4]

Zinsmeister's writing has been published in periodicals ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Real Clear Politics and the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. He has been an adviser to many research and policy groups,[5] and has testified before Congress and Presidential commissions on topics like family policy, daycare, farm subsidies, and the Iraq war. He has made many appearances on television and radio.[6]

He has written a dozen books, including one released simultaneous with the 2016 elections on the best ways to solve future social problems,[7] a 2015 volume on how public policy is changed by savvy donors, and a 2014 look at charter school effectiveness (with a spinoff in the Wall Street Journal[8]). He wrote two books of Iraq War reporting, and other works on education, economics, and population trends. He also created a storytelling cookbook, and a non-fiction comic book.[9] In late 2015 he edited a book and published a companion essay in the Wall Street Journal predicting a revival of Catholic schools.[10]

In 2016, a major new reference book created by Zinsmeister, the Almanac of American Philanthropy, was published after three years of in-depth research.[11] The book has been described as the authoritative reference on private giving in the U.S.[12] It contains sections on America's greatest givers, living and dead; the major achievements of American philanthropy in nine areas (including Medicine, Education, the Arts, Religion, Overseas giving, Local projects, and so forth); an annotated list of essential readings in the field; a collection of leading quotes on philanthropy; a 22-page foldout timeline mapping important philanthropic events in the U.S. from 1636 to 3015. Zinsmeister's long introductory essay analyzes the cultural importance of philanthropy to the success of the United States.[13]

The American Enterprise[edit]

For a dozen years before becoming the White House Domestic Policy Adviser (1994 to 2006), Zinsmeister was editor-in-chief of The American Enterprise, a national magazine covering politics, business, and culture.[14]

Zinsmeister was an embedded journalist during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and then served three additional months-long embeddings with combat units during the insurgency stage of the war. He shot a documentary film about soldiers in Iraq, called "WARRIORS", which was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and nationally broadcast by PBS.[15]

He wrote three books of Iraq reporting. Boots on the Ground: A Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq, published in August 2003, was the first Iraq War book published by an embedded journalist. Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq was one of the first portrayals of the insurgency phase of the Iraq War. Combat Zone: True Tales of G.I.s in Iraq was a rare non-fiction graphic novel from Marvel Comics.[9]

White House employment[edit]

During his years in the West Wing, as director of the Domestic Policy Council, Zinsmeister was involved in policy making on topics like the 2008 mortgage and student-loan credit crises, immigration reform, housing, biotechnology and stem cell policies, airport congestion, education reform, transportation issues, health policy, faith-based schooling, an 8,000-job layoff in Ohio, poverty, crime, family policy, civil rights, and veterans affairs.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Some published work produced by the White House Domestic Policy Council under Zinsmeister:

  • Dole/Shalala Commission report on improving care for wounded warriors[25]
  • White House report on disadvantaged children served by faith-based urban schools[26]
  • White House report on progress in stem-cell science[27]
  • Immigration reform bill of 2007[28]

Post-White House career[edit]

After leaving the White House, from 2009 to 2010, Zinsmeister became an executive in his native region of upstate New York with L. & J. G. Stickley, an Arts and Crafts furniture manufacturing firm founded by Gustav Stickley. In 2011, he wrote a White House memoir. A storytelling cookbook, regional culture guide, and celebration of localism that he co-created with two of his three children, called Finger Lakes Feast, was published in 2012 and widely reviewed.[29]

Zinsmeister returned to Washington to serve as vice president at the Philanthropy Roundtable, an association of donors, where he has produced many books, magazines, and Web postings.[30] These include his 2016 illustrated book What Comes Next? How private givers can rescue America in an era of political frustration—which examines the relationship between politics and philanthropy in America, and presents a strategy for attacking national problems even if politics is gridlocked.

The Almanac of American Philanthropy,[31] is his definitive 1,342-page resource on the significance and history of the U.S. charitable sector. From Promising to Proven,[32] assesses the national importance of charter schools, and Agenda Setting,[33] is about how private donors transform American governance.

Books he has edited in recent years include two examining the country's best programs for job re-training [34] and helping difficult populations like the homeless, released prisoners, former addicts, and welfare recipients succeed in the workforce.[35] Catholic School Renaissance, analyzes the revival of inner-city Catholic schools and why that is important to the nation.[36] Serving Those Who Served[37] is a manual for the new field of philanthropy for veterans, service members, and their families—where Zinsmeister has been a leader, growing out of his military reporting and his veterans work at the White House.

Zinsmeister has recently conducted in-depth research on the inventive power and importance of science philanthropy,[38] which has powered innovations ranging from the world's greatest telescopes to medical breakthroughs like blood typing; organ transplants; vaccines for polio, yellow fever, and many other diseases; fundamental genetic discoveries; and seminal brain research; along with many other discoveries. He has also uncovered the nearly unknown history of "national-security philanthropy" in the U.S.—by which donors have made crucial contributions to defense of the nation, from before our founding to the present day.[39] He has analyzed who gives most to charity in the U.S.,[40] and tracked the rise of donations by Americans for overseas development work.[41] He has catalogued the private philanthropy that was crucial to creation of the state of Israel.[42]

His biographies of great philanthropists include profiles of Julius Rosenwald,[43] George Eastman,[44] Alfred Loomis,[45] and Oseola McCarty.[46]

Personal life[edit]

Zinsmeister is married and has three children.[3] He currently lives on a houseboat in Washington, D.C.[47]


  1. ^ Philanthropy Roundtable. "Karl Zinsmeister". Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  2. ^ New York Times. "The Billionaire Who's Building a Davos of his Own". 
  3. ^ a b KarlZinsmeister.com (November 2013). "Karl Zinsmeister". KarlZinsmeister.com. p. 1. 
  4. ^ AEI (December 1, 1997). "Fuqua Chair Established at AEI". American Enterprise Institute. p. 1. 
  5. ^ Michael Novak (2006). "Describes here his role in welfare reform". FirstThings.com. p. 1. 
  6. ^ C-SPAN (1987–2016). "C-SPAN biographical history". C-SPAN.org. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (November 5, 2016). "What Comes Next?". Amazon. p. 1. 
  8. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (March 29, 2014). "The Charter School Performance Breakout". Wall Street Journal. p. A11. 
  9. ^ a b Amazon. "Author Page". Amazon.com. p. 1. 
  10. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (November 26, 2015). "The Catholic School Revival". Wall Street Journal. p. A9. 
  11. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (December 19, 2015). "The Almanac of American Philanthropy". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 1,342. 
  12. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (November 12, 2016). "Almanac". Amazon. p. 1. 
  13. ^ Amazon (December 19, 2015). "Amazon listing: The Almanac of American Philanthropy". Amazon.com. p. 1. 
  14. ^ Michael A. Fletcher (May 25, 2006). "Editor at Conservative Magazine To Be Top Policy Adviser to Bush". Washington Post. p. A04. 
  15. ^ PBS (2007). "America at a Crossroads". PBS. p. 1. 
  16. ^ Spencer Hsu (May 23, 2007). "Chertoff Emerges as Linchpin". Washington Post. p. A19. 
  17. ^ Pete Winn (August 2006). "Key Bush Appointee Departs, Another Arrives". Citizen Magazine. p. 5. 
  18. ^ Sheryl Gay Stolberg (June 20, 2007). "Bush Will Pair Veto With New Cell Initiative". New York Times. p. A19. 
  19. ^ Michael Fletcher (October 1, 2007). "White House Aide Channels a Democrat on Fixing Nation's Social Ills". Washington Post. p. A17. 
  20. ^ WH (April 24, 2008). "White House Summit on Inner-City Children". Whitehouse.gov. p. 1. 
  21. ^ Marc Pitzke (July 31, 2008). "DHL Deal With UPS Turns Political". Business Week. p. 1. 
  22. ^ Mike Allen (July 30, 2008). "Bush signs housing bill in private". Politico. 
  23. ^ Chaz Muth (October 26, 2008). "White House report aims to keep inner-city Catholic schools open". Catholic News Service. p. 1. 
  24. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (October 24, 2008). "Progress in Education: How the White House Sees It". New York Times. p. A18. 
  25. ^ President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors (July 2007). "Serve, Support, Simplify" (PDF). The White House. p. 1. 
  26. ^ White House Domestic Policy Council (September 2008). "Preserving a Critical National Asset" (PDF). U.S. Department of Education. p. 1. 
  27. ^ White House Domestic Policy Council (January 2007). "Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life". The White House. p. 1. 
  28. ^ Library of Congress (May 9, 2007). "Summary, Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007". govtrack.us. p. 1. 
  29. ^ FingerLakesFeast.com (2012). "FingerLakesFeast". FLF. p. 1. 
  30. ^ staff page (2015). "StaffBio". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 1. 
  31. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (2016). "The Almanac of American Philanthropy". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 1,342. 
  32. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (2014). "From Promising to Proven". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 1. 
  33. ^ Karl Zinsmeister, John J. Miller (2015). "Agenda Setting". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 1. 
  34. ^ David Bass (2016). "Learning to be Useful". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 132. 
  35. ^ David Bass (2015). "Clearing Obstacles to Work". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 138. 
  36. ^ Andy Smarick and Kelly Robson (2015). "Catholic School Renaissance". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 144. 
  37. ^ Thomas Meyer (2013). "Serving Those Who Served". The Philanthropy Roundtable. p. 208. 
  38. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (Summer 2016). "The Power of Science Philanthropy". Philanthropy magazine. p. 18. 
  39. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (Summer 2015). "Donors Who Come to the Aid of Their Country". Philanthropy magazine. p. 18. 
  40. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (Summer 2013). "DoNation". Philanthropy magazine. p. 8. 
  41. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (Winter 2012). "Unto the Nations". Philanthropy magazine. p. 34. 
  42. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (Fall 2016). "Founding Funders". Philanthropy magazine. p. 31. 
  43. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (2015). "Julius Rosenwald". Philanthropy Hall of Fame. p. 1. 
  44. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (2015). "George Eastman". Philanthropy Hall of Fame. p. 1. 
  45. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (2015). "Alfred Loomis". Philanthropy Hall of Fame. p. 1. 
  46. ^ Karl Zinsmeister (2015). "Oseola McCarty". Philanthropy Hall of Fame. p. 1. 
  47. ^ Harvey (2015). "Bookbio". McBooks Press. p. fly. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Claude Allen
Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Succeeded by
Melody Barnes