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Cable Guy

Bill Daniels made a fortune bringing cable to the West. But would he agree with how his legacy is being spent?

Brown dismisses the notion there has been a conservative coup at the Daniels Fund. "People weren't sorted out in terms of keeping their jobs based on philosophy," he says.

Droege won't be involved in determining which groups get grants, and he says the fund will never take a position on reproductive rights. "Abortion is not included in the bylaws; that will never be something the Daniels Fund is involved in," he adds.

School vouchers, however, are a different matter. Daniels specified that support for vouchers be included in the "innovative education" programs in which the fund would be involved. Droege, Saeman and Nicholson are proponents of allowing parents to use public funds to pay for private schools. And Schuck, a well-known Republican who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1986, is also a strong proponent.

Last year the fund gave out a total of $40 million to dozens of different programs in the four states, ranging from a Montessori school in Silver City, New Mexico, to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Of the total funding, between 2 percent and 3 percent went to support voucher programs, and Brown says that percentage could increase in the future.

Until last year, Jack Daniels, Bill's older brother, balanced the board's conservative tilt. A prominent New Mexico Democrat, Jack served as chairman of the board until he died, in September. His daughter, Diane Daniels Denish, is the remaining Daniels on the board.

Denish says she doesn't want to comment on the conflict-of-interest allegations against the Fund, but she's clear about her dissatisfaction with the closing of the New Mexico office.

"Uncle Bill often said, 'There's so much we can do with the touch of our fingers on a computer, but it can't replace the human touch,'" says Denish. "There's a difference between strategic philanthropy and check writing. We were a leader in philanthropy in New Mexico because we had an office here. I think that's what Bill Daniels wanted."

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