DonorsTrust

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DonorsTrust (DT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit started in 1999 "to ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise."[1] Along with its supporting 509(a)(3) organization Donors Capital Fund (DCF), it is a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a coordinating body for conservative foundations run by DonorsTrust co-founder, president, and CEO Whitney L. Ball.

Both funding organizations are "donor-advised funds," which means that the fund creates separate accounts for individual donors, and the donors then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. They cloak the identity of the original mystery donors because the funds are then distributed in the name of DT or DCF, contributing another step to what has been called a "murky money maze."[2]

The twin Donors organizations are advertised as a way for very wealthy people and corporations to remain hidden when "funding sensitive or controversial issues," creating a lack of accountability.[3]

According to co-founder Whitney Ball, if donors neglect to give DonorsTrust an intent statement, "DonorsTrust is free to distribute the funds as it sees fit."[4]

DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients

For a the full list of 2011 and 2010 grant recipients, see the DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients page.

What Donors Trust Funds, and How Much

In total, almost $311 million was granted through DT and DCF between 2002 and 2010, according to an in-depth report by John Mashey published by DeSmog Blog. The Koch brothers and other ultra-wealthy industrial ideologues appear to be cloaking an untold amount of their donations to conservative political outlets through DT and DCF. The obscure Knowledge and Progress Fund, controlled by Charles G. Koch, with Richard Fink as president, has given only to Donors since 2005, according to Mashey.[5][6]

Coincidentally, the related Philanthropy Roundtable chose to honor Charles G. Koch with its 2011 William E. Simon Prize for "Philanthropic Leadership," enabling him to choose a non-profit to receive a $250,000 grant. The Roundtable explained that Koch is at the "forefront of strategic investment in ideas, think tanks, and academic research. . . . Having benefited from the capitalist system, he wants others to prosper in the same way."[7]

According to Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist featured on PBS Frontline in October 2012, "by 2009, about one-quarter of the funding of the climate countermovement [of climate change denial] is from the Donors Trust [and] Donors Capital Fund." He added that "what you see is that as the contribution of Donors [to climate change denial groups] has increased over the 2003-to-2010 timeframe, the contribution of other foundations has declined. Koch went from a high of 9 percent of the funding flow in 2008 to 1 percent in 2010. We do know that the Koch brothers have made significant contributions to Donors Trust through their foundation called the Knowledge and Progress Fund. They gave $1.25 million in 2007, $1.25 million in 2008, and then $2 million in 2010 to Donors. We don’t know where it went after it goes to Donors, because it’s not necessarily a one-for-one giving."[8]

Donors Trust Money Trail (Source: Center for Public Integrity)

DonorsTrust promises to only funnel money to groups with an extreme anti-environmental bend, so industrial billionaires need not worry about their money winding up at Greenpeace, for example,[6] as DonorsTrust co-founder Whitney Ball explains:

"...if a donor names his child a successor advisor, and she wants to give to Greenpeace, we're not going to be able to do that."[4]

Groups that received funding through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund in 2010 include:[6]

Funding ALEC

According to the Center for Public Integrity, ten State Policy Network (SPN) think tanks received a total of $200,000 from DonorsTrust to attend American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meetings in 2011, including the Michigan-based Mackinac Center and the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which introduced anti-union model bills at ALEC’s spring 2012 conference.[10]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Funding Islamophobia in the United States

Research from the Center for American Progress (CAP) indicates that DCF has also funded various organizations and individuals contributing to an anti-Islamic hysteria in the United States. Between 2007 and 2009, the Donors Capital Fund contributed $21,318,600 to "groups promoting Islamophobia, some of which included the Middle East Forum, Clarion Fund, Investigative Project on Terrorism, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center." In 2008, Donors Capital contributions amounted to 96 percent of the Clarion Fund's financial resources, which allowed the organization to distribute a controversial video called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," which attempted to persuade Americans of the supposed Islamist threat during the 2008 election cycle.[11]

Funding Climate Change Denial

In February 2013, the Guardian reported that nearly US$120 million dollars from "conservative billionaires" were routed through two trusts, DonorsTrust and the Donors Capital Fund, who used a "secretive funding route" to channel the funds "to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change." The trusts were "operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC," and the funds "doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising 'wedge issue' for hardcore conservatives."[12]

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published a chart of the foundations and funds that gave money to DonorsTrust, and the organizations to which Donors Trust distributed the funds. In one example, DonorsTrust was a large supporter of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a think tank with a network of online media outlets in state capitals that covered climate change from a conservative point of view. According to IRS records, 95 percent of Franklin’s revenue in 2011 came from Donors Trust. The funding allowed Franklin to maintain tax-exemption as a “publicly supported” entity.

Personnel

Officers and Directors

As of April 2013:[13]

Staff

As of April 2013:[13]

  • Whitney L. Ball, President & Chief Executive Officer
  • Jeffrey C. Zysik, Chief Financial Officer & Chief of Information Technology
  • Jason W. Pompilio, Program Manager
  • Joy L. Simington, Finance & Administration Director
  • Lauren B. Vander Heyden, Outreach Manager

Contact Information

109 North Henry Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 535-3563
Fax: (703) 535-3564
Web Contact: http://www.donorstrust.org/AboutUs/ContactUs.aspx
Web: http://www.donorstrust.org

Resources and Articles

Related Sourcewatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources

References

  1. DonorsTrust, Mission & Principles, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  2. John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 19.
  3. DonorsTrust, FAQ, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Whitney Ball: The future of donor-advised funds, Philanthropy (a publication of the Philanthropy Roundtable), September/October 2005.
  5. John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 71.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Connor Gibson, Greenpeace, Meet the Network Hiding the Koch Money: "Donors Trust" and "Donors Capital Fund", PRWatch.org, originally published by Greenpeace, October 29, 2012.
  7. Philanthropy Roundtable, Winner of the 2011 William E. Simon Prize, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  8. Robert Brulle: Inside the Climate Change “Countermovement”, PBS Frontline, October 23, 2012.
  9. John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 67.
  10. Paul Abowd, "Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states: Nonprofit group lets donors fly 'totally under the radar,' Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013.
  11. Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir, Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, CAB, August 2011. See especially pages 15-17.
  12. Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 DonorsTrust, Directors & Staff, fund website, accessed April 2013.