Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.
Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
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." 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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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, 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."
Groups that received funding through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund in 2010 include:
- Americans For Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation), $7.6 million from Donors groups in 2010, 43% of its budget (AFP Foundation is chaired by David H. Koch and has received millions in direct funding from Koch Family Foundations since the Koch brothers founded it);
- Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), $1.3 million from Donors in 2010, 45% of its budget;
- Cornwall Alliance (through the James Partnership), $339,500 from Donors in 2010, 75% of its budget;
- Heartland Institute, $1.6 million from Donors in 2010, 27% of it's budget (coming from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid; and
- State Policy Network (SPN), 36% of its 2010 budget ($4.8 million) from Donors (SPN's regular and associate members include climate-denying organizations and many of the country's conservative think tanks and advocacy organizations, including AFP and Heartland).
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.
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.
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."
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.
Officers and Directors
As of April 2013:
- Whitney L. Ball, President & CEO
- Kimberly O. Dennis, Chairman (President, Searle Freedom Trust)
- James Piereson, Vice Chairman (President, William E. Simon Foundation)
- Nathaniel C. Moffat (Moffat & Company)
- William J. Hume (Chairman of the Board, Basic American, Inc.)
- Jeffrey C. Zysik, Secretary-Treasurer (Chief Financial Officer & Chief of Information Technology, DonorsTrust)
As of April 2013:
- 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
Resources and Articles
Related Sourcewatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
- Philanthropy Roundtable
- William E. Simon Foundation
Related PRWatch Articles
- Center for Media and Democracy, Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks, press release, November 13, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters’ Guide to the "State Policy Network": the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States, PRWatch.org, April 4, 2013.
- Sara Jerving, ALEC and Heartland Aim to Crush Renewable Energy Standards in the States, PRWatch.org, November 27, 2012.
- Connor Gibson, Meet the Network Hiding the Koch Money: "Donors Trust" and "Donors Capital Fund", PRWatch.org, October 29, 2012.
- Brendan Fischer, Koch-Funded Mackinac Center Brings Wisconsin Act 10 Provisions to ALEC, PRWatch.org, May 2, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 31, 2011.
- Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Granite State Progress, Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- ProgressOhio, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Keystone Progress, Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Texas, TPPF + ALEC, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- One Wisconsin Now, S is for Shill: Inside the Bradley Foundation's Attack on Public Education, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Consider the Source, February 14, 2013.
- John R. Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 74.
- Andy Kroll, The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, Mother Jones, April 25, 2011.
- Guidestar, State Policy Network, IRS filings and other organizational information about SPN.
- Center for Policy Alternatives, ALEC and the Extreme Right-Wing Agenda, organizational brochure about ALEC and SPN.
- John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom: Conservative think tanks — mini–Heritage Foundations — at the state level, National Review, November 19, 2007.
- Bridge Project, State Policy Network, online resource listing grants to SPN and SPN's connections to other groups.
- People for the American Way, State Policy Network, RightWingWatch.org, organizational resource.
- Greenpeace, Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group: State Policy Network (SPN), organizational resource.
- ↑ DonorsTrust, Mission & Principles, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
- ↑ John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 19.
- ↑ DonorsTrust, FAQ, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Whitney Ball: The future of donor-advised funds, Philanthropy (a publication of the Philanthropy Roundtable), September/October 2005.
- ↑ John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 71.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ Philanthropy Roundtable, Winner of the 2011 William E. Simon Prize, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
- ↑ Robert Brulle: Inside the Climate Change “Countermovement”, PBS Frontline, October 23, 2012.
- ↑ John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 67.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 DonorsTrust, Directors & Staff, fund website, accessed April 2013.