Searle Freedom Trust
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The Searle Freedom Trust (SFT), formerly called the D&D Foundation, is a conservative 501(c)(3) private foundation, consisting of wealth inherited from pharmaceutical G.D. Searle & Company, which created the artificial sweetener aspartame marketed as "NutraSweet" and is now part of Pfizer. Daniel C. Searle formed the trust in 1988 in order to back his ideas as a "free enterprise conservative," according to former board member Howard J. Trienens. The foundation funds Americans for Prosperity, the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heartland Institute, State Policy Network, and many other right-wing groups. Kimberly O. Dennis is its executive director. The trust describes itself as intending to "foster research and education on public policy issues that affect individual freedom and economic liberty."
In 2011, SFT reported a total annual revenue of $12,934,631 and distributed $14,965,418 in grants, contributions, and gifts.
- 1 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 2 Ties to DonorsTrust, a Koch Conduit
- 3 Finances and Funding of the Right Wing
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Contact Information
- 6 Articles and Resources
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
Searle Freedom Trust gave $125,000 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2011. The organization funded the research and publication of at least the third and fifth editions of ALEC's Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index report.
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.
Ties to DonorsTrust, a Koch Conduit
DonorsTrust is considered a "donor-advised fund," which means that it divides its funds into separate accounts for individual donors, who then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. Funds like DonorsTrust are not uncommon in the non-profit sector, but they do cloak the identity of the original donors because the funds are typically distributed in the name of DonorsTrust rather than the original donors. Very little was known about DonorsTrust until late 2012 and early 2013, when the Guardian and others published extensive reports on what Mother Jones called "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement."
The Searle Freedom Trust contributed $1,880,000 to DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2009 and 2011 (see links to the foundation's IRS forms 990 below).
A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group's largest known contributors, having donated nearly $9 million from 2005 to 2012. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.
Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets. According to the organization's tax documents, in 2011, DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to conservative organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion. In 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy released a special report on SPN. Those who received DonorsTrust funding included media outlets such as the Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute, as well as think tanks such as SPN itself, the Heartland Institute, Illinois Policy Institute, Independence Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, South Carolina Policy Council, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Cascade Policy Institute.
Finances and Funding of the Right Wing
2011 Finances and Donations
In 2011, SFT reported a total of $2,795 received in contributions, gifts, and grants. SFT paid a total of $14,965,418 in contributions, most of which went to conservative organizations. Searle Freedom Trust donated to State Policy Network (SPN) and the following SPN members:
- American Legislative Exchange Council - $175,000
- Atlas Economic Research Foundation - $50,000
- Cato Institute - $225,000
- Competitive Enterprise Institute - $175,000
- DonorsTrust - $1,796,000
- Goldwater Institute - $75,000
- Heritage Foundation - $125,000
- Manhattan Institute - $500,000
- Pacific Research Institute - $350,000
- State Policy Network - $464,000
- Texas Public Policy Foundation - $100,000
2010 Finances and Donations
In 2010, SFT reported a total of $17,157,662 received in contributions, gifts, and grants, which came from the related DC Searle Trust (named for Daniel C. Searle). SFT paid a total of $14,499,689 in contributions, most of which went to conservative organizations. Searle Freedom Trust donated to the following members of the State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council - $125,000 for "Rich States Poor States, 3rd Edition" (see above)
- Americans for Prosperity Foundation $100,000 for "RightOnline blogger development" ("a project of Americans for Prosperity Foundation dedicated to advancing liberty and prosperity for all Americans through greater citizen participation online")
- Cato Institute - $200,000
- Competitive Enterprise Institute - $175,000
- DonorsTrust - $30,000 for marketing
- Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (which fights anti-bullying laws on campus, among other things) $75,000 for "Spotlight website"
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity $87,500 for "watchdog websites"
- Goldwater Institute - $50,000
- Heritage Foundation - $295,000 for "Case Against Tenure book," "marketing of book by Naomi Riley on tenure," and "nuclear energy film"
- Institute for Humane Studies (also at George Mason University) $325,000 for "Dan Searle Fellowships," "popular culture initiative," and "journalism internships"
- Manhattan Institute - $450,000 for "Center for the American University," "SFT Fellowship for Nicole Gelinas"; "Center for State & Local Leadership/Moving Men into the Mainstream," and "Center for Energy Policy & the Environment"
- Mercatus Center (also at George Mason University) $250,000 for "new program of Masters degrees in Applied Econ.," "Regulatory Studies Program; Veronique de Rugy & Jerry Brito's work on budget," and "financial markets working group"
- National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation $75,000 for "card check legal defense program"
- National Taxpayers Union Foundation $40,000 for "Bill Tally"
- Pacific Research Institute - $200,000 for "truth about ObamaCare" and "environmental almanac"
- State Policy Network- (a network of right wing think tanks in all 50 states) $371,500 for "State Budgets in Crisis project" and "RFP on state spending policy"
- Texas Public Policy Foundation - $95,000 for Center for Tenth Amendment Studies
Other Searle Freedom Trusts grantees in 2010 included a veritable who's who of right wing organizations and causes:
- Philanthropy Roundtable - $100,000
- American Enterprise Institute $100,000 for "tax and public finance"
- Dick Armey's Freedomworks Foundation $60,000 for a "blogger conference"
- George Mason University $1,149,949 for a range of departments and projects for "Case Against Tenure book," "marketing of book by Naomi Riley on tenure," and "nuclear energy film"
- Lucy Burns Institute $25,000 for "Ballotpedia"
- Property and Environment Research Center (former Political Economy Research Center, a think tank specializing in so-called "free market environmentalism") $246,000 for "workshops on environmental economics," "Julian Simon fellows," and "media fellows"
- STATS - $154,000 for a "Gene Policy and Science Literacy Project" which has been linked agribusiness think tanks 
2008 Finances and Donations
- ACCF Center for Policy Research - $60,000 for Capital Gains Tax Research
- Action Institute - $50,000 for Documentary Video Shorts
- Africa Fight Malaria - $50,000 for Regulation of Counterfeit Drugs
- America's Future Foundation - $31,000 for College Blogger Award
- American Enterprise Institute - $500,000 for D.C. Searle Chair for Chris Dumuth; $1,000,000 for Tax/Public Finance
- American Family Business Foundation - $46,400 for Dynamic Analysis of Death Tax Repeal
- American Film Renassaince - $300,000 for Seed Funding
- American Legislative Exchange Council - $100,000 for Rich States Poor States
- Americans for Prosperity - $50,000 for Earmarks and Electivity Project
- Americans for Tax Reform - $44,000 for Web 2.0 Training; $100,000 for Web 2.0 Training
- Capital Research Center - $35,000 for Soros Watch
- Center for Competitive Politics - $125,000 for Litigation Program
- Center for Independent Thought - $75,000 for Stossel in the Classroom
- Citizens Against Government Waste - $50,000 for State Piglet Books
- Claremont Institute - $75,000 for Fellows Program
- Collegiate Network - $140,000 for Professionalism Journalism Development Award
- Competitive Enterprise Institute - $50,000 for Warrant T. Brookes Journalism Fellowship; $175,000 for Climate Change/Tobacco Legislation
- Donor's Trust - $40,000 for Initiative on Race Preferences; $200,000 for Litigation on Race Preferences; $30,000 for Marketing; $100,000 for Supply Side Institute
- Duke University Political Science - $53,100 for Postdoctoral Fellowships
- Encounter Books - $30,000 for Manifest on Media Freedom
- Ethics and Public Policy Center - $75,000 for Work by Ed Whelan
- Evergreen Foundation - $50,000 for scrapthecode.org
- Federalists Society - $300,000 for Fellows in Law/Research Fellowships
- Foundation for Individual Rights in Education - $75,000 for "Spotlight" Website
- Fraser Institute - $100,000 for Economic Freedom
- George Marshall Insitute - $60,000 for Study on Impact of Mandate Greenhouse Reductions
- George Mason University Foundation - $109,371 for Reseach Sabbatical
- GMU Economics Department - $60,000 for Postdoctoral Fellowships
- Grassroot Insitute of Hawaii - $25,000 for Akaka Bill Studies
- Harris School of Public Policy - $29,650 for Sabbatical for Chris Berry
- Harvard University - $115,000 for Graduate and Post Doc Fellowships; $50,000 for Program on Education Policy
- Heritage Foundation - $80,000 for Cost of Climate Change
- Hoover Institution - $200,000 for Uncommon Knowledge
- Independent Women's Forum - $75,000 for Family Medical Leave Act
- Institute for Humane Studies - $250,000 for Fellowships/Pop Culture Intitative
- Institute for Research on Economics and Taxation - $80,000 for Capital Gains Tax Research
- Institute for Justice - $200,000 for Strategic Research Program
- Iowa State University - $50,000 for Reaserach on 3R Policies
- John Locke Foundation - $30,000 for Carlina Journal TV
- KTC Hedge Products - $37
- Madison Dearborn Capital - $84
- Manhattan Institute - $450,000 for MMM Project
- Mercatus Center - $40,000 for Fellowships for M.A.S. in Economics; $190,000 for Regulatory Studies
- Moving Picture Institute - $100,000 for Internship
- Natinal Right to Work Foundation - $75,000 for Card Check Instant Organizaing Task Force
- National Council on Teacher Quality - $100,000 for Ratings of School Education
- National Review Institute - $45,000 for Fellows Program
- National Taxpayers Union Foundation - $40,000 for Bill/Vote Tally
- Pacific Legal Foundation - $80,000 for Endangered Species Act
- Pacific Research Foundation - $180,000 for Environmental Index; $100,000 for Benjamin Rush Society
- Philanthropy Roundtable - $100,000 for Donor Recruiting
- Property and Environment Reseach - $5,000 for Fellows; $161,000 for Workshops
- Reason Foundation - $75,000 for Grant for line plot; $160,000 for New Media Fellowship; $500,000 for Reason TV
- School Performance, Inc. - $100,000 for Brighter Choice
- Searle Center on Law/Regulation - $400,000 for Civil Justice Institute
- Social Security Foundation - $50,000 for Book Launch
- Stanford Instute - $248,000 for Postdoctoral Fellowships
- State Policy Newtork - $30,000 for RFP on State Spending Policy; $300,000 for Budget/Tax RFP; $30,000 for State Budget Cuts
- Tax Foundation - $150,000 for Putting a Face on America's Tax Returns; $77,500 for Federal Tax and Spending Policies
- Thackeray Partners - $10
- The Advisors - $647
- UC Regents - $100,000 for Grant for Affirmative Action; $360,000 for Initiative on Race Preferences
- University of Chicago - $22,500 for PHD Fellowships; $29,650 for School Sabbatical
- University of Pennsylvania - $40,000 for Market and the Environment
- University of Texas - $26,000 for Edgewood Voucher Project
- Witherspoon Insitute - $12,155 for Fellowship Support Catherine Pakaluk
- Yale University - $249,600 for Law Clinic
2006 Finances and Donations
Searle Freedom Trust's 990 Tax Form for 2006 shows that the foundation made the following grants and donations in the 2006 fiscal year:
- Action Institute, Grand Rapids MI - $50,000
- American Enterprise Institute, Washington D.C. - $194,000
- American Docs. Inc., Yucaipa, CA - $225,000
- American Film Renaissance, Dallas, TX - $75,000
- Americans for Prosperity, Washington D.C. - $25,000
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Washington D.C. - $100,000
- Brookings Institute (to support economic institutes for judges), Irving CA - $100,000
- Capital Research Center, Washington D.C. - $25,000
- Case Western University (Center for Business Law and Regulations), Cleveland, OH - $16,125
- Cato Institute, Washington D.C. - $100,000
- Citizens Against Government Waste, Washington D.C. - $25,000
- Claremont Insitute, Claremont, CA - $100,000
- Clemson University (Post Doctorate Fellowship), Clemson, SC - $70,00
- Collegiate Network, Wilmington, DE - $120,000
- Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington D.C. - $160,000
- Donors Trust, Alexandria, VA - $692,000
- Ethics and Public Policy Center (For work on judicial appointments), Washington D.C. - $50,000
- Federalist Society, Washington D.C. - $150,000
- The Foundation, Culver City, CA - $25,000
- Free Enterprise Institute, Washington D.C. - $75,000
- George Mason University (School of Public Policy/ ATC Study), Fairfax, VA - $20,000
- George Mason University (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science) - $45,000
- George Mason University (Law and Economic Center) - $80,000
- Harvard University, Cambridge, MA - $250,000
- Heritage Foundation, Washington D.C. - $100,000
- Institute for Humane Studies, Arlington, VA - $245,000
- Institute for Justice, Arlington, VA - $150,000
- Kinship Foundation, Northbrook, IL - $20,000
- Manhattan Institute, New York, NY - $300,000
- Mercatus Center, Arlington, VA - $100,000
- Moving Pictures Institute, New York, NY - $100,000
- National Council on Teacher Quality, Washington D.C. - $226,000
- National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Springfield, VA - $65,000
- National Taxpayers Union Foundation, Alexandria, VA - $40,000
- Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento, CA - $100,000
- Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, CA - $140,000
- PERC, Bozeman, MT - $85,000
- Reason Foundation, Los Angeles, CA - $250,000
- Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford, CA - $10,800
- State Policy Network (SPN), Richmond, CA - $248,500
- Tax Foundation, Washington D.C. - $100,000
- Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Washington D.C. - $40,000
- University of Chicago (Becker and Murphy Course on Price Theory), Chicago, IL - $22,500
- University of Chicago (Chicago workshop on black - white inequality) - $147,800
- University of Virginia (Research on Housing Policy), Charlottesville, VA -$36,215
As of November 2012:
As of October 2013:
Kimberly O. Dennis
President and CEO
kdennis -at- searlefreedomtrust.org
cmyers -at- searlefreedomtrust.org
rtren -at- searlefreedomtrust.org
galexander -at- searlefreedomtrust.org
jeakle -at- searlefreedomtrust.org
The contact information given on the organization's website as of June 2013 is:
1055 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, Suite L 26
Washington, DC 20007
Email: See above.
The address given on the organization's most recent (2011) IRS Form 990 is of the Kinship Trust Company which manages finances for private clients:
Kinship Trust Company
303 W. Madison Ave., Ste. 1800
Chicago, IL 60606
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Ed Pilkington, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
- Tom Philpott, The making of an Agribusiness Apologist, Mother Jones, Feb 24, 2012.
- Searle Freedom Trust, 2010 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 15, 2011.
- Searle Freedom Trust, 2011 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 21, 2012.
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, organizational report, July 2012.
- 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.
- Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
- Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients, SourceWatch.org, accessed December 2014.
- Paul Abowd, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013.
- Donors Trust, GuideStar.org, IRS form 990, 2011.
- Tom Philpott, The Making of an Agribusiness Apologist, Mother Jones, February 24th, 2012.
- Searle Freedom Trust 2006 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, accessed November 20, 2013.
- Searle Freedom Trust, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 15, 2012.
- Searle Freedom Trust, Contact Us, foundation's website, accessed October 2013.
- Searle Freedom Trust, Contact Us, organizational website, accessed November 2012.