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.[1] The trust describes itself as intending to "foster research and education on public policy issues that affect individual freedom and economic liberty."[2]

In 2011, SFT reported a total annual revenue of $12,934,631 and distributed $14,965,418 in grants, contributions, and gifts.[2]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Searle Freedom Trust gave $125,000 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2011.[1] 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.[3]

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, and check out breaking news on our 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.[4] 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."[5][6]

Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded and funded by the Koch brothers, received nearly $9.5 million from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund from 2010 to 2012.[7]

DonorsTrust Funding

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.[8]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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:[2]

Another major industry-connected right wing organization that received donations from the Searle Freedom Trust in 2011 was the Philanthropy Roundtable, which received $100,000.[2]

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:[1]

Other Searle Freedom Trusts grantees in 2010 included a veritable who's who of right wing organizations and causes:[1]

2008 Finances and Donations

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:


As of November 2012:[12]


Grant Advisors

Family Advisors


As of October 2013:[13]

Kimberly O. Dennis
President and CEO
(202) 375-7822
kdennis -at-

Courtney Myers
Program Officer
(202) 375-7834
cmyers -at-

Richard Tren
Program Officer
(202) 375-7824
rtren -at-

Gerard Alexander
(202) 375-7826
galexander -at-

Jennifer Eakle
Office Manager
(202) 375-7827
jeakle -at-[14]

Contact Information

The contact information given on the organization's website as of June 2013 is:[14]
1055 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, Suite L 26
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-375-7820
Fax: 202-375-7821
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:[2]

Kinship Trust Company
303 W. Madison Ave., Ste. 1800
Chicago, IL 60606

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Searle Freedom Trust, 2010 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 15, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Searle Freedom Trust, 2011 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 21, 2012.
  3. American Legislative Exchange Council, Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, organizational report, July 2012.
  4. 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,, April 4, 2013.
  5. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  6. Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
  7. Center for Media and Democracy, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients,, accessed December 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Paul Abowd, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013.
  9. Donors Trust,, IRS form 990, 2011.
  10. Tom Philpott, The Making of an Agribusiness Apologist, Mother Jones, February 24th, 2012.
  11. Searle Freedom Trust 2006 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, accessed November 20, 2013.
  12. Searle Freedom Trust, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 15, 2012.
  13. Searle Freedom Trust, Contact Us, foundation's website, accessed October 2013.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Searle Freedom Trust, Contact Us, organizational website, accessed November 2012.