You haven't heard of Donors Trust, but it's bankrolled the right's fights against unions, public schools, climate scientists, and more.
Working out of an nondescript brick rowhouse in suburban Virginia, a little-known organization named Donors Trust, staffed by five employees, has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to the most influential think tanks, foundations, and advocacy groups in the conservative movement. Over the past decade, it has funded the right's assault on labor unions, climate scientists, public schools, economic regulations, and the very premise of activist government. Yet unlike its nearest counterpart on the progressive side, the Tides Foundation, a bogeyman of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, Donors Trust has mostly avoided any real scrutiny. It is the dark-money ATM of the right.
Founded in 1999, Donors Trust (and an affiliated group, Donors Capital Fund) has raised north of $500 million and doled out $400 million to more than 1,000 conservative and libertarian groups, according to Whitney Ball, the group's CEO. Donors Trust allows wealthy contributors who want to donate millions to the most important causes on the right to do so anonymously, essentially scrubbing the identity of those underwriting conservative and libertarian organizations. Wisconsin's 2011 assault on collective bargaining rights? Donors Trust helped fund that. ALEC, the conservative bill mill? Donors Trust supports it. The climate deniers at the Heartland Institute? They get Donors Trust money, too.
Donors Trust is not the source of the money it hands out. Some 200 right-of-center funders who've given at least $10,000 fill the group's coffers. Charities bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, the DeVoses, and the Bradleys, among other conservative benefactors, have given to Donors Trust. And other recipients of Donors Trust money include the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA's Freedom Action Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, chaired (PDF) by none other than David Koch.
In a recent interview, Ball, who calls herself a libertarian, went to great lengths to stress that she's no Koch brothers stooge, and that Donors Trust is not yet another appendage of the almighty "Kochtopus." She insists, "We were not created by them at all."
Donors Trust is a so-called "donor-advised fund," a breed apart from a family foundation like, say, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which helped build the conservative movement over decades with donations totaling tens of millions of dollars. The people who donate to Donors Trust don't get final say over how their money is spent. But they get to recommend where their cash goes, and in exchange for giving up some control, they get a bigger tax write-off than they would with a family foundation. (And those who wish it get anonymity.)
Ball says she travels all over the country courting wealthy conservatives and libertarians, and attends Koch donor retreats and Cato "shareholder" meetings. The crux of her pitch is this: Rich folks can give to Donors Trust and rest easy knowing that their millions will continue bankrolling the conservative movement long into the future, even after their death. They don't have to worry that, after they die, their heirs and trustees will use their bucks for causes they would never support. Ball points to the Ford Foundation as one example of a major charity that, in her view, drifted leftward over time and away from the ideals of man who started it, industrialist Edsel Ford. Donors Trust promises its funders that conservative money stays with conservatives. "Greenpeace won't get a dime from us," Ball told the National Review in 2001.
Donors Trust grew out of the fear among right-leaning donors that their family foundations might end up in the hands of those who would fund centrist or, even worse, left-of-center causes. At the behest of the late Bruce Jacobs, a Seattle-area businessman and "paleocon" who didn't want to underwrite a local community foundation, Ball and a conservative strategist named Kimberly Dennis created Donors Trust.
The amount of cash passing through Donors Trust has skyrocketed. In 2002, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund took in $1.4 million and gave out $1.2 million. By 2010, $44 million was flowing in and $63 million heading out. Donors Trust's board of directors, which ultimately decides who gets funded, reads like a conservative who's-who directory: Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute; John Von Kannon, vice president of the Heritage Foundation; William Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal firm; and Kris Alan Mauren, director of the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based conservative think tank.
Donors Trust is the only honey-pot of its kind for right-leaning donors. But on the left, there's the Tides Foundation, which gives out tens of millions of dollars each year to thousands of left-leaning groups in the US and overseas (including Mother Jones' nonprofit arm, the Foundation for National Progress). Tides is a target of conspiracy theorists such as TV and radio host Glenn Beck, who has featured Tides on his infamous connect-the-dots chalkboard. But Donors Trust's strategic intent is far narrower and more coherent than Tides'. The groups funded by Donors Trust more or less pursue the same agenda—eliminate regulations, kneecap unions, shrink government, and transfer more power to the private sector.
Donors Trust keeps its contributors secret. Funders can ask Donor Trust to publicly identify their donations, but very few do, Ball says. The reasons for preferring anonymity are many. Some donors want to avoid attention; others don't want their mailboxes and inboxes filling up with unwanted solicitations for more money.
Tax records, however, reveal some of the sugar-daddies of the conservative and libertarian movement who funnel big money through Donors Trust. The Knowledge and Progress Fund, a charity bankrolled by Charles Koch, gave $2 million in 2010. The DeVos family charity, another pillar of conservative politics, contributed $1 million in 2009 and $1.5 million in 2010. And yet another long-time bankroller of conservative politics, the Bradley family, donated $650,000 through their charity between 2001 and 2010.
Donor Trust's increasingly important role in the conservative movement is perhaps most evident on the issue of climate change. The group has funded much of the climate-change denier movement—bankrolling, for instance, the Heartland Institute, a torchbearer in the denier movement. (It recently compared those who believe in climate change to terrorists.) At the same time, climate-denier funding from family and corporate foundations—say, Exxon's foundation—has declined, according to Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University who studies the climate change "counter-movement."
Across the conservative spectrum, Brulle found that Donors Trust is playing an ever larger role. In 2003, Donors Trust money was the source of 3 percent of the funding for more than 100 conservative groups whose financial records Brulle has studied. By 2010, that percentage had grown to 24 percent. Brulle surmises that financial underwriters of the climate counter-movement and the conservative agenda writ large give through Donors Trust to wipe their fingerprints off donations to Heartland and others. "We just have this great big unknown out there about where all the money is coming from," he says. And, in the years to come, the unknown will only get bigger.
:>)--- Regarding truth. What I've noticed is that a 'fact' is given here. Then within a short time, someone can counter that fact with another, opposing fact. Happens all the time here at the ce. So, then I think the truth gets muddied and it is hard for any ONE person to feel they always have the truth. Especially using mother jones and to the point news as the source!
The Obama campaign says that it complies with federal laws concerning donations from overseas, which require donors to certify that they are American citizens before their donations are accepted. We know of no evidence to support the claims made in this anonymous, poorly written e-mail masquerading as a piece by a well-known columnist. It’s just a fraud.
I didnt read the entire article or follow the many links it provided, so will with hold my opinion for now. This is simply a link that explains it, what it does, how it operates and gives some names too.
And just to add that I do think it was Karn of Mother Jones that released the 47 percent tape on Romney? Turns out that it was indeed accurate. If memory serves, Mother Jones is a factchecking site of some sort as well? Not sure so dont hold me to it.
I again mentioned the source because similar types of sites were referenced and were put down which I found ironic considering MotherJOnes reputation as very liberal.
Both conservative and liberal sites tend to mix and mingle things into the way they want them to sound. While it is a good read often if you agree with their slant on things---- it doesn't always equate to facts even if there is like one fact buried in the bs.
So, I only mentioned it after conservative sites were dismissed. I'm an equal opportunity dismisser.
I agree that MotherJones has a leftist perspective, but it is good and factual journalism.
I consider that the Wall Street Journal and Forbes are conservative but respectable sources.
I think we need to be talking about the quality of the sources first, then the political leanings.
For example if I were to read an article by Moonbat.org on the virtues of our "fascist" president :), I might think twice about quoting them.
Hotair is a source whose name speaks for itself.
I am familiar with real lefty sources and they turn my stomach as quickly as the right wing papers do...
A rant is a rant is a rant.
But Maddow is respectable, you just take her or Obrien with a grain of salt if their politics are not to your liking.
Mediamatters is not biased but they do point out the truth, briebart which you source regularly is known to make it up as they go, like recently with the friends of hamas piece, that was not even real. So, we could talk about the reliability of sources all day long I guess eh?
Maddow is respected on the left, because that is all she props up. She has never and will never say anything good about anyone on the right. So how is she to be respected by all then?
I don't and others on the right don't come on here citing Hannity or Rush yet Maddow is the same as them and she is to be respected?
I am done with the games, everything that is said by someone on the right gets a responce that is an insult from the left. I'm done with it. people want to play that game fine, but they are going to get hit back with the same stuff.
Mike what is typical is the left on this forum thinking whatever they say is gold. Thinking whatever Obama says is gold and whatever is said by anyone on the right is a lie and wrong and bad and stupid. This forum is an example of the 30% who call themselves liberal. Doesn't matter where you go if you are a liberal the tactis are..spout lies and 1/2 truths (but they must be truthful because the come from some genuis on the left), then when someone makes an opposing statement it is not met with anything but insults.
teko-Where did I call you all moonbats? I said if you watched Hubris and bought into everything it had to say then you are a moonbat. But I guess if the show fits.
Vance I was crediting you with something sweet and original and Mike has just burst my bubble!
Darn it...I really liked identifying as stellaluna. I guess I will be stuck in the middle, not liking the right at all but as usual a little unsure of the left.
Yeah vance, you and your ilk thought all of us were lying about the Presidential election and then you sadly learned that, in fact, we had it right and Obama won.....just like we were telling you all along. You're slow to get it and that must be demoralizing and, in a way, I feel your pain. But really, the election is over now and you're just going have to try and get over it.
Oh because you suckup to nate silver and think he is god walking this land because he took poll after poll and came to the conclusion that Obama was going to win. Well good for you and him. I'm very proud that you can ride his coat tails in this little forum. Well done boy.
Okay, back to the topic at hand now. Recess is over.
We really do get out of hand...as funny as it can be, it is better not to give in to the baiting and provocative statements of our more exuberant conservatives.
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