Donors Capital Fund
Donors Capital Fund is a not-for-profit donor advised charity that distributes millions of dollars in grants each year to groups, organizations and projects that are “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.”1”What is Donors Capital Fund?” Donors Capital Fund. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/B2gVD
Between 2002 and 2013, Donors Capital Fund (DCF) distributed some $170 million to conservative causes, many of which deny the science and impacts of human-caused climate change or the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Much of DCF’s income comes from unknown private entities with some $347 million of untraceable and unknown income since 2005.
DCF creates accounts known as “donor-advised funds” for conservative philanthropists and groups and then distributes that money to projects that match their ideologies on their behalf. This arrangement has the effect of concealing the identity of the original donor and also distances donors from specific projects or groups.
DCF is related to its sister organization Donors Trust (DT). Funders looking to set up accounts of $1 million or more are directed by DT to DCF. Donations to both organizations are tax deductible.
DT and DCF share the same address in Alexandria, Virginia, and share a number of directors, including Whitney Ball, the late CEO of DT.2”A Tribute to Whitney Ball,”American Legislator (ALEC Blog), August 18, 2015. Archived August 20, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/72Dhx DonorsTrust announced that Lawson Bader,3(Press Release). “DonorTrust’s New CEO,” DonorsTrust, September 22, 2015. Archived June 17, 2016. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/GU5rE CEO at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, would take over as CEO for DonorsTrust in November of 2015. Bader joined CEI in January of 2013 after spending 16 years at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.4Graham Readfearn. “Climate Science Denier Lawson Bader Named CEO At Conservative Funding Arm Donors Trust,” DeSmog, September 28, 2015.
A 2013 investigation by Mother Jones described DT and DCF as the “dark money ATM” of the conservative movement in the US.5”Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Iw7IB
Documenting the growth of DT and DCF, Mother Jones found that in 2002 DT and DCF brought in $1.4 million and gave out $1.2 million.
By 2010, the two funds attracted $44 million in funding and handed out $63 million of grants.
Donor Capital Fund’s tax forms as of March, 2015 show that in 2013 the organization declared $48.7 million in income, handed out $52 million in grants and had $35.6 million in assets.6Donors Capital Fund, Inc. Form 990 return (2013). The Foundation Centre. Archived July 22, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
Stance on Climate Change
As a funding organization neither Donors Trust, nor its sister organization Donors Capital Fund, take positions on the science of human-caused climate change.
However, the groups and projects given grants from DCF and DT are among the most active in questioning the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change and blocking attempts to legislate against greenhouse gas emissions.
These groups include The Heartland Institute, Africa Fighting Malaria, Accuracy in Media, Beacon Hill Institute,Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Hudson Institute, John Locke Foundation, Mercatus Center, National Center for Policy Analysis, National Center for Public Policy Research, Reason Foundation, State Policy Network, The Heritage Foundation, Statistical Assessment Service, State Policy Network, Pacific Research Institute, and many others.
A 2013 study in the journal Climatic Change, by Professor Robert Brulle, of Drexel University, found that between 2003 and 2010, DT and DCF were the “single largest funders” of the “climate change counter-movement” providing more than $78 million in funding.7Robert J. Brulle. “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” Climate Change. December 21, 2013.
Looking at DT and DCF, Brulle wrote in the journal: “Because contributions to a donor directed foundation are not required to be made public, their existence provides a way for individuals or corporations to make anonymous contributions. In effect, these two philanthropic foundations form a black box that conceals the identity of contributors to various CCCM (climate change counter movement) organizations.”
Brulle’s study found that DCF and DT’s contributions to the funding of the “climate change counter movement” had risen dramatically from 3.3 per cent in 2003 to 23.7 per cent in 2010.
Donors Capital Fund is used as a vehicle by conservative philanthropists and their organizations to distribute money to projects that advocate minimal government regulation and “free markets.”
A DeSmog analysis of DCF tax forms shows that much of the organization’s income is hidden.8Graham Readfearn. “Exclusive: Major Climate Denial Funders Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund Handled $479 Million Of Dark Money,” DeSmog, May 12, 2015.
Between 2005 and 2012, DCF declared $349 million of income from donations into its funds. Yet data from Conservative Transparency, which tracks money flows between conservative groups, suggests that over the same time period only $2.75 million of the $349 million came from other non-profit groups and foundations that have to declare their funding.9“Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Archived July 23, 2015.
Some $2.725 million of that came from the Knowledge and Progress Fund, staffed by members of the Koch family and a Koch company director.
KPF have not made any donations to DCF since 2007, but have been a key funder of DT in recent years, over which time KPF has not donated to any other organizations. Virtually all of DCF’s income has come from unknown private entities.
As DCF’s website states, “gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues” can be kept anonymous.
The website adds: “Know that any contributions to your Donors Capital Fund account that have to be reported to the IRS will not become public information. Unlike with private foundations, gifts from your account will remain as anonymous as you request.”
Computer scientist John Mashey released a report finding much of the funding that was funneled through DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund to organizations skeptical of climate change in February, 2012 (PDF).10John Mashey. “Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax,” DeSmog, February 14, 2012.
A new funder to DT is the foundation of billionaire “vulture capitalist” and hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who donated $1.5m in 2012. Singer was revealed by DeSmog to have funded the think tank of Danish climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg.11Graham Readfearn. “Exclusive: Major Climate Denial Funders Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund Handled $479 Million Of Dark Money,” DeSmog, May 12, 2015.
DCF as Recipient
The following is based on the most recent data from Conservative Transparency. Note that not all individual values have been verified by DeSmog for accuracy.12“Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.
- DonorsTrust — $5,586,504
- Knowledge and Progress Fund — $5,450,000
- Searle Freedom Trust — $150,000
- Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation — $25,000
- Grand Total — $11,211,504
Groups Funded by Donors Capital Fund
The below is a partial sample of data from Conservative Transparency combined with original DeSmog analysis of publicly available 990 forms. Note that not all individual values have been verified by DeSmog.13“Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.
View the attached spreadsheet for additional data on DCF funding by year (.xlsx).
The Heartland Institute
One key recipient of more than $17 million from DCF has been climate science denialist “think tank” the Heartland Institute, based in Chicago.
The Heartland Institute runs annual conferences for climate science denialists attended by contrarians from around the globe.
In 2012 Heartland launched a billboard campaign with a picture of Ted “Unabomber” Kazcynski alongside the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
Heartland also produces the Non-intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports – purported to be an alternative summary of the state of climate change science designed to challenge the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
In 2013, DCF gave the Heartland Institute a $100,000 grant “for Climatism books & DVD projects.” This appears to refer to the Heartland Institute’s effort in sending 100,000 copies of the climate science denial book “Climatism” to “educators, business and civic leaders, judges, environmental journalists, and elected officials.”14(Press Release).”Heartland Institute Celebrates Earth Day with Release of New Book,” Heartland Institute, April 22, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015.
The book claims that “man-made emissions are an insignificant part of global warming” and that “climate change is natural.”
Climate scientist Dr John Abraham critiqued the book, finding numerous glaring errors and misrepresentations of the scientific literature.15John Abraham. “Heartland Institute wastes real scientists’ time – yet again,” The Guardian, May 20, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wneZ16
The DVD “Unstoppable Solar Cycles” claims the sun could be driving climate change and features Dr Willie Soon, a fossil fuel funded part time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory who has also received funding from Donors Trust.
The top recipient of Donors Capital Fund money is the American Enterprise Institute, an organization which has repeatedly challenged the need to act on greenhouse gas emissions.
In a February 2015 blog post, the AEI’s energy policy fellow Benjamin Zycher attempted to argue that concerns over sea level rise, global temperatures, floods, droughts and sea ice were overblown and that agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be ineffective and too costly. Zycher has previously argued that subsidies for renewable energy should be abandoned.16Benjamin Zycher. “The Kyoto Protocol: 10 years of triumph,” American Enterprise Institute. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/DbEgR
The Americans for Limited Government Research Foundation which received $2million in 2012 and another $2 million in 2013 from DCF, has been running a campaign to “Defund the EPA” to protect American business from what it says are “radical environmentalists.”17“Urge Congress to Defund the EPA!” Americans for Limited Government. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/72hJG
Board & Officers
|Name||2007||2008||2009||2010||2011||201618“Directors & Officers,” Donors Capital Fund. Archived June 16, 2016. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/DM6pz||Description|
|Adam Meyerson||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Chairman. President, The Philanthrophy Roundtable|
|Arthur C. Brooks||Y||President, American Enterprise Institute|
|Jeffrey C. Zysik||Y||Y||Y||Assistant Treasurer. Chief Financial Officer & Chief of Information Technology, DonorsTrust|
|Kimberly O. Dennis||Y||Y||Y||President & CEO, Searle Freedom Trust|
|Kris Alan Mauren||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Executive Director, The Acton Institute|
|Lawson R. Bader||Y||President & CEO, Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust|
|Roger R. Ream||Y||President, The Fund for American Studies|
|Scott G. Bullock||Y||President, Institute for Justice|
|Steven Hayward||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Fellow, Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs|
|John A. Von Kannon||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Vice President & Senior Counselor, The Heritage Foundation|
|Whitney L. Ball (1963-2015)||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Late President and CEO of Donors Trust|
|William H. Mellor||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||President & General Counsel, Institute for Justice|
|Aurthur Burns||Y||Board Member.|
|Christopher DeMuth||Y||Y||Y||Board Member.|
|Stephen Moore||Y||Y||Y||Y||Board Member.|
|Bruce H. Jacobs||Y||Y||Y||Vice Pres./BoD|
|Melissa Cliett||Y||Y||Asst. Treas.|
|James S. Wachs||Y||President|
November 19, 2021
Exposed by CMD released a report detailing how the “Dark Money ATM” of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund provided more than $137 million in funding to right-wing groups in 2020.19David Armiak. “‘Dark Money ATM’ Pumped Over $137 Million into Right-Wing Groups in 2020,” Exposed by CMD, November 19, 2021. Archived December 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ILySJ
“The preferred donor conduits of the Koch political network DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund distributed $188.3 million in grants in 2020, $137 million of which was sent to litigation centers, advocacy groups, media outlets, extremists, gun rights groups, climate deniers and other tax-exempt organizations that make up America’s right-wing infrastructure,” the report noted.
The report noted that this $137 million grants figure represented a 52% increase, or $47 million more than was given in 2019.
The CMD report broke down funding as follows:
- $51 million to right-wing policy and advocacy including State Policy Network members
- $15 million to right-wing media groups
- $5 million to “extremist and gun rights nonprofits”
- $4 million to Youth and Women Influence Efforts
- $3 Million to climate denial groups including over $500,000 to the Heartland Institute
Donors Capital Fund Contact & Location
Donors Capital Fund
1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 280
Alexandria, VA 22314
Articles About Donors Capital Fund
Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund gave over $125m to conservative causes during these three years while working to oppose Obama’s climate change plan, as reported by The Guardian in a June, 2015 investigative piece.21Suzanne Goldenberg. “Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years,” The Guardian, June 9, 2015. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/H6efY
The funds went to building a network of thinktanks and activist groups that worked to defeat climate bills in Congress and mobilized against Environmental Protection Agency rules to reduce carbon pollution from power plants due to be finalised in the summer of 2015.
- In 2011, 42% of funding, or $35.7m, went to groups promoting climate denial and opposed to environmental regulations, according to the tax filings.
- In 2012, that figure jumped to 51% of the funds directed through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund – a total of just over $49m.
- In 2013, the last year for which tax records are available, 46% of anonymous funding to conservative groups through the two Donors channels, or just over $41 million.
Exclusive: Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science –The Independent
A secretive funding organization in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.
Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement – Mother Jones
Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund have dolled out $400 million to more than 1000 conservative and libertarian groups including the notorious Heartland Institute.
A British newspaper claims to have discovered the convoluted way oil billionaires in the United States can funnel huge amounts of cash toward climate change-denial campaigns, while reaping tremendous tax advantages in the process.
- 4Graham Readfearn. “Climate Science Denier Lawson Bader Named CEO At Conservative Funding Arm Donors Trust,” DeSmog, September 28, 2015.
- 5”Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Iw7IB
- 6Donors Capital Fund, Inc. Form 990 return (2013). The Foundation Centre. Archived July 22, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
- 7Robert J. Brulle. “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” Climate Change. December 21, 2013.
- 8Graham Readfearn. “Exclusive: Major Climate Denial Funders Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund Handled $479 Million Of Dark Money,” DeSmog, May 12, 2015.
- 9“Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Archived July 23, 2015.
- 10John Mashey. “Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax,” DeSmog, February 14, 2012.
- 11Graham Readfearn. “Exclusive: Major Climate Denial Funders Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund Handled $479 Million Of Dark Money,” DeSmog, May 12, 2015.
- 12“Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.
- 13“Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.
- 14(Press Release).”Heartland Institute Celebrates Earth Day with Release of New Book,” Heartland Institute, April 22, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015.
- 15John Abraham. “Heartland Institute wastes real scientists’ time – yet again,” The Guardian, May 20, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wneZ16
- 19David Armiak. “‘Dark Money ATM’ Pumped Over $137 Million into Right-Wing Groups in 2020,” Exposed by CMD, November 19, 2021. Archived December 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ILySJ
- 21Suzanne Goldenberg. “Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years,” The Guardian, June 9, 2015. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/H6efY