Donors Capital Fund

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.”1What is Donors Capital Fund?Donors Capital Fund. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL:

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.2A Tribute to Whitney Ball,”American Legislator (ALEC Blog), August 18, 2015. Archived August 20, 2015. Archive URL: DonorsTrust announced that Lawson Bader,3(Press Release). “DonorTrust’s New CEO,” DonorsTrust, September 22, 2015. Archived June 17, 2016. Archive URL: 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.5Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL:

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 InstituteAfrica Fighting MalariaAccuracy in MediaBeacon Hill Institute,Cato InstituteFreedomWorksGrassroot Institute of HawaiiHudson InstituteJohn Locke FoundationMercatus CenterNational Center for Policy AnalysisNational Center for Public Policy Research, Reason Foundation, State Policy NetworkThe Heritage FoundationStatistical Assessment ServiceState Policy NetworkPacific 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.

Funding Income

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.9Donors 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.

According to Mashey, the “anonymous donor” that funds much of the Heartland Institute’s climate science denial activity is most likely Chicago businessman Barre Seid.

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.12Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.

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.13Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.

View the attached spreadsheet for additional data on DCF funding by year (.xlsx).

Recipient NameTotal Contributions (2001 – 2017)
Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity$33,144,119
State Policy Network$27,154,284
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research$26,132,548
Heartland Institute$21,486,044
Clarion Fund$18,178,600
Middle East Forum$14,415,000
Lucy Burns Institute$13,894,500
Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies$12,866,368
Hudson Institute$10,955,000
Market Research Foundation$10,749,750
George Mason University Foundation$10,354,708
Americans for Limited Government Foundation$8,935,000
American Media Institute$7,300,000
Competitive Governance Institute (Formerly Sam Adams Alliance)$7,093,500
Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty$7,014,609
American Majority$6,563,500
Center for Competitive Politics$5,878,480
George Mason University School of Law$5,560,000
Mackinac Center for Public Policy$5,322,550
Judicial Education Project$4,860,000
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education$4,556,000
Free to Choose Network$4,385,230
Foundation for Government Accountability$3,814,100
Institute for Humane Studies$3,679,636
Texas Public Policy Foundation$3,530,848
South Carolina Policy Council$3,264,700
Philanthropy Roundtable$2,854,640
Institute on Religion and Democracy$2,773,000
George Mason University$2,325,000
Human Rights Foundation$2,310,000
Palmer R. Chitester Fund$2,292,289
Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions$2,236,955
Goldwater Institute$2,178,962
Maine Heritage Policy Center$2,082,481
Spark Freedom$2,026,520
Illinois Policy Institute$2,011,100
Citizens in Charge Foundation$2,004,000
Citizens Against Government Waste$2,000,000
Institute for Justice$1,912,000
Yankee Institute for Public Policy$1,908,190
Center for Security Policy$1,880,000
Cato Institute$1,855,384
The Freedom Foundation$1,812,302
Independence Institute$1,781,400
Mercatus Center$1,753,000
Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives$1,682,700
Independent Women’s Forum$1,665,000
Nevada Policy Research Institute$1,453,432
James Madison Institute$1,452,200
Americans for Prosperity Foundation$1,423,000
Competitive Enterprise Institute$1,382,279
Montana Policy Institute$1,348,829
Young America’s Foundation$1,342,500
Students for Liberty$1,330,099
Cascade Policy Institute$1,303,600
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs$1,228,267
Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy$1,210,001
International Policy Network$1,194,850
Alabama Policy Institute$1,172,900
Beacon Center of Tennessee$1,058,650
Center for Independent Thought$1,040,000
Campus Crusade for Christ$1,013,400
Responsible Resources$1,000,000
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota$967,950
American Legislative Exchange Council$966,500
Foundation for Economic Education$950,000
Rio Grande Foundation$946,500
America’s Future Foundation$938,000
Platte Institute for Economic Research$904,701
Sutherland Institute$893,700
Sunshine Review$887,000
John Locke Foundation$864,200
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research$841,770
Reason Foundation$832,559
Mississippi Center for Public Policy$830,050
Bluegrass Institute$826,500
Maryland Public Policy Institute$820,000
American Transparency$815,000
National Tax Limitation Foundation$800,000
Washington Policy Center$795,975
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation$784,500
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii$777,500
Pelican Institute for Public Policy$757,100
Center for Individual Rights$750,500
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America$750,000
Show-Me Institute$744,241
National Taxpayers Union Foundation$715,500
Parents in Charge Foundation$700,000
Idaho Freedom Foundation$694,600
Texas Watchdog$676,500
FreedomWorks Foundation$667,000
Kansas Policy Institute$656,000
Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy$655,364
Leadership Institute$630,500
Ayn Rand Institute$601,000
Young Life$598,050
David Horowitz Freedom Center$566,000
Moving Picture Institute$558,000
Middle East Media Research Institute$550,000
Georgia Public Policy Foundation$548,500
John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy$540,000
Atlas Economic Research Foundation$529,000
National Center for Policy Analysis$500,000
Ocean State Policy Research Institute$496,000
Ethics and Public Policy Center$495,000
Center for Class Action Fairness$490,000
Wyoming Liberty Group$485,000
Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research$471,200
National Review Institute$470,000
Media Research Center$456,520
Christians United for Israel$442,000
Virginia Institute for Public Policy$434,500
Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity$419,375
National Legal and Policy Center$406,500
Georgia Center for Opportunity$403,850
Investigative Project on Terrorism$400,000
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow$395,000
North Dakota Policy Council$390,000
Mountain States Legal Foundation$383,500
Pacific Legal Foundation$378,000
Palmetto Promise Institute$367,150
Caesar Rodney Institute$352,500
Consumers’ Research$350,000
Hanover Institute$344,000
Advance Arkansas Institute$338,000
Alliance Defending Freedom$332,500
Capital Research Center$332,500
Empire Center for Public Policy$328,732
Common Sense Institute of New Jersey$311,500
Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute$308,500
Fund for American Studies$305,854
National Rifle Association$300,000
Ethan Allen Institute$298,500
Family Research Council$296,000
American Civil Rights Institute$289,524
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change$283,800
Washington Legal Foundation$281,000
Claremont Institute$273,930
Missouri News Horizon$265,000
Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia$263,800
National Center for Public Policy Research$261,000
California Public Policy Center$259,750
American Values$255,000
Bradley Impact Fund$250,000
Americans for Tax Reform Foundation$250,000
Northwestern University$248,000
Galen Institute$240,000$235,000
American Islamic Congress$235,000
Education Action Group Foundation$224,750
Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy$214,450
Citizens United Foundation$200,000
Heritage Foundation$200,000
US English Foundation$200,000
Public Interest Institute$193,459
Alaska Policy Forum$192,000
The Claremont Institute$191,354
Center of the American Experiment$182,000
Project Veritas$180,000
Free Enterprise Education Institute$180,000
National Strategy Information Center$175,000
Energy & Environment Legal Institute$175,000
Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy$167,400
Tax Foundation$150,000
Institute for Policy Innovation$145,000
Center for Education Reform$143,000
Freedom Foundation$142,700
Bill of Rights Institute$140,500
Beacon Hill Institute$140,000
1851 Center for Constitutional Law$135,000
Civitas Institute$129,120
World Journalism Institute$126,000
Liberty Institute$125,000
Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History$125,000
National Organization for Marriage Education Fund$125,000
Duke University$125,000
Center for Union Facts$120,500
Free State Foundation$115,000
Ethics & Public Policy Center$115,000
American Stewards of Liberty$110,000
Liberty Fund$100,000
Turning Point USA$100,000
Great Plains Public Policy Institute$100,000
Cause of Action$100,000
The Heritage Foundation$96,000
Brown University$90,000
Intellectual Takeout$90,000
American Council on Science and Health$89,500
Employment Policies Institute Foundation$88,000
Cornell University$85,000
U.S. English Foundation$80,000
John W Pope Civitas Institute$78,250
Harvard University$75,000
Cowboy State Free Press$75,000
Africa Fighting Malaria$75,000
Libertas Institute$67,100
Opportunity Ohio$63,550
Stewards of the Range$63,500
American Spectator Foundation$60,000
Empower Mississippi Foundation$52,500
Advocates for Self-Government$50,000
Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation$50,000
First Freedoms Foundation$47,500
Foundation for Teaching Economics$45,000
Center for Organizational Research and Education$42,500
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Legal Foundation$38,500
Judicial Watch$30,000
Evangelical Development Ministry$25,300
American Principles Project$25,000
American Family Association$25,000
Sophia Institute$25,000
Spirit of America$20,000
Arkansas Policy Foundation$18,600
Palmetto Policy Forum$17,500
Center for Consumer Freedom$13,000
Taxpayers for Common Sense$12,500
American Conservative Union Foundation$12,000
Move America Forward$10,100
America’s Majority Foundation$10,000
Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation$10,000
Indiana Policy Review Foundation$10,000
Second Amendment Foundation$9,500
Greenwich Land Trust$9,000
Centro de Investigacion Y Politica Publica$7,500
Liberty Counsel$7,500
StudentsFirst Institute$5,000
Center for Independent Employees$5,000
Landmark Legal Foundation$5,000
Faith and Reason Institute$5,000
Free the People Fight the Power Foundation$5,000
Accuracy in Media$4,000
Focus on the Family$3,200
Educational Research Analysts$2,500
Intercollegiate Studies Institute$2,000
Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace$2,000
Bastiat Society$2,000
Benjamin Rush Institute$2,000
Baylor University$1,250
Concord Coalition$1,000
Grand Total$455,022,357

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:

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:

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.”17Urge Congress to Defund the EPA! Americans for Limited Government. Archived July 23, 2015. Archive URL:

990 Forms

Key People

Board & Officers

Name20072008200920102011201618Directors & Officers,” Donors Capital Fund. Archived June 16, 2016. Archive URL:
Adam Meyerson YYYYYChairman. President, The Philanthrophy Roundtable
Arthur C. Brooks     YPresident, American Enterprise Institute
Jeffrey C. Zysik   YYYAssistant Treasurer. Chief Financial Officer & Chief of Information Technology, DonorsTrust
Kimberly O. Dennis   YYYPresident & CEO, Searle Freedom Trust
Kris Alan MaurenYYYYYYExecutive Director, The Acton Institute
Lawson R. Bader     YPresident & CEO, Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust
Roger R. Ream     YPresident, The Fund for American Studies
Scott G. Bullock     YPresident, Institute for Justice
Steven HaywardYYYYYYFellow, Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs
John A. Von KannonYYYYY Vice President & Senior Counselor, The Heritage Foundation
Whitney L. Ball (1963-2015)YYYYY Late President and CEO of Donors Trust
William H. MellorYYYYY President & General Counsel, Institute for Justice
Aurthur Burns    Y Board Member.
Christopher DeMuthYY Y  Board Member.
Stephen MooreYYYY  Board Member.
Bruce H. JacobsYYY   Vice Pres./BoD
Melissa Cliett YY   Asst. Treas.
James S. WachsY     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:

“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

As of June 2016, Donors Capital Fund listed the following contact information on its website:20Contact Us,” Donors Capital Fund. Archived June 13, 2016. Archive URL:

Donors Capital Fund
1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 280
Alexandria, VA 22314
Voice: 703.535.3563
Fax: 703.535.3564

Articles About Donors Capital Fund

Secretive Donors Gave US Climate Denial Groups $125M Over Three Years – The Guardian

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: 

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.

Koch Family Uses Fund To Channel Millions To Anti-Climate Science Groups: ReportLive Science

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.

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